Not being one to lament too much on the new world we find ourselves in, it is safe to say that things have been… odd.
After years of continued political upheaval, economic uncertainty, changes in working patterns, contracts and expectations, widening and greater fragmentation of socioeconomics, the only thing that’s certain in our lives right now, is uncertainty.
It’s at times like these that we value simplicity. We yearn for familiarity. We long for the safety of what’s tried and tested and won’t let us down.
The meanings we place on everyday things help us get a sense of the world we live in. They give us an anchor point.
These things can be physical, like the love and support you get from your family. They can be sensory, like the first cup of coffee in the morning. They can be totally intangible, like deciding on what product to buy, when the benefits are pretty much the same.
Only brands achieve this latter point and help consumer make informed decisions because they have been visible, engaged with and communicated consistently. The products might change, the solutions evolve to meet the problems they solve, but the brand has to be constant. Otherwise, that old friend you once knew may turn out the be very different to how you remember.
Brands have an uncanny ability to cut through anything in their path and get in front of their audiences. I could have all kinds of lasers and fireworks thrown at me, but I can guarantee I’ll spot a colourful zebra, a trefoil or golden arches with one eye shut. I’ve been hard-wired over years to spot these things and that’s because each of these symbols has strategically sought me out as one of their’s.
This is a conversation we often have with clients and product manufacturers need to understand that if markets for consumers goods are fragmenting, then so are the buyers of their products.
Plumbers aren’t choosing water management products. Gardeners aren’t buying hard landscaping products. Engineers aren’t specifying insulation products. These are people, individuals that have a Facebook account, buy trainers online, use an app to order a takeaway, are on first name terms with the people who work in their post office.
The lines between personal and professional have become so blurred that the noise from advertisers is deafening, disorientating and can distract you from you actually want to achieve. If a brand helps lower the volume, it doesn’t matter what the product is, you’ve just given yourself a greater chance of securing another sale.
There are many ways to add value, and knowing that you’ve made a correct product choice is often the best.
That’s such a personal and introspective thing, however, that it is hard to know how people feel when they select a product in the first place.
A brand helps in this instance, because the investment made in telling people how they should think and feel when the consume their products brings a sense of assuredness. It points to something in that person that they like about themselves and in consuming said brand. They are reinforcing some degree of self-esteem and telling the world that they like this part of themselves.
And don’t think construction products brands are immune from this.
If you’re heating engineer; you’re pinning your colours to a brand that says something about you. An Atag installer is technically brilliant, resilient and refined. A Baxi engineer is methodical, meticulous and takes pride in their craft. An Intergas engineer is in it for the long haul, a problem-solver and cares about the environment they’re working in.
This type of brand building helps forge relationships and on these relationships value goes beyond mere transactions between a homeowner, their installer, the merchant and the manufacturer.
Everyone in the supply chain gets something out of engaging with a brand that can’t be replicated by others. What’s more, everyone in the supply chain, whether they are conscious to it or not, expects to get ‘something’ out of the relationship.
If you’ve watched a season of Mad Men you’ll know the golden age of advertising focussed on features and benefits. Stuff that makes your life easier, your life better, your life more exciting, your life less stressful, your life more convenient.
It’s a shame that we reached “peak stuff” years ago and the features and benefits approach to product marketing casts a dim shadow in the light of brand building.
Any manufacturer launching a product has to be confident that their brand has a position amongst their audiences.
They need to be known for something and that ‘something’ has to be meaningful.
Without meaning, proven evidence base and a clear position that’s built on strategy, your product becomes a commodity. A commodity that sits alongside many others. To make it a success, you have to incentivise your value chain to buy it. This in turn becomes a race to the bottom and any value the product brand could had is eroded.
But, if a business is brave enough to say something different to their competitors, something that’s authentic and something that has come from the heart and soul of the company, you’ve got a good chance of rising above those your compete with and compete in a category of one, you, the one business that is right for those certain types of customers, that find it easy to understand what you’re saying, why you’re saying it and how they can get more from you.
Some (but not all) marketers in the construction products business get hung up on what they’re selling.
They brief agencies on the “innovations” of a product, expecting the creative will turn heads and get people to switch.
Sometimes this works.
Sometimes it doesn’t.
The most sustainable way of getting people to buy into your brand is to focus less on what you’re selling. Plough everything you have into why they should buy it; why they should buy it from you and then why they should buy it again.
This might sound like the same thing but it isn’t. It’s a completely different way to communicate with your audiences because you put them, not the product, front and centre. Who doesn’t like having someone genuinely care about making their life better?
If your product is great but the brand is poorly managed – then you have your work cut out.
Keep the brand alive, keep it invigorated, keep it meaningful and keep it honest. It will weather whatever the world can throw at it.
Fail to do this, especially in these uncertain, abnormal and noisy times we find ourselves in, and your products will start to make less and less sense to those who should be buying them.