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Rebranding Advertises a New ‘ArcBest’

5 min read

Arkansas Best isn’t just a trucking company anymore.

Heck, it isn’t even Arkansas Best anymore.

The company formerly known as Arkansas Best Corp. became ArcBest Corp. on May 1. The name change — officially a rebranding — was companywide as email addresses, the website and headquarter marquees were among the makeovers.

Even its Nasdaq symbol changed from ABFS to ARCB.

ArcBest officials said the reboot had been in the works for a while and it was a painstaking process to come up with a new company name. It’s not like a company can easily rebrand itself if the first try doesn’t quite work out.

So Arkansas Best of Fort Smith became ArcBest — still with a nod to its Arkansas roots but, overall, a more universal non-region-specific name.

And a non-trucking-specific name.

“This has been something we have been thinking about for a while,” said Kathy Fieweger, the company’s chief marketing officer. “The company has had the name for a long time, but it really does a lot more than serve the nearby Arkansas region. That doesn’t always get reflected as much.

“It was a really lengthy group process to make sure we were adequately or appropriately describing the scope and breadth of the company’s operations. We’re just trying to clarify our identity in the marketplace.”

Arkansas Best made its name with its freight work, and ABF Freight still carries the load for ArcBest. ABF Freight, which was founded in 1923, generated nearly $429 million in revenue in the first quarter of 2014.

ABF Freight kept its name but the company revealed a new logo for the trucks on May 1.

“Arkansas Best, as it is known by the financial community, is a unionized less-than-truckload carrier,” said Brad Delco, a transportation analyst with Stephens Inc. in Little Rock. “ABF Freight, that’s a pretty strong brand. In reality, this story has become a lot more complex; it’s a lot more than just a trucking company.”

The company’s first-quarter financials bear that out. While ABF Freight brought in just shy of $429 million of revenue, its share of the company’s total revenue dropped.

Arkansas Best acquired the logistics company Panther Expedited Services of Seville, Ohio, in June 2012. Panther was renamed Panther Premium Logistics at the rebrand.

Panther is one of four “nonasset” divisions — Delco uses the term “asset-light” — that have become major players in the company’s financials. Four years ago, the nonassets generated 7 percent of the company’s revenue; in 2013 that share was up to 25 percent. And in the first quarter of 2014, it was 27 percent — $158 million of $577 million in total revenue.

Panther, which pulled in revenue of $72.2 million in the first quarter, wasn’t around for all four years of that growth since it was acquired in 2012, but it is clear freight, while still No. 1, was no longer the only important piece of ArcBest’s puzzle.

Plus, Fieweger pointed out that Panther of Ohio and the maintenance division FleetNet of Cherryville, N.C. — a nonasset division with first-quarter revenue of $41.7 million — show that ArcBest is a national company. The headquarters may be on Old Greenwood Road in Fort Smith, but ArcBest does business across the nation.

“The core element company, ABF Freight, has been around for a long time,” Fieweger said. “We also have the personal moving business, which is partially in Fort Smith and partially in Wichita Falls, Texas. The company has operations all over the country.

“Then with the services we provide through ABF Logistics, really a global capability. We felt a newer name would allow us to retain that heritage of the existing company but combine it with something that is a little more progressive.”

Fieweger said the company did research before the rebranding and the reviews since the unveiling have been positive. Officials said bringing freight and the nonasset divisions under a new brand umbrella will help better define ArcBest’s services.

“[W]e have been providing customers a broad array of solutions across the supply chain spectrum for some time, and we want everyone to know that they can come to us for a variety of needs,” CEO Judy McReynolds said in a statement at the rebranding launch.

Delco said ArcBest’s move to bring all its pieces under the umbrella will help the company cross-sell its services, whether it is freight, logistics or maintenance. That might be more apparent, he said, several years down the road when the nonasset divisions begin to make up more and more of ArcBest’s revenue.

“In the old way of thinking, while even in today’s environment it may be fair to characterize them in large part as a unionized LTL trucker, the story is evolving into something much more,” Delco said. “Management sees that. I don’t think people necessarily understood how quickly this story is evolving.

“With the name change, it may signify these asset-light portions of the business are going to grow to an increasingly larger and larger part. This name change is a way to rebrand itself in that light.”

The new brand name was announced in conjunction with a new advertising slogan, “The Skill and the Will.” The slogan is plastered throughout the company’s updated website, and officials said it represents that multifaceted ability that ArcBest has to handle customers’ needs — i.e., the skill to do it and the will to do it as well.

Fieweger said the advertising campaign is being handled through a combination of internal and external sources and was scheduled to start last week.

“This was all done in parallel,” Fieweger said, referring to the new ad campaign and the new brand name. “We’re advertising in some publications. The first one will run in Bloomberg Businessweek, and we have some other trade publications and national magazines that we’re going to be advertising in.”

When it comes down to it, ArcBest isn’t just trucking and it isn’t just Arkansas.

“The research we’ve done over the last couple years has shown us the brands ABF, Panther, etc., are all really well known and trusted,” Fieweger said. “Because of that, our customers are really looking for more services from us and we need to explain to them from a unified positioning what exactly we offer.”

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