CTCI Wins By Rebranding

Group Chairman John T. Yu. Photo: CTCI

A leading engineering company seeks to reposition itself.

If you’ve ever ridden on the Taipei MRT, filled up your car with gasoline, or even turned on the lights in your home or office, then you’ve experienced the work of Taiwan’s largest engineering services company, CTCI Corp.

With annual revenues exceeding US$2.4 billion, and over 40 subsidiaries in 15 countries employing more than 7,400 employees, CTCI is one of Taiwan’s largest companies. Yet chances are that most readers of this article have never heard of it. Operating behind the scenes to help provide the basic infrastructure for society and business, CTCI doesn’t directly interact with consumers, and since the company’s founding in 1979 it has largely allowed its track record of successful projects to speak for itself.

So it comes with some surprise that CTCI won the Distinction prize in the 2018 Rebrand 100 ®Global Awards by global branding organization REBRAND, joining such international corporate luminaries as Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Siemens, and Hawaiian Airlines. According to its website, REBRAND “is the leading global resource for case studies on effective brand transformations: the repositioning, revitalizing and redesign of existing brand assets to meet business goals.”

The award highlights efforts undertaken by the Industrial Development Bureau (IDB) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs in recent years to look into the branding strategies adopted by Taiwanese companies and to try to help them improve their brand recognition. CTCI Chairman John T. Yu says that his company was approached by the IDB to join the branding campaign in 2015.

“Frankly, we didn’t pay too much attention to our brand before then,” he admits. The company started out in 1979, and back then CTCI engaged mainly in the design and construction of plants and refineries for Taiwan’s oil refining and petrochemical industries. Branding wasn’t a priority.

“We are famous in Taiwan, of course, and in some Chinese-speaking countries like China, Hong Kong, and Singapore we are also popular, but in the non-Chinese speaking areas we are not well-known,” says Yu. Explaining the company’s receptivity to the IDB initiative, he says “the target was to strengthen CTCI’s visibility and identity – to be more powerful and more international so that our business can grow.”

CTCI at work on Taipower’s Linkou Power Plant. Photo: CTCI

For decades, the company was a key player behind the scenes in most of Taiwan’s largest infrastructure projects, including oil refineries, petrochemical plants, power plants, and MRT systems. Yet the domestic Taiwan market now accounts for only 43% of its total operations. Most of the company’s business is now even outside of greater China, including 30% in the Middle East and 21% in Southeast Asia.

Through consultation with the IDB, the company realized that it needed to improve its competitiveness on the global stage. “Even though they are obviously in the B2B business and not directly dealing with consumers, CTCI still competes with other companies for projects,” says Mark Stocker, CEO and founder of DDG Brand Consultancy, the company hired to help rethink CTCI’s branding. “They work with a lot of governments, and they work with a lot of very large companies. Those companies have a choice of maybe 20 or 30 competitors to choose from when bidding on a project, and so CTCI needs to have a strong image to be singled out.”

CTCI initially suspected that the lack of international visibility stemmed in large part from its name. The four initials did not bring engineering to mind, and company’s executives thought that perhaps CTCI was being confused with other firms with similar names, such as Citi.

Caption: FPCC sixth naphtha cracker complex. Photo: CTC

But the brand audit that DDG undertook through interviews with dozens of industrialists reached the conclusion that the name “CTCI” wasn’t the problem. Rather, the difficulty was that the company had grown so large over the decades, sprouting so many subsidiaries in various industries across the globe, that it was no longer easy to identify what the company was or what it stood for.

“We have so many subsidiaries, and every time we established a new company, we gave them a new logo,” says Yu. “This was very confusing to a lot of people.”

With so many sub-brands and subsidiaries under CTCI, “they didn’t have a core message,” says Stocker. “Every subsidiary had its own message. Here they were talking about innovation, there they were talking about quality, and elsewhere they were talking about partnership. So no strong theme was coming from the company, defining who it is and what it stands for.”

During the audit, however, DDG kept hearing a number of strong descriptions of CTCI’s strengths from customers, media, and even competitors.

“What I was hearing was how disciplined the company was in doing what they said they would do, getting the job finished on time and on budget or under budget,” says Stocker. “The company was renowned for being very flexible in meeting the client’s requirements in carrying out a project. If there’s a request for a change, CTCI doesn’t say ‘no we can’t do it,’ but instead reacts to figure out how to meet the requirements.”

CTCI also had a very strong record for safety, with very few injuries or deaths on the job, a hazard in the infrastructure development industry.

DDG’s investigation also included interviews with company personnel to better understand what the company aspired to. “Our vision is to be known as the most reliable global engineering services provider” is the way Chairman Yu expresses that aspiration. “And our mission is to satisfy our customers with optimized engineering services, sustainably, through our corporate culture of professionalism, integrity, teamwork, and innovation.”

Its investigation complete, Stocker and team proposed some key recommendations. The first was that it was fine for CTCI to hold multiple companies, but they should all fall under the same brand, just as is done by major multinational conglomerates such as GE, IBM, and Siemens.

The second suggestion was to “find a core idea that establishes who we are,” says Stocker. That core idea would then become “central to all of our communications.”

DDG decided to go with the message: “If you want to get the job done on time, without injury, often under budget or on budget, CTCI is the one to hire.” Notes Stocker: “They are very trustworthy. That’s their position in the marketplace.”

Highly supportive of DDG’s role, Yu even encouraged the creation of a brand management department within the company to work together with DDG. Jointly they crafted the message of “Most Reliable” and the slogan “Discover Reliable.” With this new message, CTCI is inviting all stakeholders to find out the ways in which the company provides the most dependable engineering services.

Yu notes that without the brand’s mission and values being truly taken to heart, the exercise is just a public relations exercise offering little value to its customers around the world.

“Unless you can internalize the brand concept into the behavior of all the employees, you will not get the result you hope for,” he says. “So the branding is directly linked to our culture of professionalism, integrity, teamwork, and innovation. This is an even bigger task for us to perform, and it needs to be done long-term.”

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