The ability to deliver empathy and a willingness to “walk in your customers’ shoes” has always mattered. Marketing that connects authentically with end-users and the trade channel on a deeper level — that goes beyond just selling product — demonstrates that a brand genuinely cares about its customers, while helping to build loyal brand communities. It also forces building products to take a closer look at what their brands truly represent from the perspective of human needs, values and aspirations.

Benjamin Moore worked on their new branding campaign for over a year. Interviewing customers. Writing and rewriting their vision statement. And finally developing the creative.

Right around the time they unveiled it to the marketplace, the world was about to be gripped by a pandemic the likes of which hasn’t been seen in over a century.

That might seem like just plain bad luck, and, of course, it was… with apocalyptic uncertainty, the nasty side-effect of a novel coronavirus.

But the Benjamin Moore campaign and two other Building Products Brands might just be hitting exactly the right tone. Right now. Especially for these unprecedented times. We dissect the brilliant Sales & Marketing strategies for you.

Titled “See the Love,” the Benjamin Moore campaign seems to be colored by an overall sense of self-awareness. They understand after all, that paint is really not much more than a commodity.

So, instead of making claims of superiority about their paint – that the colors are truer, that the coverage is better – they turned their attention to the people who wield the rollers and paintbrushes.

They market direct to DIY homeowners, of course. But more importantly, to contractors and store owners. “Repeat Influencers”. The people who are responsible every day — even during pandemics — for creating the colorful environments in which people live. Their goal is not to merely elevate their product, but rather, the people who use it.

“Love of craft can turn work and labor into a work of art,” one ad says. The message to contractors is clear: that the company sees and appreciates the pride they take in what they do.

They also make it clear that homeowners love contractors’ work, too, showing those little moments when people first see their newly painted walls. A homeowner hugging a painting contractor (perhaps a silly thing that rarely actually happens)… yet, it represents the feelings end-users have about contractors’ work.

Another ad similarly celebrates the paint store retailer. The hero of a distribution model, whose job it is to help people navigate the endless choices to find just the right shade. Even as we practice “social distancing” they provide contractors with the materials they need to do their jobs.

Everyone loves a freshly painted wall and the possibilities it offers. Everyone. Through their campaign, Benjamin Moore celebrates the people who make that happen, instead of the stuff in the cans they sell.

Under normal circumstances, we would think this is a great campaign, because it delivers the right message to the people that matter.

But these are not normal circumstances. So why is this campaign even more perfect now?

Making Contractors Feel Valued

The longer the virus-induced shutdown drags on, the more home remodeling and repair contractors are likely to feel the pain. People just don’t want visitors in their homes right now.

Amidst all this worry, contractors and retailers don’t need to hear about products and sales and promotions. They need to know that they’re appreciated. That their work has value.

That they’re loved.

That’s why Benjamin Moore’s “See the Love” message is so poignant right now. It will undoubtedly stand out in a sea of bad news and get right to the heart of why they chose their field.

Will it be enough to get them through a slowdown? Showing contractors that they’re loved is a good start, but Benjamin Moore is taking that love to a new level.

In collaboration with the Painting Contractors Association, Benjamin Moore has pledged to underwrite the cost for contractors to attend the PCA’s Operation COVID-19 Response. This eight-week virtual training conference aims to give contractors the strategies and resources they need to survive this unprecedented downturn.

Ultimately, when the virus recedes and things begin to return to normal, contractors will start to get calls from homeowners who have had a lot of time to stare at their walls.

And when that happens, they’ll remember how Benjamin Moore made them feel during these tough times.

Other Building Product Brands who are marketing with the “Right Stuff” Now

In today’s world, the connection between brands and their customers is more important than ever before. Research conducted by Harvard Business Review found that a positive emotional bond with a brand is more important to consumers than their satisfaction. And, studies have found that consumers who feel a connection to a brand are much more likely to not just purchase, but also to spend more on each purchase and – in some cases – even become an advocate for the brand. In a 2018 survey by PwC, consumers said they would pay up to 16 percent more for better customer service.

According to “The New Science of Customer Emotions,” 50 percent of a brand experience is based on emotion. When done right, empathy not only has the power to differentiate a brand but can translate into wins for both the customer and the brand’s bottom line:

Add value. Go above and beyond for your customers. Let them know you’ve got their backs and want to help make their jobs easier. For example, building products brand CertainTeed continues a daily-authored series of blogs… designed to provide tips to its trade customers for maintaining their businesses and employee morale during the COVID-19 pandemic. And railing solutions manufacturer Feeney, has been offering specially-curated content for their dealers and business partners to help them better weather the pandemic.

Keep it narrow. Don’t try to solve too many challenges at once. Survey your customer base, study your target audience and then determine how your brand – with its specific products and services – can address one or two key pain points. For example, if your building products brand offers solutions that save installers time in the field, focus on that and show all the ways you help installers be more efficient and profitable. Let your audience know that you “get them” and have their best interests at heart.

Tone matters. In a study from Customer Thermometer, customers indicated that they prefer to buy from companies that promote positive feelings, like inclusion and confidence, rather than fear and negativity. Consumers also said the top emotions that created connections were interest, trust and optimism. The need for a positive tone is even more important now, as many people are craving hope and “normalcy” among the uncertainty.

Humanize your brand. Keep in mind that your target audience isn’t an intangible, fictitious persona. It’s comprised of real people just like you. You are creating communications for another human being, so make sure your content is relatable and authentic. Speak to your audience how you would like to be spoken to and mirror their thoughts and feelings. A great example of this is the Discover campaign where consumers call into the credit card company and speak with a replica of themselves. The message is “We treat you like you’d treat you.” It’s hard to argue with that. 

Pay attention, listen and be proactive. What are your customers saying? Listen to comments being made about your brand on social media and online forums, and don’t forget to ask your sales team for feedback. What do your customers like about your marketing and brand? What do they want you to change? Ask yourself, “In what unique way can I improve my customers’ lives?” and then adjust your messaging as needed. Learning more about your audience from past and current buyers will help to further define your marketing strategy for the future.

Going Deeper

When companies make an effort to understand customers and put their customers’ concerns at the center of the marketing message, they improve the customer experience and are able to form deeper, more emotional connections that ultimately increase brand loyalty. By reaching consumers on an emotional level, companies can create meaningful – and lasting – connections. And connections are more important than ever before.