Your Brand Matters Now More Than Ever

Kevin Brown

June 2008

For the past several years, we’ve all heard "branding” touted for its value to a company’s bottom line. But all too often, the discussion of a company’s brand raises more questions than it answers.

This makes it difficult for many companies—particularly in the "get-it-done-yesterday” building industry—to translate the concept of branding into practice.

However, a strong brand can indeed become one of your 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. Here are answers to three critical questions about branding today.

Just What Is a Brand?
There are a variety of competing definitions, but here is a 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 "good will” 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?
In the building materials or construction industry, a well-developed brand is critical for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few significant benefits you gain by developing a strong brand:

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 more fierce than in the building 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, since it forces your company to determine and articulate your key messages and audiences in advance.

It helps new products gain traction. By establishing your company’s value through a strong brand, you’ll be better positioned to introduce new products 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 companies to navigate the brand-building process. While there is not enough space here to address every aspect of that program, at its core, the brand-building process can be distilled into three crucial steps:

Understand your current brand. Start by identifying a baseline. What does your service/product offering and your story say about you? What do your customers and prospects think about your company? By taking an honest look at the state of your current brand, you’ll reach critical understanding necessary for the next step.

Define your desired brand. You know where you are. 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 your unique brand.

Deliver your desired brand experience. For a brand to grow and become stronger, a company must deliver on the brand promise. By differentiating a service offering and "living” a brand, a company gradually builds trust. Over time, the customer begins to trust the brand—and the brand becomes a shortcut during the buying process.

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, at Baublitz Advertising, we’ve seen dozens of companies reap big rewards—greater market share and higher revenues—for constantly cultivating their brands.

Kevin Brown is vice president of client services for Baublitz Advertising, a York, Pa., marketing firm that has worked extensively with clients in the building industry since 1976. He can be reached at brownkj@baublitz.com. For more information about Baublitz, visit www.baublitz.com.