Buying the Craftsman brand: What you get for $900 million

Sears’ sale of the Craftsman brand – for a cool $900 million – is a great starting point for a discussion on “branding,” the overused, misunderstood and mysterious marketing buzzword.

I’ve heard branding described in a thousand different ways. The most frequent and, I would argue, wildly oversimplified view is that branding is the process of stamping a logo, slogan, colors, etc., on a website, letterhead, signs, product packaging and swag like beer can holders and reusable grocery sacks.

But think about that for a minute. Can you imagine a conversation in which execs from Stanley Black & Decker said, “Let’s pay almost a billion dollars so we can slap that cool Craftsman logo on a bunch coffee mugs and T-shirts”?

Of course not. The $900 million price tag is about what the Craftsman brand stands for, not just the logo and other visuals. The real value is what Craftsman means to consumers: durability, quality, toughness, hard work, reliability, performance, etc.  Those brand attributes were earned through decades of product development and customer cultivation, not just applying a logo to any random product.

Sears has been building those perceptions among consumers for the past 90 years. The familiar red and white Craftsman logo symbolizes everything that consumers expect from and believe about tools, lawn mowers, flashlights and other items that bear the logo.  The exact same products with an unknown name and logo – let’s say “EW’s Tools” – would sell at much lower prices because the EW brand has no history, no equity and no value in the marketplace.  

Stanley Black & Decker is paying $900 million for 90 years of brand building. The logo – what many mistakenly define as “the brand” – is just the symbol representing all of that work. As long as Stanley Black & Decker meets or exceeds the expectations consumers have of Craftsman, the brand will continue to have high value in the marketplace. 

- Eric Whittington