The Story Behind MSC's "Built To Make You Better" Rebranding

Earlier this month, MSC Industrial Supply rebranded its self with a shortened name, a new logo and a new tagline. From ID editor Mike Hockett's exclusive interview with a company executive, hear why the company made the change and the reason for its timing.

Earlier this month, MSC Industrial Supply unveiled a new company logo, cut off the ‘Industrial Supply’ from its name, and introduced a new company tagline: “Built To make You Better”.

The new slogan is the core of the company’s new marketing campaign, which includes a series of videos showing customer success stories.

So where did this rebranding come from, and why now?

I attended the massive International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) on Sept. 15 in Chicago, where MSC exhibited on the show floor. There, I met with MSC’s Steve Baruch, who is the company’s senior vice president, chief strategy & marketing officer. Baruch, who has been with MSC for eight years, gave me a thorough explanation on the purpose behind the rebranding and its timing.

Baruch touched on the company’s 75-year-old-roots, dating back to founder Sid Jacobson starting it by selling surplus tools literally out of the trunk of his car in 1941 on the lower east side of Manhattan, NY. Baruch noted that Jacobson founded the company on two primary notions.

The first, was that MSC was built for a greater purpose than to just sell stuff and make money. That nobility means doing more for or helping stakeholders improve, be it customers, suppliers, end users, MSC employees, owners and investors.

“You would see the logo followed by Industrial Supply Company. It said what we did, but it didn’t say why we did it,” Baruch told me. “This tagline is really more of an expression of the company’s purpose, our ‘why.’ It’s serving a purpose beyond ourselves that’s greater than ourselves. It’s an inspirational and aspirational way to think about why we do what we do.”

Baruch said that Jacobson’s second founding notion was one of constant adaptation. This is evidenced directly by MSC’s history, going from Jacobson’s car trunk in 1941 to today’s company that did $2.9 billion in 2015 sales — good enough to put the company at No. 13 on Industrial Distribution’s 2016 Big 50 List of the largest MRO distributors.

For the majority of its history, people knew MSC as a direct marketing company, which Baruch said is still a point of pride. It’s current product catalog printed book is about 7 inches think, with about 5,000 pages full of 500,000 products.

“That’s one of the things people still know us by, and we’re proud of it,” Baruch said. “But that direct marketing and direct mail roots wasn’t enough to bring that vision of serving our stakeholders to life.”

MSC adapted from direct marketing by adding a sales team, which today numbers more than 2,000 individuals. In 1991, it was one of the first wholesale distributors to offer guaranteed same-day shipping. Advancing further to the age of the Internet, MSC launched its first e-commerce website in September of 2000, allowing customers to buy products online. Today, 58 percent of MSC’s total sales are done online. This past June, MSC was named Internet Retailer’s B2B E-Commerce Player of the Year.

“Going from having direct marketing, to having a sales team, to now having this award-winning web property — are indications of that adaptation,” Baruch said.

MSC’s continued adaptations go well beyond e-commerce growth. At its IMTS booth, MSC was showing off its ControlPoint Inventory Management Solution. Vending has been a point of investment for MSC this entire decade, as it has supply chain specialists deployed across the country to bring solutions to customers. The company also brought more than 100 metalworking specialists to IMTS to meet, train with suppliers and learn about the latest technology offerings.

“Having a resource like them, from a differentiation perspective, is massive,” Baruch said about those specialists. “It’s why we thought the ‘Built to Make You Better’ tagline and launching it here (at IMTS) — specifically with our place in the metalworking/manufacturing supply chain was the ideal forum for this kind of announcement.” 

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