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Times & Trends: Building Your Brand

Sept. 6, 2016
Whether you are promoting a product, company or yourself, some age-old Marketing 101 basics still work just fine.

Ever stop and think about  how many electrical brands you have run across in your electrical career?

While researching this month’s feature article on the largest electrical manufacturers (page 16), Electrical Wholesaling’s editors took a look at the stable of electrical brands these companies now own. In many cases they inherited the brands as part of one of the dozens of acquisitions that have transformed the face of the electrical market over the past few decades.

We added these companies’ brands to a list of other familiar electrical brand names that end users recalled in a survey for the 2016 Brand Preference Survey recently conducted by Electrical Construction & Maintenance (EC&M) magazine, EW’s sister publication. We then cross-checked them both against our digital archives of article written for Electrical Wholesaling and Electrical Marketing newsletter.

To our surprise, we came up with close to 400 individual electrical brand names. Those brands are all listed in the article “Who Owns Whom in 2016” (page 20) and are up in a sortable brand index at, which we will update as readers remind us about any brands we forgot to include in this new industry resource.

As I read through the list of brands, I was struck by how strong an identity many of these brands still have in this industry, very often many years after a company was sold to one of the electrical conglomerates. Whether or not their new owner is still promoting the brands, some of them still pop off the page every time I see them. It was a stroll down memory lane, and I was surprised at how quickly I remembered some of the people who devoted their lives to promoting a brand, the advertisements a company ran to promote it, the booths they had a trade shows, and quite often some of the reps selling that brand in a local market.

Part of the magic of marketing is realizing the power a devoted employee can have on a brand and a company. I always think back to the first local electrical trade show I ever attended in the early 1980s and being amazed at the energy and passion one of the speakers at a breakout session had for armored cable, which admittedly to me that time seemed like a pretty basic electrical product. That speaker was, of course, Mr. Armored Cable of his era, Jim Dollins of AFC Cable Systems.

If you ever stopped by the AFC booth during the 1980s or 1990s you might recall seeing Jim there in his tux with a contortionist he used to hire to promote the flexibility of AFC’s armored cable products. Jim is happily retired now, sailing and skiing in New England, but the impression he made on the AFC brand lives on.

With all the mergers and acquisitions over the years, some of the power of the individual brands can get lost.   It’s expensive to promote dozens of individual brands, and more often than not the acquiring company wants to promote the corporate brand  rather than invest in individual product brands,  as ad space salespeople for electrical industry publications who rely on these  promotional campaigns can tell you.

Because I have spent most of my business career in the publishing industry, I am admittedly a pretty big booster for brand building in print, online or otherwise, because it still pays the bills to support us editorial types. While I am not impartial on the subject on the importance of advertising, I think it’s tough to argue against the importance of a brand building, whether it’s your personal brand on your company’s brand.

Hundreds if not thousands of books have been written about building corporate brands, but you don’t hear as much about the importance of some occasional shameless self-promotion. It goes beyond a well-crafted resume, a good shine on your shoes, firm handshake, and looking people in the eye when you speak with them. When promoting YOU Enterprises Inc., don’t underestimate the importance of taking to time for simple but effective hand-written notes to family, friends and clients or picking up the telephone instead of just sending an e-mail or text.

It goes without saying that your brand is built on the trust people have in your word. Lose that and it can take years to regain. It’s a simple truth that you can apply to your next product launch at work, too.