Orange County Business Journal

June 11, 2018

CalAmp Corp. set out to reinvent businesses through telematics, or technology that remotely monitors assets, such as cars. But the Irvine-based firm realized it needed to reinvent itself after acquiring Canton, Mass.-based vehicle tracking company LoJack Corp. in 2016 for $134 million.

The company spent the past year unveiling a new look and “The New How” campaign while overhauling its marketing strategy, including reorganizing sales teams in each of its business groups. It wouldn’t reveal how much it spent on the redo. A look at its 2016 financials shows about 25% of the company’s revenue was spent on selling, general and administrative expenses. In fiscal 2017, the figure jumped to 36%, and they’re not done.

Vice President of Corporate Marketing Nadine Traboulsi said customer feedback on the “clean, refreshed” new look “has been very positive” and “represents us more appropriately.”

Now, CalAmp has its eyes set on LoJack’s sales and marketing tactics. Starting next week, the company will send iPads loaded with a dealer sales app to its top 100 U.S. dealerships, expanding the program to additional dealerships next year.

Traboulsi said the goal is creating an easy way to train dealers about LoJack’s technology, given dealerships typically have high turnover rates.

“LoJack needs to carry its own weight at the dealership and be able to be self-explanatory,” Traboulsi said. “Its size in the theft-recovery category is like Kleenex generalizing the tissue category, [but] today’s consumers are not going to just buy into something. They want to understand how it works, so this is our opportunity to be much more open and educational.”

The LoJack acquisition has helped bolster the company’s business. CalAmp reported record revenue of $94.4 million in the fourth quarter, up year-over-year from 9.6%. For the full fiscal year, sales were $365.9 million, up 10% year-over-year.

The deal also plays into Chief Executive Michael Burdiek’s long-running strategy to diversify services. But for a 37-year-old company that’s catered to corporate clients, such as Caterpillar Inc. and Verizon, adding a consumer-facing brand like LoJack highlighted the need to create a unified brand image.

“We needed to bring marketing to the forefront, to become more relevant to the industry and find ways to touch users and consumers,” he said. “For CalAmp, the rebrand was important to express our transformation into a leading-edge, high-tech global company. For LoJack, it was important to refresh the brand, which hadn’t been marketed in a contemporary way, and create alignment with CalAmp.”

Trying on a new look can be great, but it’s a risky proposition for a publicly traded company such as CalAmp, whose competitors include Orbcomm in Rochelle Park, N.J., Canadian firm Sierra Wireless, and Danlaw Inc. in Novi, Mich.

Idea Hall founder and Chief Executive Rebecca Hall said one way to avoid a branding disaster is bringing key stakeholder groups into the rebranding process to consider their views—something the Costa Mesa-based ad agency did when it helped commercial construction firm Swinerton Inc. rebrand last month.

“The biggest risks to avoid is in creating confusion or lack of adoption, or in the infamous cases of J.C. Penney and the Gap, outright consumer rejection,” Hall said.

Gap Inc. decided to change its signature logo in 2010. It ditched the navy-blue square for a small gradient-shaded box placed at the top-right corner of its name, and changed the font to Helvetica, a generic typeface that was used by the now-defunct American Apparel. Public reaction was so bad and swift that the company returned to the original six days later, losing its estimated $100 million investment in the rebranding process.

“When people love a brand, we recommend evolving it to stay relevant and move the company and product forward, rather than throwing out the old and starting completely new,” Hall said.

Adding Salt

Traboulsi, who joined CalAmp in 2016, said it brought on San Francisco-based ad agency Salt Branding and spent a year researching strategy, including a new website and logo.

Salt co-founder and Managing Director Rick Herrick said the first step was understanding the company’s business, from growth plans to how CalAmp and LoJack were viewed in the marketplace.

The agency held about 25 interviews with executives and senior management, and conducted over 700 online surveys to see how CalAmp and LoJack were perceived by businesses and consumers, then studied the competition.

“[CalAmp] had this vision of the future of the connected car and the telematics market and where it’s going,” Herrick said. “We thought that vision was quite advanced from what was out in the marketplace, and we tried to put a positioning around this vision, and that is the idea of The New How, an entirely new way to connect cars and the power of telematics.”

CalAmp traded the royal-blue boomerang-shape in the middle of its name for a simple aqua-colored slash. LoJack’s was also toned down with the same slash mark in red instead of its signature red lightning bolt.

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