As we await the final report “Building a Safer Future” from Dame Judith Hackitt, with recommendations for fire safety in buildings, we can anticipate some significant changes in the way the industry operates. This includes how the marketing and communications teams promote the credentials of their building products.

I’d like to consider three statements from the Hackitt Interim Report published in December 2017.

1.40 Products are marketed with specification data presented in ways which can easily be misinterpreted.

This refers to the ambiguity that can be found in not only manufacturer literature, but also some of the certification that is issued. It is the equivalent of the “broadband speeds of up to 38Mb” statement.

Our recent research Changes in Specifier Attitudes found, that as a result of the Grenfell fire, 70% of architects had changed their approach to specification, and not just for fire protection. They recognise the ambiguity of some of these product claims, asking for more evidence to substantiate them.

That means more time spent by the specifier researching and understanding products. More time visiting websites, downloading product information, attending CPD and on the phone to technical advisory services. This will push up demands on resource, but does provide the opportunity for greater engagement by manufacturers with decision makers.

It also means that companies must ensure that the product information they put out is not ambiguous. It is important for both your people and company to be seen as the Trusted Advisor – which means being open and honest. So marketing needs to be as ofay with technical product information as the front line technical staff.

Manufacturers can help specifiers to understanding the design and performance implications of product via CPD (Continuing Professional Development) seminars. CPD seminars are a proactive way to introduce your company and demonstrate technical competence. It presents an opportunity for the manufacturer to engage directly with specifiers.

You can then extend this engagement via technical support, providing further points of contact with the specifier.

1.45 The integrity and ability to perform of products and systems are highly dependent on correct installation by competent and knowledgeable persons.

Many leading manufacturers have been providing installer training for years, and we can expect increased demand for this. It is also something that architects and main contractors will be taking into account when selecting products and subsequently appointing installers.

Ensuring their products are correctly installed should be a priority for manufacturers, but it also represents an opportunity to build closer relationships with installers – both companies and their employees – and hence build their loyalty. Anything which moves away from a ‘lowest price’ relationship has to be encouraged. Installer training can reduce the incident of specification switching and could be the start of a journey towards forming a genuine partnership.

1.66 It has also been observed that the use of ‘value engineering’ is almost always about cutting cost out of a project, at times without due reference to key specification requirements…..

Or to put it another way, specification switching. This is a challenge all manufacturers of high performance products will be familiar with. On many occasions, the architect will be aware of the benefits of using a higher value product and specify it, only to find that the sub-contractor is using a different, lower cost, product.

This problem can be reduced by providing the architect or engineer with clear well written specifications which describe the unique characteristics of your product. In this way even if he adds “or equal/equivalent” it makes it quite clear what the alternative product must do to be a substitute.

Ideally when reviewing your specification documentation you should view all of your information surrounding the specification. This is important as sometimes it highlights a need to review and correct them all, for consistency.


While it is hoped that Dame Judith Hackitt’s report will lead to action by government and industry, we detect that there is already a change in the attitude of specifiers. There are many small changes product manufacturers, and not just those involved with fire protection, can start to make now to support this and contribute to ensuring that buildings constructed today are fit for purpose.

Learn more about changing specifier attitudes by reading our short report.


Competitive advantage consultancy is a strategic sales and a marketing consultancy specific to construction. We can help develop and implement effective specification strategies, drawing on our range of services:

Construction market research

CPD development

Specification sales and marketing training

Specification document writing

If you have a specification strategy challenge you need help with then we would be happy to talk through your requirements. 01252 378053.



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