Velcro, from Velcro Industries, is a fascinating brand. It’s a wonderful example of a single product (hook-and-loop-fasteners) brand that created a new category and maintained control and exemplar status over that category for nearly a half century. It illustrates how even a strong brand can get tired and need a re-branding effort.

The Velcro founder story is a powerful part to the brand. It has human interest and also serves to explain the value proposition of their product. A Swiss electrical engineer, George de Mestral came home in 1941 from a hunting trip curious why burrs kept sticking to his clothes and to his dog’s fur. Under a microscope he found that they contained hundreds of “hooks.” That led to an inspiration to recreate the attachment properties of the burrs in cloth. It took nearly 20 years before he had something that was commercial, and several companies turned their back on the idea along the way because they could not visualize his overcoming the limitations of the early efforts.

After a half century, Velcro realized that their brand needed clarity and energy to become more contemporary. They also realized that they needed to be more coordinated across products and countries. It was a familiar set of problems complicated by the fact that their exemplar status was so strong (like Xerox and Kleenex) that it was getting in the way of making their brand play the differentiating role to its potential.

Nevertheless, their effort succeeded and was named one of the winners in the 2013 REBRAND 100 Awards. Here’s how they did it:

  1. They repositioned the brand around a lifestyle instead of a product. The concept was “Amazing Connections, capturing both the physical and emotional connections fulfilled by the brand and leveraging the many ways that Velcro products (don’t use Velcro as a verb or noun) can be used and the fact that people invent new ways each day.” They tapped into the often hidden emotional benefits of using the product and the self-expressive benefits of using it to solve problems. One of their brand builders is Brit Morin, sort of Silicon Valley’s Martha Stewart, to develop online DIY games, crafts and useful items for the home and office using Velcro products.
  2. With a tagline of “There is Only One,” the brand took on the fact that competitors may piggyback on the category building effort of Velcro. They coupled the tagline with a renewed effort to protect their symbol.
  3. They completely redesigned their graphics to bring more life, energy and consistency to their messaging and also eliminated the multiple logos across countries.

Velcro Industries drifted, albeit in the context of a successful business, without much energy and clarity. A rebrand was able to leverage a lot of substance; it was not just words and design.

*A side thought: Velcro has pursued a disciplined branded house with no branded features or technologies, nor any application brands. On one hand they haven’t had to deal with over-branding problems. But I wonder if they haven’t left some opportunity to generate energy and own their subcategories.