Adapted from Bobcat: 50 Years of Opportunity, 1958-2008
With the skid-steer concept fully realized, and a growing number of customers finding myriad uses for the machine, the company sought to build on its unique character. With a new name, a new logo, and a new paint scheme, the Melroe loader assumed a new identity—one that would become an icon of American progress.
It owes that identity to a single day’s meeting with Melroe Manufacturing’s new Minneapolis advertising agency. The Melroes had been looking for a catchier name than the Melroe Self-Propelled Loader. They wanted something that would convey the capabilities of a skid-steer—and would give the public something easy to remember. Syl Melroe, then the advertising manager for the Melroe Company, went to Minneapolis to create a new brochure for the loader. By the time he returned to Gwinner, the loader had a new color, a new badge, and a new tagline—and a brand-new name that would one day replace the Melroe brand name itself. Syl Melroe arrived at about nine o’clock in the morning to Lynn Bickett’s office at Gould, Brown & Bickett, the ad agency that had recently been commissioned to develop the brochure. Bickett, Syl Melroe recalled, began questioning him about how the machine was to be positioned. From fertilizer plants and dairy barns, two emerging markets for the loader, Bickett came up with a white paint scheme. “When I said the dairy thing I think white popped into his mind as clean and sterile,” Melroe said. “So, that’s how the white color came about. I mean this is like an hour after we started talking about this thing.”
Then Bickett and Melroe began discussing the loader’s name. The unique machine needed an equally unique name, and the Melroe brothers had been kicking around ideas of their own. “I think Bobcat had been put on somebody’s list someplace, but it was one of those things that didn’t stick,” Syl Melroe said. “Irv had that list. I saw it laying on his desk one day. I didn’t pay that close attention to it, but I’m sure there were other animal names.”
Bickett and Melroe called for a dictionary from his secretary’s office and started looking up animal names—lion, tiger, cougar, panther, and finally, bobcat. The definition in that particular dictionary described the bobcat as “tough, quick, and agile.”
“Nowadays, when you look up ‘bobcat’ it’s a ‘North American animal, 18 inches high and weighs 40 pounds’ and whatever. Well, that doesn’t make a very good slogan, you know?” Melroe said. “But the tough, quick, and agile thing—bingo, that was it.”
The final step was a new logo. At about 11:30 a.m., Melroe says, Bickett called in art director Ralph Ladine, and explained that the machine would be painted white and would be called “Bobcat”—and asked Ladine to work on ideas for a logo. “Lynn and I went out to lunch and came back at quarter to one, and Ralph had the logo done. That was the original logo, with the springing bobcat and Melroe.
“So that’s what happened on one morning—we painted it white, and called it a Bobcat and made a logo all in about three hours, four hours. That’s probably a pretty productive day by today’s standards,” he laughed.