2019 Transform Awards gold, silver & bronze winner - Learn more
Stay Relevant

How to build a brand for a new generation

In this time of rapid innovation, talent is not only king, it can define success or failure. Finding the most skilled people and the brightest minds is the future of IP - hire well or die. And in Silicon Valley, that competition is incredibly fierce.

KLA-Tencor is a global leader in the testing and optimization of next generation microchips. They’re the launch pad for the chips that power everything from self-driving cars and robotics to new virtual experiences and space travel.

While they have a strong technical reputation, KLA-Tencor looked and sounded dated. Retaining and attracting talent had become harder and harder. They needed to refresh and modernize the brand with a new vision for the company and the impact their people could have in the world. To accomplish that, they examined all aspects of their brand and how it showed up in market -from strategy, architecture, nomenclature, product, partnerships and acquisitions.

The first significant shift in the story was a change in name. Becoming simply KLA Isn’t a simple proposition for a publicly traded company with extensive operations, subsidiaries and global contracts. To make this change meaningful required a redefinition of what KLA stood for. Derived from its three-letter acronym, the KLA name pointed toward their vision of the future and the goal to Keep Looking Ahead.

The Power of Optimism

Today, people want to work for companies that share their values, aspirations and social responsibilities. They want to feel like their work matters, that they’re doing something good in the world.

The leadership team at KLA is driven by that same purpose. They spoke of creating an environment where it wasn’t just how the most daunting technical challenges are solved, but building an understanding of why they should be solved. How positivity and open-mindedness can overcome the biggest hurdles. Optimism became the force behind the brand strategy and creative expression, energizing the culture and building a shared purpose.

A positive symbol

To capture the optimism story, Salt leveraged a simple, universal symbol that’s positively recognized around the globe. From every child studying math to every engineer testing a theory, the Plus sign (+) creates a powerful message on many levels. Just as important, it re-enforced the collaboration and partnership with the eco-system of industries and clients with whom they worked so tightly.

Salt worked with KLA across all touch points. We started with the core identity elements and extended this into digital, video, product, signage, events, environments and culture programs. This built awareness and understanding in their core locations in the US, Asia, Europe and Middle East. In particular, this included recruitment materials that would tell the optimism story. Salt created a distinctive visual language and brand voice that made all touch points feel positive, uplifting and youthful.

The look and feel became more modern, colorful and expressive. KLA embraced the spectrum and diversity it represents. They selected imagery that expressed energy and forward-thinking. And although their technical capabilities are core components of the system, the focus is on their people and the impacts they make. Their stories were told in video, print, environments and at events. These are proof-points for what the next generation of employees can achieve at KLA.

To connect these stories of people and ideas to the brand, the + became a simple device to unify all communications. It’s a flexible construct for messages on all subjects and for all audiences - KLA + You, KLA + Collaboration, KLA + Impact, KLA + Robotics, and of course KLA + Optimism.

To support this transformation, the brand pushed itself. KLA embraced new ways of thinking and creative solutions that weren’t expected. They adapted and evolved, and the new look and feel captures that spirit. At the launch, we created a video that simply expressed Optimism without saying a single word.

As the new brand rolls out around the globe, Salt created the tools and guidelines to help their teams lead the way. By embracing the spirit of optimism, they can redefine their brand and deliver against their new name and all it stands for - Keep Looking Ahead.

Why focusing on the next generation matters.

Securing the best talent is the hallmark of highly innovative technology companies. KLA realized they had to tell a stronger story to the next generation of engineers and technical people if they hoped to continue to lead their industry and expand their global capabilities. By focusing on the power of optimism, they had a unique and emotionally powerful message that spoke to their mission, culture and most importantly, to new recruits.

Transform Awards 2019

KLA and Salt Branding win four awards, including gold at the 2019 North American Transform Awards. The Awards focus on brands that have solved a clear business challenge and delivered a 'transformative' experience across categories and skillsets. The Awards include:

  • Gold

    Best internal communication during a brand development project

  • Silver

    Best visual identity from the engineering and manufacturing sector

  • Bronze

    Best Creative Strategy

    Best implementation of a brand development project

Essential Starts Here. Contact Us.

San Francisco

1620 Montgomery Street, Suite 120
San Francisco, CA 94111

Los Angeles

12121 Bluff Creek Drive, Suite 150
Los Angeles, CA 90094


200 South Wacker Drive, 16th Floor
Chicago, IL 60606

New York

38 West 21st Street, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10010