3M Makes Things Better, Starting With Their Brand.

How does 3M make a visual statement that clearly reflects the company as a major player in the diversified products market?

The Move

3M identified that the marketing strategy of their product divisions – although stellar in quality and design – created the image of them as a “fragmented and inconsistent” company. To rectify this problem, in 2007, the company unveiled a new branding campaign that greatly streamlined their look and feel into one that was both “clean and elegant”.

The Result

3M’s brand has become far more recognizable than it was in the past. For the first time since the list’s inception, 3M ranked on Interbrand’s list of the top 100 global brands in 2010. Moreover, as a company with its roots in healthcare, that particular division of the company has been the fastest growing sector of 3M, making up approximately 15% of the company’s overall revenue.

Our Perspective

3M is one of the most powerful and diversified companies in the world. Their technology is in everything, even iPhones. Did you know that? Well, don't feel bad; most people don't. So often we are inundated by mentions of Google, Sony, Apple, and others, that those names like 3M often fall by the wayside. Their product offerings are among the most recognizable, like Post-Its or Scotch tape, though one might not immediately realize that the product belongs to 3M’s portfolio. This was a major problem plaguing their company, and they certainly made the right adjustments to rectify it by allowing 3M to become the more dominant brand name.

It is truly refreshing to see a company embrace their brand identity the way 3M has over the last three years. Their name was always powerful, but when the brand rankings would be released year after year, that recognition was nowhere to be found. Now the 3M logo font and trademark red coloring are slowly gaining notoriety. Standards have been put into place for its use, presentation, and marketing. As proof that this new strategy has been working wonders for 3M, 2010 marked the first year that the company entered Interbrand’s list of the top 100 global brands with its position at #90.

3M’s continued growth, particularly in the healthcare sector, is starting to finally prove the company’s capabilities in bringing out the full value of their brand name and assets when given the proper attention. In the past month alone, 3M snatched up 3 more acquisitions – Attenti, Cogent, and Arizant – bringing their grand total of acquisitions this year to 4, a number consistent with their total number of acquisitions last year but still a far cry from the breadth of their acquisitions four years ago. The company made 16 acquisitions in 2007 and 18 in 2008. In light of all of this we would say that 3M is finally on the right track to higher brand equity. The biggest hindrance to their continued success was a lack of direction for their brand. For a global company with 75,000 employees, 3M was never poised receive the recognition it deserved without a stronger brand identity.

The company is finally making all the right moves from a strategic branding standpoint, but they are not out of the water just yet as their recent returns still suggest something is amiss. Last year, their healthcare sector posted profit declines of 12% on a 2.1% reduction in revenue. Numbers such as these usually spell bad news for a company, especially when such numbers come from its second strongest division. 3M caught the issue and apparently took it as a signal to place greater emphasis on its healthcare division. Currently, this decision represents just one of many right moves that have allowed the company to come back from dangerous depths. As the main factor to have brought them this far, we think 3M’s continued selectivity approach to acquisitions should be what drives the company’s future business strategy. With the right moves, they can build their brand credibility to greater heights and reap the rewards in ROI.

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