Brands: Managing the Message - May 2011

By Dick Whitney

 

A brand is more than a logo, and it won’t run on autopilot, no matter the visibility and success of past campaigns. And like the product itself, it needs to be maintained. Brands are the most powerful and sustainable wealth creators in the world, as long as the shepherds of the brands are creative, tenacious, protective and consistent in their management, investment and growth.

When volume is down and raw material prices are on the rise, the focus of producers shifts to short-term issues while the broader vision of products and brands are shunted to the back burner, and the easy choice is to pull back on the “non-essential” advertising expense. But it’s a hazardous strategy, because this short-sightedness leads to a lack of consumer preference and shifts the power either further down the channel or into another product category. Those who hold true to their business and brand strategies are the ones who come out with the stronger position and the bigger share of the business. 

Also, since flooring is often a non-essential, deferrable purchase, advertising one’s brand also helps keep the entire category in the minds of consumers as a rewarding option for their disposable income.

In the flooring industry, as evidenced in the chart below, there are only a handful of manufacturers (or their brand stewards) that invest in consumer advertising, and that number has fallen considerably in the last few years. In fact, manufacturer spending on consumer brand awareness is almost half what it was two years ago, and several prominent flooring producers have entirely abandoned their efforts to maintain brand awareness. 

If manufacturers allow the big box retailers and category killers to build stronger consumer awareness than they themselves have, they risk losing mindshare and preference to the consumer, and that allows downstream brands like Bellawood and TrafficMaster to control the market. Once that happens, prices rise to the top as the most influential differentiator and margins start to erode.

Brand Focus
One of the reasons that classic and leading brands (of any size) have been so successful is how completely they have delivered clarity and consistency, driven by leadership.

One key element of a branding strategy is the underlying communications plan. The plan must reflect what is required in a brand position, the audience’s preferred mode of communication, and the firm’s desired role and participation in the audience’s behavior.

A brand with no clear vision or commitment has no clear future. There are no guarantees, but chance favors the best prepared. A significant percentage of manufacturers do not have formal brand strategies, and they don’t seem to understand that today’s consumers are looking for brands that will help them make responsible and rewarding decisions. It’s evident that some are acting without clear, intentional strategies—just doing something because they feel they should, but without an understanding of how the process really works.

The more sophisticated companies, those with a formal or even an informal brand strategy, see their brands as a promise to their customers. Those without a brand strategy—and some of the more informal planners—simply see brand as a name or don’t even acknowledge brand as an important variable.

Neither start-ups nor existing companies of any size should approach the branding issue lightly. Corporate brands reflect the intrinsic nature and history of the company. They derive from the complex workings of internal corporate goals and external marketplace needs.

Firms should measure the effectiveness of their brand strategies. In addition to supporting qualitative corporate goals, brand strategy must also support a price premium or marketshare objectives leading to improved returns for investors. Simply tracking brand awareness is not a sufficient measure of a brand strategy’s success.

If you don’t plan and invest in the future you want, you get the one that shows up. It’s a leadership issue that goes beyond today’s operating plans and initiatives, which can too often get in the way of long-term planning. 

 

Copyright 2011 Floor Focus 



Other Archived Articles

Business Inventories Rise Less Than Expected   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 15, 2014 -- U.S. business inventories rose less than expected in August, according to the Commerce Department.

Producer Prices Decline in September   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 15, 2014 -- Producer prices in the U.S. fell in September for the first time in more than a year, according to the Labor Department.

New York Area Manufacturing Slows in October   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 15, 2014 -- Manufacturing in the New York region expanded at a much slower pace in October, according to the New York Federal Reserve.

Retail Sales Decline in September   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 15, 2014 -- U.S. retail sales fell more than expected in September, following the biggest gain in four months in August, according to the Commerce Department.

Mortgage Applications Up on Lower Rates   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 15, 2014 -- Mortgage application volume rose 5.6% last week from the previous week as interest rates fell, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Florim Opens Showroom in Moscow   Full Article
Moscow, Russia, Oct. 15, 2014 -- Tile company Florim said it has opened a new flagship store in Moscow.

Retirement Fund Files Suit Against Lumber Liquidators   Full Article
Toano, VA, Oct. 14, 2014 -- Lumber Liquidators is facing a class action law suit brought by the City of Hallandale Beach, Florida, Police Officers' and Firefighters' Personal Retirement Trust, according to the Virginia Gazette.

UFloor Systems Signs Western Distributor Big D   Full Article
Aurora, CO, Oct. 14, 2014 -- UFloor Systems has signed Big D Floor Covering Supplies to distribute its Uzin subfloor preparation products.

Mannington Raising VCT Prices in January   Full Article
Salem, NJ, Oct. 14, 2014 — Mannington Mills said it will raise prices by 4% on all of its vinyl composition tile products effective Jan. 5.

Armstrong Issues Third Quarter Warning   Full Article
New York, NY, Oct. 14, 2014 -- Armstrong World Industries became the second public flooring company to issue a third quarter profit warning.

WFCA Names New Leader of Northwest Association   Full Article
Anaheim, CA, Oct. 13, 2014 -- The World Floor Covering Association has named Tish Gasparich leader of the WFCA’s Affiliate Flooring Association Northwest(FAN).

Horizon Forest Products Moves Richmond Offices   Full Article
Richmond, VA, Oct. 13, 2014 -- Horizon Forest Products moved its Richmond offices to 4820 Eubank Road in the Interport Business Center.

Share of Custom Homes on the Decline   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 13, 2014 -- New NAHB research reveals significant regional differences in the share of custom homes started in 2013.

Self's To Distribute Novalis LVT in Midwest   Full Article
Toronto, Canada, Oct. 13, 2014 -- Wichita, Kansas-based Self’s, Inc. will now distribute luxury vinyl flooring made by Novalis Innovative Flooring.

Carpetland To Hold Annual Meeting in Chattanooga   Full Article
Chattanooga, TN, Oct. 13, 2014 -- Carpetland USA ColorTile will hold its 2014 Buying Committee meeting in Chattanooga Nov. 16-18.

Oil Prices Continue Downward Slide   Full Article
New York, NY, Oct. 10, 2014 -- Oil prices extended their free fall Friday.

Economists See Stronger 2015 Economy   Full Article
New York, NY, Oct. 10, 2014 -- Stronger job growth, increasing consumer confidence, and falling oil prices should aid the economic expansion next year, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Tarkett Holding Year-End Sales Promotion   Full Article
Chagrin Falls, OH, Oct. 10, 2014 -- Tarkett said it is holding its biggest sales promotion ever through the end of the year.

Karndean Promotes Hanno to Sales Director   Full Article
Export, PA, Oct. 10, 2014 -- Karndean Designflooring has promoted Tim Hanno to director of retail sales, effective immediately.

Tight Lending Standards Still Hurting Home Builders   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 9, 2014 -- Tight mortgage lending standards continue to affect sales for single-family builders, according to a survey released by the National Association of Home Builders.