NAPA Marketing VP Marti Walsh: 'Not Completely Reinventing, but Modernizing'

July 21, 2022

In mid-July, NAPA introduced an updated version of its logo and a new tagline—"Get Up & Go." Ratchet+Wrench spoke with VP of Marketing Marti Walsh to talk branding, marketing, and the impact on NAPA's network of shops.

July 21, 2022, LAS VEGAS—With 40 educational sessions and an expo floor featuring 270 exhibitors, the 2022 NAPA Expo returned to Las Vegas, Nevada for the first time in seven years. 

One of the key people behind the event is Marti Walsh, vice president of marketing, who NAPA in 2020 after nearly 20 years with the Coca-Cola Company where she most recently served as its vice president of strategic partnership marketing. Since joining NAPA, she has become one of the brand’s fiercest advocates and trusted guardian. She met with Ratchet+Wrench to discuss the new direction of NAPAs marketing; its revised logo and bold, new tagline; and what NAPA shop owners can expect in a closer relationship with the corporate marketing team.

Ratchet+Wrench: Tell me a little bit about the development of the logo and the process of creating the tagline.

Marti Walsh: So basically, we started—kind of lifted and shifted a Coca-Cola marketing model—the very beginning we start with, who is our customer, who's our consumer. We did all of the qualitative and quantitative research where we came up with the seven segments. And then as you guys saw, we shifted that spectrum from the emotional to the functional to understand where's that common thread and where are we going to resonate the fastest and with the most effectiveness. It was really around this idea of the love and passion for cars, for auto parts, for the automotive market. And we call them the passionate doers and planners. 

From there, we really looked at our brand purpose. We've never had a brand purpose at NAPA, nor have we had a consumer segmentation to say, “What is actually the heartbeat? What's the soul of the brand?” So, we did probably about nine months of work to really understand what is that common insight and thread across all major elements of our business model, which is pretty complex, right? You've got consumers, you have national accounts, shop owners, and IBS—which is integrated business solutions. 

So, what is the common thread that actually can pull all of these models together? …  What we found out is across all of those elements, nobody wants to be sidelined. They want to keep moving. And whether it was a shop owner that wants to ensure that their customer comes in and can get out by five o'clock because they've got places to go. It's a store owner that is like, 'I’ve got to get my parts flying,' or a driver that just says, 'I got to go pick my kids up from school at three.' Nobody wants to be sidelined. So that's where we found our common thread and our brand purpose of boldly go. 

Ratchet+Wrench: Yes. "Get Up & Go" feels very young whereas NAPA Know How feels like my father's brand.

Walsh: We realize that the tagline (NAPA Know How) has been around for 11 years. Commonly, a tagline should be around for seven to 10. So really, it was time to modernize, and what we wanted to do was we wanted NAPA to be the humble guide. We weren't the hero of the story. We're not at the centerpiece of the story like NAPA Know How, but we are the guide, the humble hero that allows that consumer to not be sidelined, which is what we loved about it.

Ratchet+Wrench: You mentioned "researched and tested" with regards to the rebranding. Talk about that process. Were some of the NAPA shop owner partners involved, or was it a purely internal thing? What was the process of testing the tagline?

Walsh: [It was] comprehensive. We're not completely reinventing, but modernizing. Reintroducing the brand is a lot of responsibility, especially considering that you've got third, fourth generation shop and store owners and they're relying on this national brand equity as a part of their value proposition to their end consumer. So, we did extensive research. It was qualitative versus quantitative across all of those segments. We had focus groups that we would then push back against us and say, “Help us understand we're in the right spot.” So, to answer your question more concisely, we were very methodical and specific that we ensured that all of those elements were part of the research and had a voice at the table.

Ratchet+Wrench: Had a great chat with Brandon Walker (NAPA’s strategic connections marketing manager) and he told me you brought in the whole concept of branding guidelines because it wasn't in place. How are they going to help [shop owners] to be more effective in terms of targeting marketing and being cohesive with the rest of the brand?

Walsh: So, I think it's a really interesting balance between this innovative entrepreneurial spirit, and also brand equity and consistency. And so how do we balance that? So, I think there's two ways. I think the first way is that it hasn't been easy to implement our brands and standards and guidelines; we didn't really have them. But how do you get access to the logo? How do you do it in a way that's quick and easy and effective? So, as we're building those guidelines, we're also enabling the platforms to do that easily, and be able to execute it in a quick way. On the second level, we're also going to make those tools … that would enable a national campaign and bring it down to a local level but be able to create templates where you can customize it; where you can lean into the national campaign, and all the national creative but customize it, so you feel like you're walking into Walsh Auto Parts at the same time. So, that's the vision; we're building that. 

