June 15th, 2023
Branding Strategy: That’s When They’ll Fall for the Leader of the Pack
A year or two ago, buying doors and windows was all about availability. Due to insane levels of marketplace demand coupled with supply chain issues, lead times were stretched out to six to 12 months. Selling fenestration products was all about availability. If your lead time was faster, you could easily prevail over your competition even with higher pricing. Builders and homeowners needed doors and windows, and it was all about who could supply them within a reasonable time frame. Now that the market has adjusted to a normal level of demand, many fabricators are left with excess capacity, after ramping up during the last two years. This means that marketing and sales are once again being called upon to lead the charge. So, given the current marketing environment that we are seeing, a company’s brand image is more important than ever.
I recently logged onto Facebook and asked a group of my friends to give me a list of the first three company names that came to mind when it comes to buying doors and windows. The list included names such as Andersen, Pella, Jeld-Wen, Provia, Universal, Marvin, Sunrise, Milgard, Vinylkraft, ViWinTech, Wincore, Simonton, Seaway, PGT, Cascade, Alliance, Western Windows, Eastern Architectural, Gilkey, Vinylume, Certainteed, Thompson Creek, MI Windows & Doors, Joyce, Champion and Rosati.
Prices of fenestration products have risen substantially over the last few years due to higher demand, as well as increased costs of components and labor. So, now more than ever, consumers will weigh their buying decisions more carefully. Today’s homes typically have between eight and 16 windows, so deciding on which brands of windows to consider is a major decision. Replacing all of the windows in your house is a considerable investment and is now more costly than ever. It is not something that the average consumer will want to do again for a very long time. They will expect the new windows to last at least 20 years.
So given these facts, what does your brand identity do for you? Well, there are two components of brand identity. One is brand awareness and another is brand image. The first, brand awareness, is associated with how many prospective customers know who you are. When they hear your company name or see your company logo, they instantly identify your brand. This is half the battle. The second aspect, however, is even more important. Brand image is how your brand resonates in the mind of your prospective customers. It is their perception of what your company stands for. It may be elements such as quality, reliability, performance, customer satisfaction, value, competitive pricing, community service, and your brand message. This last item is extremely important.
Brand messaging is how your company’s image speaks to the target market. It’s streamlined communication about your business, informed by brand strategy, to convey your unique value proposition (your brand promise) to your target audience. Everything you do must reinforce that brand message. You should not change or alter your brand message, or you risk confusing your target market. If this happens, then your brand image will be tarnished in the eyes of your target audience. You will then lose the loyalty of your repeat customers, causing them to gravitate to other brands which they feel are more in line with their own identity. A recent example of this is Bud Light. Their main target audience is men between 21 and 34 years of age who enjoy sports, humor and socializing. As we all know, their recent ad campaign steered their ship off course, confusing their usual target audience. This resulted in a significant decrease in sales.
Building strong brand awareness as well as brand image is not inexpensive. Your company must do two things:
1. You must show up. Yes, your company must show up in advertisements, show up at industry events, trade shows, social media and show up in your local community by sponsoring events that give back to the local community. This is the expensive part. These activities add to the marketing budget, which ultimately raises the cost of your products. This strategy pays off when your target audience gravitates so strongly toward your brand image that they are willing to pay a premium. This increases your market share, average selling price and profitability.
2. You must create and sustain a brand message that resonates with your target market. You must decide what brand message that your target market will identify with and then create a marketing campaign around your brand name that reinforces this brand message in the minds of your target audience.
Over the years, substantial investments in your brand awareness and brand image will pay off in terms of brand equity. Brand equity is defined as “the commercial value that derives from consumer perception of the brand name of a particular product or service, rather than from the product or service itself.”
Perhaps the best example I can give of how investment in brand equity can pay off is by looking at the Rolex brand of watches. According to Javapoint, Rolex is the number one watch company in the world. Rolex does this with an average price of a Rolex watch across all models at $20,000, with the most expensive watches reaching between $30,000 and $40,000. Engineers could tell Rolex customers that the actual cost of manufacturing these watches is but a fraction of these prices, but their customers would be unfazed. They are still happy to pay the price that the market commands.
The bottom line here is that the most successful door and window companies will invest in three things: people, production and promotion. Sometimes, the promotional aspect is considered a luxury—the marketing budget can be raised if sales are up. However, the marketing budget should be strong every year, even more so in lackluster years.
Building and sustaining the company’s brand identity and conveying a brand message that excites your target market can and usually does make all the difference. It builds your company’s image as the leading brand. Prospects will then be drawn to your brand, and “That’s when they’ll fall for the leader of the pack!”