In marketing we are all aware of the importance of brand in building recognition and loyalty. But how does this translate when applied to the construction supply chain? During the past year Competitive Advantage have conducted a number of research projects for construction clients that included a measure of brand recall. And recently we have conducted further research of our own, on Brand Awareness of Framing Systems, Windows and Rooflights. So how does brand influence the specification of building products?

Shock news – level of recall for construction brands is low.

The experience from our research shows, surprisingly, that for many construction decision makers there seems to be a low level of recall for construction brands. Startlingly this is not only for the more generic products, but also for products with an aesthetic presence or where there is regular interaction with a building’s users. Factors I would expect the architect to care greatly about. From our experience this applies across a range of products used in quite different applications.

In our recent research, Brand Awareness of Framing Systems, Windows and Rooflights, while a few well-known brands enjoy reasonable unprompted recall, of 36 different brands we listed, only one enjoyed a positive NPS score. That means that none of the other brands can expect to be specified by architects. Which should be alarming for manufacturers – but also represents an opportunity. For those construction products that are able to gain some brand traction then they will surely be ahead in terms of influencing specification.

Why is brand awareness low for construction markets?

I can think of two explanations for this. The growth of Design & Build, with the contractor not the architect making product choices, could provide an explanation. This was an issue highlighted by Grenfell, where in her report Dame Judith Hackitt said the overall culture of the industry was “a race to the bottom,…..gaming the system” by using value engineering. (Building a Safer Future, Interim Report, Dec 2017 Item 1.24). In other words, specifications are not being followed. Perhaps, recognising this, architects working on Design & Build, are not even bothering to make product selections.

The second explanation could be that some manufacturers are focusing on just the London specifiers. Our research highlighted a regional difference in brand recall for Framing Systems, Windows and Rooflights. Suggesting that some companies are focusing on just the London specifiers where the greater number and value of projects are specified. This would make good sense if you have a limited sales resource. But provides further opportunity, through a nationwide brand strategy, to gain specification. This could be managed cost effectively if need be, with marketing automation.

Why is it important for building product manufacturers to establish brand?

Your brand is key to accelerating business growth and building long-term value with your customer base. It is shorthand for all that your product and organisation represent. Our research has identified a low brand awareness across a range of construction products used in quite different building applications. This is an opportunity to be seized. The building product manufacture that works to establish their brand could establish the market lead.

And it is important that architects do make brand choices. It is to be hoped that with the government’s total adoption of Dame Judith Hackitt’s report set out in the response Building a Safer Future, along with initiatives such as the RIBA Quality Overlay for the Plan of Works, attitudes to specification will change, not just when designing for fire safety but in all aspects of design.

This represents an opportunity for manufacturers to engage with architects, strengthening their presence through brand marketing. Establishing brand principles through CPD and sales activity, all of which reinforces the benefits of your product.

Brand Awareness of Framing Systems, Windows and Rooflights
This research provides a brand awareness measure, both nationally and regionally for over 45 key brands of framing systems amongst Architects working in the non-residential construction sector. Find out more

Further learning:

Chris Ashworth will be running his open training course Creating Demand through Specification in London on 28th March where he will set out a strategy for engaging with construction industry decision makers including architects.

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