Will rebranding deliver the results that Staples needs?

Source: Staples
Apr 04, 2019

Less than two years ago, Staples launched the first campaign in its history focused exclusively on business customers. Two days ago, the office supplies retailer announced it is rebranding itself as a “worklife fulfillment company” with a new logo and five private label brands. Staples will also enhance its digital efforts with The Loop, an online product solutions guide, plus a planned website redesign and amped-up social media push using the hashtag #WorkLifeSolutions.

The new logo, which looks like a staple, “is symbolic of the commitment we are making to our customers,” said Marshall Warkentin, Staples chief marketing officer, in a statement.

“They are innovative, forward-thinking problem-solvers, and it’s important for them to know that we are, too,” said Mr. Warknetin. “Our solutions for Worklife extend well beyond business essentials. We have expertise in furniture, technology, pack and ship and facilities. And we are partners to our customers every step of the way.”

Among Staples’ new private labels is the TRU red line of business essentials, which includes such items as pens, notebooks and shredders. Union & Scale is a line of workplace furniture and NXT Technologies includes wireless chargers and other tech products and accessories. The Coastal Professional line includes products such as janitorial carts and cleaning supplies. Perk, said to be “coming soon,” is billed as “breakroom essentials with just the right touch of personality.”

Staples CEO Sandy Douglas said the company’s focus on “worklife fulfillment” is driven by the passion of its customers.

“Worklife fulfillment is about helping businesses of all sizes as they create the most dynamic and productive work environments for their teams,” said Mr. Douglas, who was a 30-year veteran of Coca-Cola before joining Staples last year.

“Our customers deserve more than just an algorithm for ordering products for their business. They are creative, collaborative, idea-driven professionals, and the go-to person for their workplace,” he said. “Our team’s role in their success is to provide product and service solutions at great prices, and to understand their business needs.”

The Loop is Staple’s new product guide that can browsed online or downloaded. It focuses on helping business customers with recommendations for building efficient teams, decluttering work space and tips for creating effective presentations. 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you see as the challenges faced by Staples in the current market? Will its rebranding effort take Staples in the right direction?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"They will wind up much smaller, but they may also wind up as the only kid left standing on their block."
"If I only knew what “a worklife fulfillment company” IS. A hallmark of great brands must be simplicity and common sense. This is anything but."
"Staples is best at delivering commodity items that are unexciting to buy. The categories they are trying to further penetrate are already handled better by other retailers."

Join the Discussion!

13 Comments on "Will rebranding deliver the results that Staples needs?"

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Art Suriano
Staples is excellent when ordering online or over the phone. There is no doubt about that. However, they have continued to fall short at the store level. Is rebranding the solution? I don’t think so. The article talks about buying furniture. Who orders furniture online without attempting to see it first? Very few people. If Staples understood their customer, they’d realize that the businesses that order from them are happy ordering supplies and products that don’t require much thought, but when purchasing equipment, furniture or any item a customer may want to experience before purchase that’s where they have a tremendous opportunity. Customers do not want to do it all themselves so having an online tool for product information is fine but don’t expect the customer to rely strictly on that. Staples should make their stores a place to shop for the items that must be seen and tried out, like furniture, printers, computers and so on staffed with knowledgeable and helpful store associates. Continuing to build the online business is fine, but by combining… Read more »
Neil Saunders

Put bluntly, Staples is a brand in search of a purpose. It utterly failed in the consumer market because it did not create an engaging and compelling proposition. The latest focus on the business market is sound as is the shift into services. However, Staples is going to have its work cut out in developing a clear point of differentiation. Many of the things it is offering already exist elsewhere, such as at FedEx stores.

Brandon Rael

It was high time for Staples to rebrand itself in the states, as the company had a long string of struggles, and the stores simply did not resonate with the current generation. The company has always been synonymous with being the go-to destination for office supplies, yet with the evolution of how and where we work, especially with the mobile/virtual office, Staples has been behind the trend.

One can hope that the U.S.-based version of Staples will follow the blazing path that Staples Canada has developed with their new retail concept in Quebec that will help revolutionize the brand as well as create community engagement. Staples Canada is adapting to help their customers work, learn and grow, including providing shared workspaces.

The key to the Staples Canada’s success so far has been their ability to listen and adapt to the changing customer needs. Let’s hope that the U.S. Staples rebranding takes a similar approach.

Lee Peterson

Let’s see — too many stores, commodity product, awful experience on- or offline … that’s a big mountain! Like any retailer now (re-branded or not) with that same trio of issues, Staples will seek its level in this new world of retail, which will be MUCH smaller.

But they do have a couple of things going for them; they are clearly the cream of the crop brand in their silo, AND their online sales are very strong so they will wind up much smaller, but they may also wind up as the only kid left standing on their block.

Chris Petersen, PhD.

