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Tape Measure Reach vs. Standout Explained in One Image

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A reader wrote in, sharing new Milwaukee Tool marketing imagery that clearly depicts the difference between a tape measure’s standout and its reach.

Tom wrote:

I recall discussion regarding tape measures and their “reach” versus “standout”. I saw this image on Home Depot’s website for a Milwaukee tape measure and thought it would be interesting.

Thank you Tom, this is indeed interesting!

For anyone who’s confused as to what this is all about, hopefully the following will get you up to speed.

Stanley Tape Measure Display at Home Depot November 2019
Stanley Tape Measure Display at Home Depot (November 2019)

Around two years ago, I noticed that Dewalt and Craftsman tape measures were advertising their “reach” instead of “standout.” This was an unusual split from typical tape measure marketing practices, and it wasn’t just for the holiday shopping season, the shift to reach was a permanent one.

Milwaukee Tape Measure Display at Home Depot November 2019
Milwaukee Tape Measure Display at Home Depot (November 2019)

Meanwhile, at the time, all other brands were advertising the “standout” of their tape measures.

Standout and reach both essentially describe the maximum extension of a tape measure blade before it buckles under its own weight.

This had the potential to be very confusing and even misleading. Let’s say you have two tape measures on the shelf next to each other. One advertises 12 feet of standout and the other advertises 14 feet of reach. Which one can be extended further before buckling?

Stanley Black & Decker tried to explain their marketing shift, saying that “what users care about is how far the tape extends from where they are working.” They said that their research shows “reach” was more relatable with end users.

A few months later, Milwaukee Tool announced that they were adopting “Reach” specs, and this was expected. “Reach” is essentially “Standout” plus 3 feet, and so it would not serve the brand well for their tape measures to advertise standout  specs while Dewalt and Stanley tape measures advertised their reach specs.

Milwaukee Tape Measures at Home Depot 2021 Advertising Reach

It took some time for older stock to sell through, but all of Milwaukee Tool’s tape measures now advertise their reach.

Tape Measure Reach vs Standout by Milwaukee Tool

Many if not most users are accustomed to standout, which is why Milwaukee created a graphic that shows the difference between standout and reach.

There’s the usual fine print.

Reach: Based on maximum extension of average professional user.
Standout: Based on maximum performance.

This is all very much like the difference – or lack thereof – between 18V and 20V Max, or 36V and 40V Max. It’s just a different way of describing the same thing.

Not all brands are advertising their tape measures in terms of reach, but it might only be a matter of time.

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