Chicago Induction is a remarkable company that has found a profitable niche in specialty hardening and softening of metal parts. The company grew by serving the heavy machinery and automotive industry in the Midwest. Despite recessions and loss of manufacturing to India, China and Mexico, the company prospered. Led by the charismatic founders, the company grew by word of mouth. Its “brand” was the reputation of the CEO. The storefront printer made the logo from an unsophisticated sketch on a napkin back in 1974.
New Management and New Competitive Reality–Time to Rebrand
By 2007, the second generation of the founders’ family had taken over. They wanted to grow more aggressively, expanding penetration in existing markets and taking on light industry clients such as parts manufacturers of ATM machines. They knew they needed to institutionalize the brand. The reputation was tied to a person, much like the Wendy’s hamburger chain was tied to founder Dave Thomas up to his death. They wanted to brand to be about the company in addition to being about the founders. They needed an identity that could effectively carry the company reputation to new audiences in new markets.
The first task was to identify the driving force of the company and to articulate what truly made it stand out. Without a big budget, market research wasn’t possible. Still it was pretty simple to discover the heart of the firm. Talking to company executives, long-term employees, and the biggest customers, one theme kept coming up time and time again. Chicago Induction was a problem solver. They could do jobs other companies couldn’t handle. Non-standard shapes, unusual materials, exceptionally exacting specifications, and impossibly tight budgets—none of that slowed them down a bit. Whatever the job, Chicago Induction could do it.
Company lore was rich with stories of applied ingenuity. One example of many: The company that makes the Jaws of Life(TM) came to Chicago Induction with durability problems. The company applied its know-how to develop prototypes and took them to the dump to test. After cutting up dozens of cars, they came up with a new design, materials and process that kept the device sharp and dramatically reduced breakage.
The Rebrand Project Starts with Brand Strategy
We positioned the company around the tagline “We Can Do It” and wrote copy to support the concept. We described the company, services and achievements in a straightforward, can-do voice.
The next task was to upgrade the logo. Chicago Induction needed to stand as a peer with the industry giants it served. The kitchen table sketch of a logo would no longer do. We worked with Kris Pelletier, a New York brand design expert who has worked with Johnson & Johnson, ADP, Ford, HSBC and the Oppenheimer Funds brands. He created a bright and bold identity that played on the technology of Chicago Induction. Radio waves create a magnetic field that can heat and cool steel in a highly controlled way to realign its molecules. He removed the legal terms from the brand. While the company remained “Chicago Induction Metal Treating Corporation”, the brand was simply “Chicago Induction”.
We have implemented the new identity and branded copy in brochures, letterhead, and on the Web. Chicago Induction is still a small company, but with its renewed brand and its ambitious leadership, it is already on the road to being much, much bigger.