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Rebranding a Distribution Icon: Newark Becomes Element14

Even in an industry that reinvents itself as often as the electronics industry does, change can be hard. After 77 years in electronics distribution, catalogue distributor Newark is rebranding itself as element14 — a process that Newark's vice president for customer experience Dave Wenger calls “a journey.”

“This will be an evolutionary process and we are working closely with our customers and suppliers to keep them updated,” Wenger said. “In fact, we have created a special page, newark.com/together, to provide information on our journey.

Newark’s sister catalogue, Farnell, is also adopting the element14 moniker. In their respective geographies, both Newark and Britain’s Farnell have a long-established brand identity and a lot of history behind their names. Asia/Pacific — still a relatively new market for electronics distribution — is already using the element14 name.

As a global company, a single brand identity can be a powerful tool that is immediately associated with what a company stands for. And, let's face it, going to market as a global entity is a lot easier under one name than as a parent company with different identities in each of the geographic markets.

Newark will integrate with its element14 community and thereafter be known as element14 in North America. The company is adding tens of thousands of new products and will offer a range of new tools and services online to increase productivity and enhance the shopping experience, remaining committed to multi-channel model.

Within their back-end operations, Newark and Premier Farnell have largely acted as a single company by leveraging their combined economies of scale with suppliers and customers; adopting the best practices within each organization; and eliminating the redundancies that come with operating two separate but related businesses.

In terms of brand, Newark has been associated with the Americas and Premier Farnell with Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), creating two identities that may have diluted the recognition that Premier Farnell plc organization is a large, global products and services company with combined revenue of $1.5 billion.

In a presentation at the annual Electronics Distribution Show (EDS) now taking place in Las Vegas, Newark outlined some of the drivers behind the corporate rebranding move:

  • The power and clarity of one global brand: A planned, long-term brand journey; Better search engine optimization and efficiencies of scale.
  • Combination of community and commerce: Single point for more products, resources, services.
  • Global branding: Asia/Pacific businesses already rebranded as element14; Europe/UK has started the journey.
  • Web preference channel growth: Upsurge in numbers of engineers and buyers who buy/research over the Web; Success of element14 as an electronics community.
  • Attract more customers in each part of product cycle: From research to design prototype to production to replacement.

Of the brands within the Premier Farnell organization, element14 is the newest. The reaction at EDS to the rebranding has ranged from surprise that the company was doing this to an acknowledgment the move makes sense in terms of the global electronics community.

Executives from Newark, in particular, are sensitive to the legacy that comes with the Newark name. For many suppliers and customers, adjusting to the change might be difficult. The key, as Wenger notes, will be a slow and steady journey that demonstrates the benefits of the combined organization at each step of the way. You can stay updated on that journey at newark.com/together.

17 comments on “Rebranding a Distribution Icon: Newark Becomes Element14

  1. Tim Votapka
    May 25, 2011

    A very interesting development. I'd like to know what survey data motivated the new branding effort. What does Element14 represent or signify Without that, I'm somewhat befuddled by the new name.

  2. jbond
    May 26, 2011

    @Tvotapka

    I'd have to agree with you on your question “What does Element14 represent or signify?” I agree that combining your efforts under one global moniker is a smart move but currently a bit confusing. Is Premier Farnell and Newark merging under one name, Element14?

  3. Pitchfork
    May 26, 2011

    For the non Chemists amongst you, the 14th element on the Periodic Table of the Elements is Silicon

    BTW Premier-Farnell is the Parent company which currently trades in the UK & Europe as Farnell

  4. FLYINGSCOT
    May 26, 2011

    Personally I am confused by this rebranding (at least in Europe).  Farnell is very well known in Europe and has a strong brand.  Changing the name might cause an initial dip before the global advantage kicks in.  Also there are many companies with the “moniker” Element14 so again I am surprised by the move.

  5. Tim Votapka
    May 26, 2011

    Silicon  = the 14th Element. That's very clever, but to me it sounds more like a code name for a new top secret IC being developed at an undisclosed foundry.

  6. Mr. Roques
    May 28, 2011

    Simple question: why not change one of the two to the other? Stay with Newark and change the other? It would create at least half of the problems… no?

  7. Tim Votapka
    May 28, 2011

    Well, the success of this will be dependent upon what Newark's customers think. We have seen big iconic name changes over distribution's history. Hamilton ring a bell?

  8. SunitaT
    May 29, 2011

    @Mr. Roques,

    I agree with you that it will solve half of the problems but the question is which one  do you choose because as Barbara pointed out “Executives from Newark, in particular, are sensitive to the legacy that comes with the Newark name” may be this is the same case with Farnell executives. So i guess its better to choose some neutral name rather than existing ones.

     

  9. Backorder
    May 29, 2011

    Agree with tirlapur. It might have been a little tricky to rebrand to an existing brand. “Newark is now Farnell” might have sounded a little odd and off putting to the traditional Newark user and vice versa. Another consideration is the creation and integration of the community. It would have been hard to merge the online operation/profile/look/feel of one into another seamlessly. In this light, “newark/farnell is now element14 makes a lot of sense. Of course, it would require an immense exercise in customer education, but already I can see the efforts that they have put.

    Personally, I like the name element14. It is cool, intelligent and likely to attract the younger generation of engineers.

     

  10. Tim Votapka
    May 30, 2011

    Oh, I agree the name “Element 14” has some very intriguing aspects to it. I'm appropriately wary of the theme without having seen any survey data to support it. If the organization polled the idea among members of its target audience and they pulled in very positive feedback, then I say go for it. If not, then you are absolutely correct in saying it will take a massive amount of educating to get the point and value proposition across.

    Having been in many similar situations myself, I can tell you nothing beats survey data.

  11. Taimoor Zubar
    May 30, 2011

    I also think that coming up with a totally new name is a better idea than merging one brand name into another. The new name would create a more refreshing impact on the minds of the customers.

  12. Backorder
    May 30, 2011

    I agree. But, I think one can assume these guys had a survey to back this up. No marketing would hazard such an adventure without data to back it up in the board meeting.

  13. Tim Votapka
    May 30, 2011

    I'd think so too. It's painful when clients we work with refuse to survey ahead of their marketing, and then gripe about results later on. Perhaps we'll see how this affects Newark in future EBN customer evaluation studies!

  14. Barbara Jorgensen
    May 31, 2011

    Although they didn't specifically mention it, I know Newark and the Premier Farnell companies well enough to know that research was conducted before coming to this decision. I think going with a related name–element14–is the right way to go rather than either legacy brand, as valuable as they are. The fact is, neither Newark or Farnell are perceived as global compnaies, even though they are. Keeping the brands and companies separate worked well after Premier Farnell acquired Newark–both Newark and Farnell have loyal followings in their geographies. But as a single, global entity, both brands gain products and service that currently are offered separately…I also think customers win. The key is execution–as long as the service and support is maintained, i don't think customers ultimately care what their supplier is called as long as they continue with the same quality and service.

  15. Mr. Roques
    June 15, 2011

    Well, according to Barbara, Newark customers are very sensitive to branding and legacy… has any news come out?

  16. Mr. Roques
    June 15, 2011

    Well, precisely… go with Newark if you know their customers are sensitive… and the others will have to adapt to a new name but you guarantee that the other group stays put.

  17. Tim Votapka
    June 16, 2011

    I'm with you there Barbara! It's a fast-paced world in which we operate and things shift around more rapidly than ever before. Think back to when Arrow was making so many acquisitions and at one time had to deal with Capstone, Schweber, Zeus, etc. While the company retained these names for quite some time, I'm willing to bet that we wouldn't see the same gradient today.

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