Metro New York OCS Firm Re-brands Itself to Sustain Growth

When global delivery giant UPS needed to compete against juggernauts like FedEx and DHL in order to maintain its share of the marketplace, UPS re-branded itself through its "What Can Brown Do For You?" multi-media campaign.

That bold and imaginative marketing initiative didn't go unnoticed by Robert Friedman, owner of Garden City Park, N.Y.-based Coffee Distributing Corp. (CDC). Now, CDC, a market leader in the tri-state OCS marketplace, is re-branding itself so that it, too, can stand out in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Re-branding is no easy task, especially for a well established company. CDC already enjoyed a history of success,customer good will, and name recognition. To totally re-brand would mean changing, potentially throwing away much that already worked, investing an exorbitant amount, and running the risk of losing the already existing customer base.

Friedman, having been raised in the business launched by his father in 1963, knew that for a company to succeed in the long-term, it was necessary to constantly reinvest. As OCS competition increased over the years and customers became more educated and demanding, he knew he had to move the company forward or suffer the consequences of a more demanding and competitive marketplace.

Friedman believed he needed to re-brand the company to accomplish this ambitious goal.

Hence, he decided to take the company's solid foundation that he and his family had established over the past 43 years and implement subtle changes to create an even more powerful message.

Times had certainly changed since the company's early days, when only a small handful of OCS providers serviced the business community's coffee-break needs, and the Manhattan and Long Island marketplace offered a seemingly endless supply of customers.

In those early years, prior to 1980, the company's main source of new business, other than referrals, was direct mail advertising.

From the 1970s to the mid 1990s, CDC capitalized on a series of acquisitions that propelled the company into becoming a major contender in the region. Friedman now has satellite facilities in New York and New Jersey, a workforce of over 250, and a fleet of over 80 delivery trucks and vans.

Internally, Friedman built employee loyalty by offering medical benefits, profit-sharing plans, and incentive programs.

Externally, he expanded its product lines into the food services industry, developed its own private labels for coffees and bottled water, and secured exclusive rights to market consumer brands of coffee, including Lavazza and Timothy's. These consumer brands helped lure office workers away from going out to coffee houses, providing incentive for them to stay in the office instead.

A more challenging day for OCS
At the start of the new millennium, a multitude of factors began to change the landscape of the OCS industry. The biggest change was that the demand for OCS exploded. Coffee had come into vogue in America in the 1700s, but since then it had faded into the simple routine of people's lives. All of a sudden, "brown gold" once again became the rage.

Coffee bars such as Starbucks and Seattle's Best Coffee, charging over $3 a cup, were opening on street corners and shopping malls across the U.S.

The OCS industry was slow to adapt to the new coffee market, but a minority of far-sighted operators, such as Friedman, were exploiting the demand for single-cup systems that offered coffee house quality coffee in the work place.

Expansion into new services creates challenges
Friedman also looked to broaden the company's services, giving the company a chance to reap more revenue from existing customers.

Expanding into the foodservice and vending sectors carried the risk of diluting the company's focus. OCS, after all, was becoming more of a specialty, and serious players needed to be on top of their craft.

Friedman recognized that to expand into new services and at the same time maintain his reputation as a top OCS player, he needed to communicate what his company was to the public. He decided it was time for a re-branding.

He realized that if he didn't effectively communicate his sales message in the already saturated marketplace, it would eventually have an impact on the solicitation of new business and on the long-term future of the company.

By 2002, Friedman had decided that if CDC was to have any real chance of maintaining its steady rate of growth, he would have to find a way to make his business stand out from the crowd.

After brainstorming with his executive staff, Friedman developed three simple, goals:
1) Increase CDC's visibility and recognition.
2) Extend the company's new-found recognition to provide continuity to its lesser known and new products and services.
3) Capitalize on the latest technology to maintain a competitive edge in the industry.

UPS launches An eye opening marketing campaign
It was during the 2002 Olympic Games when Friedman saw the UPS launch of its now extremely successful "Brown" campaign. To the causal viewer, it was just a great TV commercial, but to a knowledgeable advertising professional, that ad campaign embodied marketing simplicity and clarity of message.

The campaign reintroduced and rejuvenated UPS and its services without having to completely re-brand the company. The UPS "Brown" campaign exemplified a perfectly executed marketing plan and message.

Friedman was not unfamiliar with successful marketing practices. Under his leadership, the company had grown from $900,000 in annual sales in 1976 to $33 million by 2002. Recognizing the brilliance of the UPS campaign, he decided to undertake a similar approach to reintroduce CDC to the region.

Friedman focuses on re-branding CDC
Re-branding is very expensive, and it's a gamble – customers may not like drastic marketing changes, fearing they may herald loss of quality in a possibly redesigned product. Friedman's sense of practical and creative marketing told him that a subtle approach to re–branding his company would be a much better idea.

