Three years after purchasing North Andover, Mass.-based Giant Glass Co., Safelite AutoGlass is moving to co-brand its name with the company. Prior to this, Giant Glass’ five locations continued to operate under the existing name, and Safelite rebranded its Falmouth, Mass., store into the Boston brand. Down the road could Safelite phase out the Giant Glass name and market the stores solely under the Safelite AutoGlass moniker? It wouldn’t be the first time, according to those in the industry.
The Giant Glass brand is a staple in the Boston-area complete with its own marketing jingle. Giant Glass former owners Dennis Drinkwater and Lance Cramer had built up a strong regional awareness of their business over the company’s 20-plus years. This presence was particularly bolstered by their sponsorship of the Boston Red Sox.
Doug Linderer, who purchased Salisbury Glass from his father in 1992, has strong feelings on brand awareness. After buying the Salisbury, Md.-based glass shop, he renamed it and rebranded it under the Mr. Go-Glass moniker.
“I do believe in the power of the brand in an industry that, generally speaking, has been slow to harness the same,” he says. “Our brand is our promise and it has been integral to our success. It is quite a testament to the Giant brand/reputation that Safelite is going about things this way. My best guess is that the move is a part of a longer-term strategy to eventually phase out the Giant brand. But the operative word here is eventually. As the Giant brand equity naturally declines with time, Safelite would then quietly drop it. But all of that being said, the New England market is among the more unique/idiosyncratic.”
When Mr. Go-Glass makes a company purchase, there is a co-branding period of time, says Linderer. Then “we gently let the old brand slip away,” he explains.
Patrick McKernan, president of American Mobile Glass of N.J., says the co-branding could cause some confusion for customers.
“With any product, marketing should be clear and concise,” he says. “Giant Glass has been a large regional company for many years; however, Safelite has done a phenomenal job with marketing to make it a national household name, and I don’t see why they would not want to capitalize on that.”
Some, however, aren’t so sure that Safelite will let the Giant Glass name fall by the wayside.
“Dennis Drinkwater spent years building up tremendous name brand recognition,” says David Rohlfing, vice president of operations for Club Assist. “It’s obvious Safelite wants to receive value for what they acquired in buying Giant Glass. Co-branding will lead to further name brand recognition.”
“Obviously, Giant Glass has a strong brand that Safelite couldn’t crack, so they will need to co-brand to retain Giant’s customers,” notes Donna Braden, president of Jack’s Glass in Northampton, Pa.
When Safelite purchased Giant, the deal included 54 employees, 30 mobile vans and five locations in the Boston area.
The five Giant Glass stores, including Lawrence, North Andover, Peabody, Weymouth and Worcester, continued to operate under their existing name rather than transition to the Safelite AutoGlass brand. In addition, Safelite’s Falmouth store was rebranded as a Giant Glass store.
“We have leveraged the local brand position held by Giant Glass for almost three years,” says Tom Feeney, Safelite Group president and CEO. “While all the people became Safelite associates operating with Safelite systems and tools, Giant and Safelite operations remained separate. It has now become clear that bringing all our resources in the market together is best way to serve our customers in the future.”
The field operations in the Boston area will be combined into a single market and Safelite and Giant will co-brand with “Together to Serve You Better” as the tagline. All locations in the Boston market will have co-branded signage, fleet vehicles and uniformed technicians.
Once the operations are integrated, Internet traffic to Giant’s website will be sent to a co-branded landing page, then redirected to Safelite’s website where customers can obtain estimates and schedule service. Local insurance agents will still have access to the Giant Express website, according to officials.
The company will continue its sponsorship of the Boston Red Sox and “Create the Day” support of local charities.
“This is a milestone that marks a new day and new vision for us,” Feeney says. “This is not about maintaining the status quo. It is about becoming the best operation under a combined name so it’s easier for our customers to recognize us.”
Safelite AutoGlass has some history with co-branding.
In May 2015, Safelite Group acquired substantially all of the automotive glass assets of Hermitage, Pa.-based Pro Auto Glass & Mirror. The company reported it would operate under a Safelite and Pro Auto Glass co-branding strategy.
In November 2014, Safelite Group purchased substantially all of the automotive glass assets of Kansas City’s Santa Fe Glass, not including its glazing-related business. At the time, Safelite reported that the company “will operate under a Safelite and Santa Fe co-branding strategy until further plans are made.”