It appears that Staples Loop is trying to differentiate through rich content on a variety of work-life topics. Providing consistent, relevant content is a major challenge and investment. Will customers go to yet another source on how to be “more productive?” The most promising part of Staples website would appear to be “services and solutions.” It would seem that Staples’ best investment would be investing profitable services rather than developing “work-life fulfillment” content. However, every retailer must continue to test alternatives. In this case, Google Analytics of traffic and flow will provide answers very quickly on what customers find relevant.

Dave Bruno
I wish Staples all the best with this new branding endeavor, but I am not entirely confident it will work. By pronouncing themselves as the source for “Worklife Fulfillment” they are setting a ridiculously high bar for their new brand promise. And maybe I am being cynical, but the items highlighted in the article (pens, notebooks, wireless chargers and janitorial carts) do not in any way tell me that they are going to fulfill that brand promise. I might have been slightly less aspirational with my brand promise and much, much more aspirational with my product assortments. I would add consulting services to help companies design workspaces that help achieve better work/life balance. I might emphasize healthy snacks, games, products that make it easy for people to bring their dogs to work, maybe even recruit local partners that offer in-office yoga classes (and add items to the assortment to support those ideas). The list of ideas for helping companies create better work/life balance is long, and I worry that pens and notebooks are not on… Read more »
Zach Zalowitz

I applaud the move, but it’s going to be an uphill battle. I’ll tell you this much, as someone helping run a small business I’d welcome a destination to go to for “all things entrepreneur.” They need to go past this five-brands concept (which is really departmentalizing products) and keep to one brand, but go into different offerings all together, IMHO.

“Yeah, I heard a really great presentation at a Staples last night on leadership in the office … while I was there I picked up a few supplies we needed.” — that needs to be the trend.

Here's the catch – What else were they going to do? The "do nothing" is the "die" part of "adapt or die".

Meaghan Brophy
Meaghan Brophy
Senior Retail Writer
3 years 4 months ago

Staples’ rebranding efforts could pay off, but only if they upgrade their store experience to match this new vision. If they want to be a “worklife” brand, the shopping experience needs to reflect that. The example that comes to mind is Target. They do a great job of creating smaller pop-ups within their stores that showcase different private label brands. Helping businesses “create the most dynamic and productive work environments” also requires high levels of customer service and expertise from store associates. So I hope training is an important part of Staples’ rebranding strategy.

Rob Gallo

Staples is best at delivering commodity items that are unexciting to buy. The categories they are trying to further penetrate are already handled better by other retailers. Visit just about any store adjacent to a Staples and then go into Staples. It’s beyond depressing. The stores are generally empty other than back-to-school season. This is going to be a long journey for Staples and I doubt it goes well.

Tom Dougherty

If I only knew what “a worklife fulfillment company” IS. A hallmark of great brands must be simplicity and common sense. This is anything but.

Ask someone what NIKE or APPLE represents and they can parrot back to you — almost verbatim — the brand’s strategy.

Can you imagine ANYONE repeating that line of drivel?

I get it. The rebranding was needed. Staples certainly needed to change and adapt. But this is in no way a further refinement of the message. This is a brand lost with no idea how to find their way home (or to consumers’ homes).

Joan Treistman
It looks like Staples is trying to create a complex solution to a simple challenge. Searching for business supplies and/or furniture is a product-focused effort. Branding is no longer the major factor (was it ever?) in business product purchase decisions. If Staples’ strategy is to build brands that deliver it will be expending a lot of energy and dollars and miss connecting with potential customers. I agree with those comments that say Staples should focus on what happens in the store and navigation online. Here’s one example of frustration that didn’t have to happen. There’s a Staples file folder I prefer. I could no longer find it in the Staples store near me and could not find it online. When I saw it at a store near a friend (yes, I walked in just to have another go at locating that file folder) I grabbed a file folder pack and brought it to the cashier. I didn’t buy it, but asked her to tell me the item number so that I could order it online.… Read more »
Steve Montgomery

The office retailer specialty market has continued to shrink as online competitors have chipped away by selling some of their core items. Other than electronics and furniture I can’t think of any reason to go to a Staples store.

In my case there is an Office Depot/Max closer and I find no substantive difference between the two. I am unsure that business will turn to the re-branded version of Staples for business advice especially because they have not recently shown their own ability to be relative.

Craig Sundstrom

Let me get this straight: they replacing (well, sort of) a well known brand with five — no, make that six — new brands? Why?

I think we might have rephrased the Daily Poll as “are rebranding efforts EVER successful?” Unfortunately I think this will be an example of the answer being “no.” Staples is facing the problem that much of what they sell — paper, pens, pencils — really aren’t staples anymore … or at least not to the extent that they once were. This is a long-term shift that no amount of wordplay is going to change.

"They will wind up much smaller, but they may also wind up as the only kid left standing on their block."
"If I only knew what “a worklife fulfillment company” IS. A hallmark of great brands must be simplicity and common sense. This is anything but."
"Staples is best at delivering commodity items that are unexciting to buy. The categories they are trying to further penetrate are already handled better by other retailers."

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