Paving a New Direction for the Trucking Industry

Integrated brand launch puts Variant miles ahead of competitors


Long-haul trucking is one of America’s largest industries. It’s also one of the most volatile. The average driver turnover is north of 100 percent, which means drivers are changing jobs once a year and often more. This is a big problem for the more than 900,000 registered trucking carriers in the U.S, but it’s also largely one of their own making. Many of these companies treat drivers like a disposable resource, so they leave. Those companies then spend a fortune trying to recruit more drivers. It’s a vicious cycle.

But what if a company did a better job of keeping the drivers they already had? This is what U.S. Xpress, the nation’s fifth-largest asset-based truckload carrier, set out to solve. Their solution was a first-of-its-kind digital fleet that would address many driver frustrations. When they launched their pilot program, they knew that what they were offering was unique in the marketplace. But what they didn’t know was how to build and roll out a new brand. That’s where we came in.

Research and Positioning

“If you want to understand someone, walk a mile in their shoes.” Or, in this case, ride with them for a few hundred miles. To make sure we really understood the driver experience, members of our team did just that, riding with drivers right in the cab. We also sent out surveys, hosted focused groups and led a half-day discovery session with 10 key stakeholders – what we call a JS Excavation® (JSX). The goal of this workshop was to uncover, excavate if you will, foundational brand truths.

With the insights gleaned from these inputs, we drafted positioning, mission, vision and purpose statements and outlined the values that would guide the company. At the core of all this messaging was a commitment to transform the industry by treating drivers better. This new company was setting out to “Reengineer trucking. For good.”

Driving Awareness & Conversions

When it comes to marketing a new brand, “if you build it, they will come” is not a great plan. To let our audience know that Variant had arrived, we took a full-funnel approach to content strategy.

Drivers trust other drivers more than they trust recruiters, and we leaned heavily on that insight. Video testimonials, blogs and a multi-channel social media push moved the audience down the funnel and offered evidence of Variant’s unique driver-first philosophy. With awareness efforts firing on all cylinders, it was time to start driving applications. Instead of overpromising like the competitors, our ad campaign positioned Variant as the “no B.S.” alternative.

Naming and Brand Identity

Now that we knew the “why” of this brand, we needed to answer another a question – what to call it. Finding a name that is unique, likeable and ownable is never easy. It’s even tougher when there are nearly a million other registered names in the category. After several rounds and several thousand names, we landed on “Variant” – a name that captured this new company’s desire to depart from industry norms.

Next came brandscapes. These moodboards helped us define what the Variant brand needed to look and feel like. From there, we began an extensive logo exploration that led us to the final mark and a robust style guide that would bring the brand to life on everything from trucks to t-shirts.

Website & App Design

Variant’s digital platform is their differentiator, but they still needed a digital presence that would set them apart. First up? The website. True to the brand’s strategy, we designed everything with drivers in mind. Next, we worked closely with their tech teams on the driver app, ensuring that it was driver-friendly and on-brand.

Brand foundation? Check. Brand identity? Check. Digital presence? Check. Now it was time to start rolling it all out.

The Results

It was a lot of work, but the question is, did it work? For starters, after launching the Variant brand, stock prices for their holding company U.S. Xpress saw an immediate increase. But investors weren’t the only ones noticing a difference. Driver turnover at Variant was hovering at just 1/5 the industry average, and the new drivers were converting at a much lower cost-per-recruit.

And this is just the beginning. We can’t to wait to see how far they go.


web sessions from prospective drivers


clicks to initiative driver inquiry process


engagement rate on video content


of visitors interact with blog content

The Team

Aerolyn Shaw

Image of Brian Steely

Brian Steely

Chanel Briones

David Oldham

Georgia Wheeler

McKenzie Kinchler

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