While Hobart Corporation, a manufacturer of equipment for the food service (restaurants and institutions) and retail (grocery and convenience stores) sectors for more than a century, had developed a solid reputation for high quality and extremely reliable products, it wasn't necessarily seen as an industry leader. It had credentials, however. In addition to being the largest firm in terms of sales, it also had broad coverage of the industry and its product categories and a respected service network, with some 200 locations and over 1,700 service vans. The better competitors excelled in a particular product category (refrigeration, for instance) or were well known in one of the industry sectors but lacked Hobart's breadth of offerings.
Hobart was concerned with less expensive competing products that were made overseas. Most customers were continuing to buy Hobart products, but the threat was growing. Further, it was hard to create advertising and trade show material that would break out of the clutter. Breakthrough products that would attract attention were not easily generated.
In response to these concerns, Hobart sought to establish a different customer-facing brand that would be the “thought leader” in the industry, not just the product leader. It wanted to be known for the best quality, “plus more.” The driving idea was to offer solutions to everyday issues its customers faced in their businesses—things ...