The Value of Brand

In this blog, Chris Ashworth from Competitive Advantage considers the role of brand in product specification.

The purpose of Brand is to enable customers to identify products or services which promise specific benefits. Without it the product is likely to have a commodity position where price is the only driver of sales.

This definition highlights the importance of brand which I’d like to put into the context of building product marketing. In my specification training I teach that the specifier goes through three broad stages when identifying products; Idea Generation, Reviewing the Alternatives and Specification.

At the Idea Generation stage the Architect, Engineer or Interior Designer is not looking for a specific solution to a problem but browsing. This might be reading industry publications, attending exhibitions or conferences or reviewing newsletters. There will be an article which catches their attention and they will file it away for future reference.

Subsequently they will encounter a challenge on a project. At this point they will consult colleagues, both face to face and via social media for recommendations and advice. They may also recall that article they saved when browsing. Most likely, they will use Google to search for solutions to their problem or specific products. This may lead them to a directory like Barbour Product Search and either via this route or because of effective SEO they will arrive at a manufacturer’s website.

All of this activity will generate a shortlist of products for which they will aim to make a choice by engaging with the manufacturer to gain more information. In last year’s Construction Product Information Survey published by the CPA and NBS specifiers were asked “Which of the following types of product information do you need when considering construction products?” and over 20 categories were listed. That is a lot of information to consider when deciding between products. So it is fair to assume that the specifier only goes into this depth for one or two products. They will probably make their initial selection based on how easy it is to access the information and past experience. And Brand is in many ways that past experience.

For a specifier of building products, they will have formed their opinions about a brand based on three broad factors; Technical Expertise, Reputation and most important what the product offers. Their awareness of this will have been achieved through the presence of the brand via advertising, press coverage, social media, an effective website, project stories and presence at exhibitions and conferences to name but a few.

To be selected the product has to be right for the job, and no amount of marketing will change that. But when it comes to that initial slimming down of the choices to a manageable quantity, then brand plays an important part. It is really shorthand for all of these factors allowing a specifier to trust a brand. And a well promoted brand will be front of mind.

Another finding from the CPA’s survey was that they asked product users if they were aware of their specified choices being substituted. 37% said this often happened and 31% said this sometimes happened. Only 8% said that it did not happen. I would suggest that this is another situation where a strong brand is important. Building a strong brand reputation means that the contractor will be less likely to propose an alternative and the specifier more likely to resist such a change.

Further Information

Chris Ashworth is founder of Competitive Advantage Consultancy which specialises in helping building product manufacturers to be more effective at getting their products selected providing a range of sales and marketing tools to help with specification strategy.

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