Velcro Industries is a company in a peculiar situation. On the one hand, if asked to describe Velcro, nearly everyone in America could provide at least some kind of relevant answer. Perhaps they’d talk about the distinctive ripping sound or be reminded of their favorite pair of tennis shoes as a kid. But the fastener these people would describe isn’t exactly Velcro, at least not in the eyes of the company who uses that name. To Velcro Industries, the word is not a noun, but an adjective. That strip of zipper-like fabric isn’t simply “Velcro,” rather it’s a “Velcro-brand hook and loop fastener” to go with the company’s more than 35,000 other products.
Much like the way some substitute “Kleenex” as a word for tissue, people often mistake Velcro for a product or simply the name of a company that makes that one product. But CEO Alain Zijlstra doesn’t see his multibillion-dollar business through the prism of a single item. And if he had his way, neither would the public. Zijlstra wants people to recognize Velcro as a lifestyle brand on the same level as Nike, Apple or Harley-Davidson. That’s why his company is rolling out an unprecedented media campaign to change people’s perceptions about Velcro. Rather than associating the brand with a single signature fastener, Ziljstra wants the Velcro name to be synonymous with quality connective products that hold our world together.
The company’s quest for brand recognition goes against its long-held reputation for secrecy. Even before an equity fund took the company private in 2009, Velcro was well known as a reserved family business that kept its affairs out of the public eye. Ziljstra realized the company’s desperate need to adapt when he joined up in 2008. Upon taking the CEO spot in October 2012, Ziljstra immediately hired a PR firm to freshen up the company’s logo and website. Soon customers will be able to buy products directly from the Velcro site. In order to further establish an online presence, Velcro products have begun appearing in a sponsored capacity on crafting expert Brit Morin’s web show. Known to some as “Silicon Valley’s Martha Stewart,” Morin extols the virtues of Velcro in her videos and is always sure to use the brand name as a descriptor rather than an object. Only time will tell, though, if the rest of the nation will be receptive to Velcro’s changing identity.
- What advantage does Velcro have as it attempts to increase its brand identity?
- “An equity fund took Velcro private in 2009.” What does that mean?
Source: Beth Kowitt, “Velcro Just Wants Some Closure,” Fortune, June 13, 2013. Photo courtesy of David J Morgan.