Ratchet+Wrench: You mentioned your seminar yesterday, NAPA will be conducting a brand health and awareness annual study. Can you talk about what those are, what they entail, who participates, and what data you're looking to collect?

Walsh: Yeah. So, we've never done that either. Quite honestly, I want to be able to prove the effectiveness of what marketing can actually bring to the business. In order to do that, we need to first get foundational data to say: Where are we today? Where is the NAPA brand from a health and awareness standpoint sitting today? And we have a very extensive, massive brief that we've engaged with a very reputable agency, this is then going to continue to drive those analytics and drive that research to compound on a biannual basis, and we'll be able to report out on that. So, we're actually building that right now. Once we start to get that foundational results, then we're going to learn, tweak, and pivot as we go, and once we get that data, whatever's relevant, is actually going to help those store owners and shop owners drive effectiveness, efficiency, and equity in our market. We'll be sharing that at that

Ratchet+Wrench: It seems the standards you're bringing into the marketing side is going to transform like the NAPA network into a giant partnership where everyone's working together to build the foundation and go upward altogether. Is that the vision for that?

Walsh: I think I also learned from my past life, you know, when you have a model, such as bottler and company, or independent stores and headquarters, that natural tension actually makes us both better, right? They're closer to the consumer, they're closest to the customer, and they have unbelievable learnings. It's going to impact and make us think better. Vice versa, we've got sort of a higher kind of overview from a national standpoint and that tension is natural and should always be there in really collaborative ways to drive the business together, forward.

Ratchet+Wrench: NAPAs logo—"The Bolt." Did it have a name before or is that something you created?

Walsh: We've been around for 97 years. We have earned the permission to have that swagger to have a "Bolt." The same way that there's a "swoosh" and "the golden arches," we have that equity and I believe we have the permission to talk about it in a way that engages across all of the NAPA family. What I love about it is that that hexagonal shape actually leans into the heritage of our 97-year history, but it's also this like kind of theoretical, durable fastener that keeps this kind of very complex business model all together under the natural Halo and family of the NAPA brand. So, I love it. I think it's a very simplistic way to keep that NAPA brand pride together across the whole ecosystem.

Ratchet+Wrench: Our primary audiences are shop owners and there's just under 18,000 NAPA AutoCare centers (by the end of the year). Can you talk a little bit about how the rebranding will change what their expectations are in the short term?

Walsh: So, I think the key piece for them is that they are the magic. Meaning, you know, we have this bold claim that we're America's largest network of parts and care. Nobody else can say that. And what we found from some of the research from our creative was verbatim statements of, "Oh, I didn’t know that NAPA actually had care service", "I don't live by NAPA … oh, wait, I do. It's two miles away." One woman said, "Oh, my gosh. I drive my Subaru across the country every year. And now to know that within arm's length, I have NAPA along my journey the whole way makes me feel safe." It's this idea of NAPA as being reinvented. So, from a care standpoint, what I think that [shop owners] should feel is that they are the differentiator for us.

Ratchet+Wrench: How about from a signage and branding perspective—what is the expectation for those shops? I know one gentleman in [your seminar] asked if he could change his digital signage immediately and others are going to be very hesitant to change. Are you putting any timeline and benchmarks on that? Is it a grandfathered process?

Walsh: We're not fully there. What I will tell you is it's a journey. We have no expectation that if you have a sign up that immediately has to come down. There's zero expectation of that, coupled with the fact that it's an evolution, right? Our expectation is as you're putting new things on, use the new expression, use the new logo, but absolutely not mandatory to change [now].

About the Author

Ratchet+Wrench Staff Reporters

The Ratchet+Wrench staff reporters have a combined two-plus decades of journalism and mechanical repair experience.

Sponsored Recommendations

Find the right shop management system to boost your efficiency

Find the right shop management system to aid in efficient scheduling, communication and payment processing

Craft a strategic marketing plan

Develop strategies and communicate them to your staff to keep you on track

Establish and track your KPIs: Technician Productivity

WHAT IT IS: Technician productivity refers to the time a technician is available to work measured against the actual time spent working on positive cash flow repair orders. Tracking...

Empower your technicians with the right tools for efficient repairs

Foster a highly motivated and efficient team to get vehicles out the door faster