CAMPAIGNS: Union Pacific puts focus on brand to get back on track

PR Team: CoreBrand (Stamford, CT) and Union Pacific (Omaha, NE) Campaign: Building the ROI case for a brand campaign Time Frame: March 2002 - ongoing Budget: $200,000 per annum

PR Team: CoreBrand (Stamford, CT) and Union Pacific (Omaha, NE) Campaign: Building the ROI case for a brand campaign Time Frame: March 2002 - ongoing Budget: $200,000 per annum

Convincing senior management to undertake an ambitious brand-building exercise can be a daunting challenge. It becomes even more difficult when the company is operating in what is perceived to be a commodity business where there is little belief that brand strength has much to do with building the business. Railroad company Union Pacific (UP) found itself in that position. It was also facing fallout from a merger in the late 1990s that resulted in a tremendous disruption of rail service that seemed to endanger the company's reputation. "The end result of the merger was some very angry customers and very angry public officials," says Robert Turner, SVP of corporate relations at UP. "We spent millions repairing the situation and getting our level of service back to where it was supposed to be, yet we knew we had to work on rebuilding our reputation." Since rebuilding brand and reputation were new frontiers for UP, the company enlisted the help of CoreBrand to measure its efforts. Strategy UP wanted to make sure all of its major constituencies were aware that it had rectified the problems it was having integrating the merger. That included investors, customers, and employees. Early research with CoreBrand demonstrated that like much of the rest of the sector, UP had a "low voice" in the media, as marketing spending was not a major priority. That was viewed as an early positive: It meant that UP had a relatively blank slate to work with to establish its image. UP decided to combine an advertising campaign with strong PR support to raise its profile and repair its reputation, and set clear and ambitious benchmarks for the campaign. UP hoped that it would be able to leverage its brand-building so that it could set premium prices on premium products, enter new markets, and introduce new products. CoreBrand helped map out an expected ROI, and the study also showed that UP was likely to see its stock price rise from the marketing push. Tactics The company kicked off a marketing drive that was almost entirely brand-related. It centered on the themes that included highlighting the important but often-overlooked role UP plays in national commerce. The campaign also focused attention on how modern and efficient UP has become in recent years. The company sought media placements in the national business press, and made a general push in markets where it could easily reach its employees and other opinion leaders. Results A CoreBrand analysis of UP's marketing efforts a few months into the campaign demonstrated that there had been clear movement toward enhancing the company's reputation and recognition. According to the study, the brand decline the company had experienced since the merger had stopped. In fact, the Union Pacific brand was now growing by about 10%. CoreBrand also found that the company's newfound brand strength was contributing to its overall stock-market value. By the second quarter of 2002, CoreBrand's metrics ascribed 8.7% of UP's overall value of $56.6 billion to its brand. The tracking figures also helped build the communications credibility with management, explains Turner. "We found that our management was following the results closely, and liked reading the current updates - the reports are heavy on data and therefore CFO-friendly," Turner says. "At first, we were giving our management just excerpts of the report, but they found them so useful that they began to ask for the entire thing. There's no doubt that these reports have raised the credibility of our efforts within the company." Future UP is continuing its marketing efforts, and will keep using CoreBrand to measure them.

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