thought-leadership Thought Leadership

November 30, 2022 / 4 minute read

A Brand Based in Values

Written by Brian King, Executive VP, Marketing, Product Management and Sustainability

About a year and a half ago, we refreshed our ADS brand, a massive undertaking for our company that, as many of you can imagine, did not come about easily. We had to be thoughtful about the image we put out into the world, about what we say about our products, and about what we want people to think and feel when they see our name. We also had to be respectful of the existing branding and brand equity and use that as the foundation for the future.

That refresh meant a new logo and new tagline, as well as streamlined product names. But we also updated and refined our company statements, which sum up our mission and values — who we are and who we hope to be. As I look back on these past 18 months and see where we have come, I am so proud and pleased to say that the brand we’ve been building truly reflects those values. And I am more convinced than ever that if a brand is to be successful, it must be based on a company’s true, authentic mission and constantly reflect that mission back out into the world.

This is aspirational, of course. For ADS, the tagline is our “why:” Our reason is water. Everything else — pun intended — flows from that. We put a lot of thought into that line, and if your company is considering a brand refresh, I would encourage you to put that thought into your brand’s evolution, balancing past equity and successes with your vision for the future.  

At ADS, we began by thinking about the products we offered, the new products we were developing and the partnerships we had in the marketplace and across the communities in which we work. We considered the solutions our products provided, and thought in detail about the goals we had for ourselves and our company. Stewarding and caring for water has always been at the heart of our work. Our work, to capture, convey, store and treat water, has never changed. We knew that needed to be the core of our brand.

We also knew that the bigger story of sustainability was one we were committed to, and one we needed to tell. ADS, you’ve likely heard me say, is committed to removing plastic from the waste streams that lead to landfills. In fact, we recycle more plastic than any other company in North America. That had to be part of our message, too.

With that, we built a brand identity around caring for water, and our role in environmental sustainability. This was more than just a marketing plan: This was a way of thinking about how we did and do business, and about choosing product offerings, community partnerships, and research and development investments that advance that commitment.

I will be honest: I did not expect our company, founded more than 55 years ago, to rapidly embrace this new way of thinking about itself. However, I am delighted to see that from our corporate headquarters in Hilliard, Ohio, to our subsidiary offices around the U.S., people not only embraced the new vision, they celebrated it. When we talk with our customers, investors, job candidates, new hires and long-term employees, they talk about our brand and they talk about our mission.

They can articulate it: “Our reason is water” and “ADS is committed to sustainability.”

I think that is largely because our brand is a personification of who we are as a company and a group of employees. It isn’t something we made up. It is something that is in line with our values. We have chosen key partnerships — with The Ohio State University Sustainability Institute, with The Recycling Partnership, among others — that reflect our commitments to water and sustainability. We started the ADS Foundation, a nonprofit arm of our company that is committed to improving the quality of life in our communities, restoring and preserving critical watersheds and increasing recycling.

If a brand refresh is in your company’s future, I would offer these three pieces of advice. First, make sure that you clearly and concisely define your values. Then, make sure you live those values in all things. Finally, make sure that you communicate these to your stakeholders, investors, employees, customers and partners. We did all of this, and now people are responding. I know it is because it is genuine and authentic and they see us living our mission every day.

That’s more than a brand. That’s a promise to ourselves and to the people who matter to us. What a great lesson, that being true to your values can pay off in such a big way. 

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