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Rebranding a 100-year-old Company

ABM Industries evolved over the course of a century from a small window-cleaning business into a world leader in ‘manpower provisioning.' While it is best known for its core business in janitorial services, a long series of acquisitions has given it capabilities in parking management, security, and building systems engineering, making it a global player in the building maintenance category.

In spite of its impressive breadth, ABM was pigeonholed as a janitorial company and a custodial brand. In addition to educating the market—communicating and clarifying its offer—ABM needed to expand awareness. As one stakeholder put it: “We’re the biggest company nobody’s ever heard of.” Beyond that, ABM's long acquisition history left it with a complicated brand architecture—a kaleidoscope of regional, sub-specialty brands, without a strong, unifying framework—that added to its challenges.

But challenge turned into opportunity in 2010, with the acquisition of the Linc Group of businesses. Linc opened ABM up to new markets (e.g., most conspicuously perhaps in Government services); significantly expanded its footprint; gave it new technologies to more efficiently deploy its global workforce; bolstered its ability to deliver more sustainable solutions; and added capabilities beyond its core (e.g., lock and dam management; translations services). Far from being ‘business as usual,’ adding Linc to the mix opened a path for ABM to enter the lucrative Integrated Facility Solutions (IFS) market, and marked a dramatic inflection point in corporate history.

Strategic Insights
Executive Management had the foresight to see the positive implications and benefits of managing these changes strategically. In particular, they saw how branding could—and should—play a role. They set out to capitalize on the Linc acquisition, leveraging it as a rationale for re-branding The Corporation and thus sending a Clarion Call about new strategic directions and a 'New Day' at ABM. The idea was to galvanize employees first; inform and inspire stakeholders; and ‘send a positive signal’ to analysts, business journalists, and the marketplace.

To accomplish this, ABM turned to BrandingBusiness to undertake the re-branding effort, citing our strategy expertise; design strength, and B2B focus.

  • Working with a new logo designed to honor the company’s workforce, BrandingBusiness added a new tag line, ‘Building Value.’ It names the client’s primary physical asset (their buildings) and, at the same time, what ABM does (make those assets worth more).
  • We developed a new, IFS positioning that articulated its unique offer of value: a global work force, enabled by technology; ‘self-performed’ services; deep vertical expertise; and unrivalled breadth of services, delivered in a more ecologically responsible manner (and vertically integrated across a single platform to meet emerging turnkey requirements).
  • BrandingBusiness simplified ABM’s brand architecture under a Branded House scheme, setting the corporate master brand over its major lines of business and rolling up its myriad sub-brands.
  • And, we created an entirely new visual expression system, formal identity guidelines, and a wide spectrum of applications including: fleet graphics; tradeshow elements; a brand video; collateral; posters; and the 2011 Annual Report.


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