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Sellotape acts to avoid getting stuck in a rut

'People buy on average one roll of tape a year. The aim is to boost this to two'
IT IS undoubtedly a sticky problem: to have a name that is so well known it has become generic. Take Hoover, which in common parlance has even become a verb. Now, Sellotape is fighting back - it relaunched last week after a pounds 2m redesign and brand overhaul that has taken 18 months.

"This represents the most significant change in the brand's 60-year history," says Neil Ashley, the executive director of the renamed business, The Sellotape Company. "We've been offering a wide range of products for some time, but still we were known only for our sticky-tape." The Sellotape heritage has proved a double-edged sword: nine in ten people know it, yet familiarity has constrained the business - affecting consumer perceptions of the brand and restricting plans for diversification and growth.

Michael Peters, chairman and executive creative director of the branding specialist Identica, which has developed the new look and re-branding, is blunt: "While it's a very famous trademark, it's a grey one." When Identica was brought in by the company, formerly known as Sellotape GB Ltd, its brief was simple: to reposition and regenerate the brand, enabling the company to grow.

The decision to reappraise Sellotape's branding was the result of a company review that attempted to change the corporate culture internally - removing old hierarchies in favour of project teams to foster an entrepreneurial spirit. The end result is a new name, new corporate identity featuring a running man, new sub-brands, and new packaging in its three core markets: retail, office and DIY.

Qualitative research shows people happily ask for Sellotape in a shop, yet readily accept another brand because they do not see significant product differences and because of price - rival products that do not use cellulose- based tape are cheaper, Mr Peters explains. "Research also shows people buy, on average, just one roll of tape a year. The aim is to boost this to two, through stimulating more impulse buys and developing new products."

Earlier this year the first phase of this process saw the launch of Elephant Tape - a heavy-duty fabric tape intended for DIY. A new range of products has now been designed for the office market under the new sub-brand Sellotape Office.

Next spring the company will move into the children's market. It is now working with The Generics Group, a science and technology consultancy in Cambridge, to develop Sellotape products for security in the home. "Penetration will be extended from the traditional DIY and stationery store into toy shops and garden centres," Mr Peters says. "The impact of this whole process is intended to be a rebirth of the product."

Direct marketing and point-of-sale promotion will play an important role in changing perceptions. Unlike many other small companies, The Sellotape Company enjoys high brand awareness. "The usual pattern for smaller companies like us would be to advertise heavily to boost awareness. This we do not need to do," Mr Ashley says.

"Instead, our focus is on direct mail, targeting the people who make the decisions to buy our product and at point of sale.

"In the past, people thought of us only as a stationery company - not as a business with credibility in the DIY market." In fact, The Sellotape Company estimates DIY generates greater sales than retail: pan-European DIY business at manufacturers' prices is expected to be pounds 57m this year, compared with pounds 53m for retail sales.