It was time to take the company's fine reputation, name recognition and consumer good will, and bring the company to the next level using re-branding to recapture the attention of current and potential customers.

The marketing plan needed to be comprehensive, be sustainable over a long period of time, be aggressive while permitting a multi-tiered, phased-in approach, and have a contemporary and creative look and feel. Above all, everything had to be packaged in an easy-to-recognize, simple message.

With a few key executive staff members, Friedman started laying out the framework of their own "brown" campaign – their brown being coffee.

Creative manpower needed
After the team reworked their company logo, they quickly realized that although they were able to set goals, determine action plans and schedule activities, they needed additional technical and creative abilities to execute such an encompassing plan, as well as the personnel to give it the attention it required.

Friedman chose Paul Jann Advertising, a metro New York City-based marketing and communications agency, which has extensive experience at creating effective campaigns for companies ranging from local to national. Friedman believed that the agency's methodical battle plan approach to marketing and cutting-edge design sense would mesh perfectly with his vision and goals for CDC.

When it came to considering methods of getting his message across, Friedman again found a way to keep things simple.

He knew that if he advertised in a consumer magazine, the cost would average $21.45 per every thousand people he could reach, and a potential customer would maybe see the ad once or twice.

If he advertised on billboards, it would cost only $3.55 per thousand people who might see that stationary ad as they passed it.

Trucks and vans as advertising media
But if he used the trucks and vans that he already had, he would only spend 90 cents per thousand people, and he would have continuous mobile advertising.

CDC has a fleet of almost 100 delivery trucks and vans traveling throughout the region, being seen by literally hundreds of thousands of would-be customers every day. It made perfect sense to use them as an advertising platform to lay the foundation of the marketing campaign.

Eight concepts and over a dozen modifications later, a full vinyl wrap design was selected that would cover every square inch of the vehicles. The bold, flowing design was to be the signature graphic that would appear throughout all of CDC's visual media.

Even the roofs of the vehicles displayed a large sales message in order to capitalize on the thousands of office workers staring down from the thousands of high-rise office buildings. The delivery trucks and vans passed beneath these buildings each day.

A phased in campaign
CDC phased in the newly-designed trucks and vans over a 4-month period. The company immediately received favorable comments about the trucks.

New collateral sales materials, from brochures to product guides, were also created, incorporating the same graphics as the ones used on the delivery fleet. The sales and product information itself was culled and simplified, and now contained more user-friendly information.

A more detailed equipment guide
For instance, the brewer equipment guide not only contained a model number and an image of the product, but suggested applications and capacity specifications, as well as a ratings matrix for each brewer type.

The equipment guide supplies customers with all the information necessary for them to make educated choices about what best suits their needs.

The company is currently in the process of upgrading both its internal inventory, ordering, and distribution system, and e-commerce Website.

These projects will support the new marketing initiative.

The Website will offer a fresh look that continues the new graphic signature, is rich in content, and, most importantly, is simple to navigate.

Website to offer interactive features
Besides the basic "meat and potatoes" content, the Website contains several animations, interesting facts, and "Break Time," a section that features several interactive online games, custom-designed to further promote CDC; a customer is relaxing during his or her own coffee break.

Future Website development will include full e-commerce capabilities for current customers and visitors, as well as an archival database that will maintain an order history for regular customers, expediting the reordering process.

An ongoing internal computer inventory and routing system upgrade will also increase convenience and efficiency; it will integrate the convenience of bar coding and hand-held scanners.

Despite all of the new marketing activities, the underlying message remains the same as it has always been: CDC provides great service and an increasingly widening selection of quality products.

Friedman's goal was to package that message in a memorable and likeable fashion. It was reinforced when he saw the UPS ad, and the inspiration he got from UPS's campaign led to his decision to re-brand his own company.

The effort has paid off. Within the past five years, CDC has grown to a $52 million business, almost doubling its sales from 1999. An additional 34,000 square feet will be added to accommodate the growing OCS and vending services.

As the marketing plan moves forward, CDC is extending its reach through print publications, trade shows, coffee events, and community service.
For a company to succeed and stay viable in a changing and highly competitive market, Friedman believes management must continuously review and revamp its marketing strategies, take advantage of new technologies, and stay informed about what is happening currently and what is projected for the future.

While Friedman has built one of the largest OCS companies in the nation, he recognizes that to continue to meet the needs of a more demanding customer, he needs to constantly reinvest in the company.

Today's OCS market is one that demands strong name brand recognition, backed up by a high quality product and service organization.

About the author:

Jill Schweitzer is freelance writer and regular contributor to national and local publications on topics ranging from education, travel, marketing, business, health care and general human interest. She is a graduate of New York University.