Thursday, August 06, 2009

Trash Future

The Waste Connections corporate slogan stared at me from the back of the big blue garbage truck: “Connect with the Future®.” It is also on the sides of the truck. The mud flaps, too.

“Connect with the Future.”

What it’s supposed to mean? Connect where? Connect how? This bland slogan is not paid off on the company website. Not in ads, what I can find of ‘em. It reminds me of the old Buckaroo Banzai offering, “Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems: Where the Future Begins Tomorrow.” What is Waste Connections promising a consumer? A facilities manager? A building landlord?

Houston-based Waste Management, on the other hand, has a slogan that ties directly to the green corporate trade dress (“Think Green®”). In just two words, it’s kept on working hard on a variety of levels – consumer, community, corporate.

I want to ask CEO Ron Mittelstaedt just what we’re supposed to connect to? I think the question’s an honest one, since we’re going to be seeing more of these big blue Waste Connections garbage barges around here.

There’s a big shake-out in trash. California-based Waste Connections is profiting these days, so it’s buying up other outfits. Several may be familiar to you. There’s Harold LeMay in Washington State. (Never heard of that.) Oregon-based Sanipac? (Nope.) Aha: Republic Services! You’ve seen those trucks…kind of a red-brown.

Last year this time, Republic Services was America’s third-largest waste hauling firm. It then bought the nation’s second-largest, Allied Waste Industries. According to the well-known “Waste Age 100” list – latest version is 2007 – Houston’s own Waste Management (green trucks, right?) was Number 1. Allied was 2, Republic was 3…and Waste Connections was Number 7.

Today (I guess) Waste Connections is America’s second biggest hauler. The future of garbage in our country is compacting. Or consolidation. Perhaps that is what Waste Connections means – connect with the firm’s future. Because this outfit’s outlook is rather rosy. America’s garbage is a real good long-term business.

Even though this is a low-interest market segment, it would be worthwhile studying which corporation has a better image, on Main Street and on Wall Street. Waste Management with its forward-thinking two-word tag? Or Waste Connections?

I’ll never prove it but there’s a case to be made for good branding – even if it’s all garbage.

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