The current economic climate is tough for many businesses in the AEC sector and seeing companies such as ROK go into administration was a real eye-opener. It is exactly in times like these that branding becomes even more important. Achieving growth and acquiring new business opportunities is increasingly challenging, especially when the industry is becoming even more competitive. In order to stand out you need to focus on your brand and remind prospects and clients why you are ‘the right man for the job.’ A strong brand is not achieved over night. It needs constant investment to sustain it and build strong brand equity.
A brand is much more than a logo or positioning statement. It is a promise. A promise from the company to its customers and clients that they will receive a product or service that consistently delivers added value.
“A brand is an identifiable entity that makes specific promises of value.”
Without branding all products and services are perceived to be the same without any differentiation. Strong branding sets you apart from the competition by providing benefits that others do not. Through this, a relationship is formed. The construction industry is built on many relationships – relationships with clients, suppliers, employees, architects, contractors. The list goes on. It is these relationships that fully define your brand. You may think your brand represents reliability, performance and sustainable development but if your clients, customers, prospects, employees and even the general public do not think (or see) that, then something is wrong.
What is Brand Equity?
Kevin Keller, a well known and respected theorist, defined brand equity as:
“the differential effect that brand knowledge has on responses to the marketing of that brand. A brand is said to have positive customer-based brand equity when customers and prospects react more favourably to a product, and the way it is marketed, when the brand is identified than when it is not.”
Put simply, it is the expression of a brand’s value or strength. The construction sector is very competitive and branding is one way you can gain a competitive advantage. Branding humanises your company and allows people to make associations with favourable qualities that comprise your brand identity. A key element of creating a successful brand is a professional and attractive logo. Construction companies with a strong brand and recognizable business logo achieve higher brand awareness and are therefore more likely to be chosen for purchase due to reputation. Therefore, don’t hide your light under a bushel; let your community and your customers see what your company stands for and make them aware of what you are offering.
An example of good branding is when you instantly recognise a company through their logo without needing to see the name. Lets test this theory. Below are logos for 3 different construction companies. Can you guess who they are?
Did you get them right? (RIBA, Carillion, Kingspan) …without the help of Google? Yes? Well if you have, then the above companies have done a pretty good job of branding themselves within the construction sector.
According to Keller there is an obvious ordering of the steps in building your brand. His ‘branding ladder’ progresses from identity to meaning to responses to relationships. That is, meaning cannot be established unless identity has been created; responses cannot occur unless the right meaning has been developed; and a relationship cannot be forged unless the proper responses have been elicited. This model was first designed for the B2C market but is just as appropriate for B2B.
Customer-based brand equity model (Keller 2001)
Benefits of a Strong Brand
- Trust and Consistency: branding creates a set of expectations and customers know that they are getting a consistently high quality product or service (as long as you fulfil your brand promise). Architects tend to recommend brands that they trust and are familiar with so construction product manufacturers need to cut through the clutter by building a strong and reliable brand.
- Premium Prices & Loyalty: a strong brand can command higher prices because they provide added value to their clients. Loyal customers are happy to pay more for a quality product/service and will go out of their way to look for your particular brand. If an architect prefers your brand to others you have got a profitable customer relationship.
- Competitive Advantage: there are many companies offering similar products and services, so you need to prove why you are different. Brand recognition and awareness are benefits of branding and the reason why most of you guessed the construction company logos above. A strong brand that delivers on their promises will go a long way.
- Makes purchasing easier: prospects are spoilt for choice and if they do not know what company to do business with they usually go for the most well known brand. If you have ‘mind share’, prospects will automatically think of you first when they think of your product category. How do you become that go-to brand? Through building strong relationships with architects and specifiers, offering a superior product/service, advertising in the right places and most of all giving your target marketing what they want and need.
- Emotional attachment: alongside a number of rational criteria, a powerful irrational impulse is always present to influence the purchase decision. A strong construction brand with an effective positioning strategy taps into the totality of customer and prospect needs. As they say, people do business with people and therefore branding gives your company a personality with which people can build a connection. Many contractors and architects have certain brands that they can rely on and they will continue to use these because they have built up an emotional bond.
These are only 5 of many reasons why you need a strong brand in the construction industry. In order to achieve your branding objectives, every part of the company needs to take part. Branding is not only the Marketer or Product Manager’s job but that of every employee. So before you start marketing to the outside world, make sure your internal marketing is intact so that you are communicating a consistent brand identity.