This is one in a series of articles from the Baublitz Briefs, quick-study guides to LBM marketing and communications. Click here to see a list of other articles.
Many dealers, manufacturers and others in our "get-it-done-yesterday" industry view branding as a luxury or simply a waste of time.
But nothing could be further from the truth. Today, more than ever, companies must articulate why they're different and better--something a strong brand can achieve.
Still, identifying and cultivating your brand can be a difficult process. A good way to start is by understanding the answers to three basic, but crucial, questions. These are questions we frequently hear from dealers and others in the building industry.
"Just what is a brand?"
There are a variety of competing definitions, but here's the most useful way to define a brand: A strong brand distinguishes your company's strengths and differentiates it from the competition. A strong brand ideally helps make your company quickly recognizable. A strong brand should also embody your promise to the customer--a clear promise that your team can understand, and deliver.
Typically, the notion of a good brand brings to mind a product with a well-known logo, one that's immediately identifiable and that consumers generally regard positively. In terms of the building industry, for example, we may think of Owens-Corning insulation and its longtime use of the Pink Panther cartoon.
But there's more to a brand than simply a recognizable logo or the goodwill it builds over decades of cultivation. When your company defines a brand properly, it shapes decisions about your key strengths, markets, competition and philosophy of doing business.
Ideally, these are captured not only in a well-developed logo and tagline, but also in a brand positioning statement that can serve as the basis for marketing, pricing, customer service and other facets of your business.
"Why is a brand so important?"
A strong brand can be one of a company's most valuable assets--particularly in the building industry today, where we are mired in a significant home-building slump, where price is a critical buying factor, and where products are often viewed as commodities.
Even in this environment--in fact, especially in this environment--a brand can offer significant benefits that result in real-dollar value. In the building materials or construction industry today, a well-developed brand is critical for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few:
- It creates value in the marketplace. Over time, your company builds "brand equity" by organizing its efforts around a cohesive central idea. More people along the supply chain will understand your points of differentiation, and more will recognize your name, logo and tagline as shorthand for value.
- It sets you apart. Nowhere is competition fiercer than in the building materials and construction industry. A well-developed brand provides the separation from competitors required for success.
- It builds customer loyalty. A strong brand helps customers associate your company with its key traits, and offers a rallying point for employees.
- It makes marketing more effective. Your brand provides a solid platform for all your company's communications because it forces your company to determine your key messages and audiences in advance.
- It helps new products and services gain traction. By establishing your company's value through a strong brand, you'll be better positioned to introduce new products and services, because your brand has helped you build trust over time.
"How does my company create and cultivate a brand?"
Most companies have at least some vague sense of their brand, and some may even have spent a bit of time talking about what it means. But building a strong, well-defined brand takes time, effort and commitment.
We all realize that developing a successful brand doesn't happen overnight. In fact, many of the world's most successful brands--think Heinz ketchup--have been around for 100 years or more.
Baublitz Advertising has created a comprehensive branding program, designed exclusively for the building industry, that enables dealers and others to navigate the brand-building process. At its core, the brand-building process can be distilled into three crucial steps--each one necessary to success:
1) Understand your current brand. Start by identifying a baseline. What do your customers and prospects think about your company? What do your current products and services, pricing strategy, delivery and return policies, training and incentive programs say about you? By taking an honest look at the state of your current brand, you'll reach critical understanding necessary for the next step.
2) Define your desired brand. You know where you stand. Now, where do you want to go? What qualities should your brand embody, and what value should you offer your customers? What is your promise? Once you've arrived at clear answers to those questions, you can create a brand platform (logo, tagline, creative elements, and more) that defines that brand.
3) Deliver your desired brand experience. For a brand to grow and become stronger, a company must deliver on its brand promise. By differentiating a service offering and "living" a brand, a company gradually builds trust. Over time, customers begin to trust the brand, and the brand becomes a valuable shortcut during the buying cycle.
Remember: there is no silver bullet or quick-fix when it comes to building a great brand. Building a brand requires consistent effort and constant care. But we've seen dozens of companies reap big rewards--greater market share and higher revenues--for constantly tending their brands.
Case Study: Express Kitchens
Using Outdoor Ads and Newspaper Inserts To Help Create a Brand New Brand
Express Kitchens in Hartford, Conn., had a new idea: Offer homeowners economical one-stop-shopping for kitchen design, selection and installation. But what was the best way to introduce--and sell--this new brand to consumers?
The process began by rooting the brand firmly in reality. Communications focused on the store's key offerings: the convenience of multiple services in one location, a wide selection, and quick turnaround between decision and installation. With Baublitz, Express Kitchens developed a value-focused tagline--Pay Less at Express--that succinctly conveyed the company's brand promise and differentiation from competitors.
Working with Baublitz and with a relatively modest budget, Express Kitchens chose key direct-to-consumer tactics to roll out the brand: print, outdoor, and collateral materials that introduced the brand to the marketplace. Bold colors and limited copy got the point across, resulting in an economical and highly successful brand launch.