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Can Zebra Change Its Stripes?

The company is known for supplying bar-code printers and RFID printer-encoders. Now Zebra needs to develop a new identity that encompasses RFID readers and bar-code scanners.
By Mark Roberti
Apr 27, 2014

Zebra Technologies' acquisition of Motorola Solutions' enterprise business, which sells mostly bar-code and RFID equipment, is a very big deal (see Zebra Buys Motorola Solutions' Enterprise Business, Motorola Exits Stage Left and What's Behind the Motorola Deal). It presents Zebra with enormous opportunities—and some risk if the company doesn't get the merger right.

The potential upside for Zebra is on the RFID side. There might be steady business providing replacement bar-code scanners, but it will never again be a high-growth business. The RFID industry, on the other hand, is beginning to gather real momentum, and will pick up steam during the next few years.

Zebra is known as a manufacturer of bar-code printers and RFID printer-encoders, and the company should see tremendous growth in sales of its printer-encoders. But the firm will have to work hard to change its stripes and let the world know that it now offers a complete line of handheld and fixed RFID readers as well.

Motorola did an outstanding job of building its brand in the RFID industry after it purchased Symbol Technologies in 2006 (see Motorola Acquiring Symbol). The company advertised its RFID readers on RFID websites and sponsored RFID events. It was highly visible. As a result, when RFID Journal asked end users which RFID companies they knew, most could only name Motorola as a maker of readers.

But it is not guaranteed that because you buy a company, you will inherit its mind share. Systems integrators will surely know to go to Zebra for handheld and fixed readers after the deal closes. But end users don't know much about who sells RFID, and they won't automatically think of Zebra for handheld and fixed interrogators—unless Zebra rebrands itself.

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