There is nothing like a dip in the home building market to magnify your brand – both the good and the bad. We repeat: there is nothing that shows your company’s strengths and/or weaknesses like a time when demand for your product drops. Some company’s brands continue to shine and even stand out from the competition in spite of the economic cycle, which translates into more sales.
Consider this: The PR wheels are in motion this week as several award announcements in the home building and home products categories have been made. Shaw carpeting won two Addy awards for their graphic presentation of the company’s 20-year environmental journey. They were on the “green” road before it was built—not a bad thing when you consider the growing popularity of the green building trend. You can bet that prospective buyers will be looking at Shaw’s products more closely.
BOWA Builders (from McLean, Va.) won the 2006 Remodeler of the Year award, which sponsored by Professional Remodeler. CEO Larry Weinberg pointed out that one of their goals as a company is “never to peak as a business,” and to continue its focus on strategic planning and exciting growth. BOWA Builders Director of Marketing, Kathy Kelly noted that they would not have achieved 19 years of continued growth without “employee buy-in.” It is safe to assume that BOWA Builders will get more phone calls because of this hard-earned recognition.
What do awards have to do with surviving a business downturn? It’s what they represent. Look at the adjectives and nouns that describe these and other award-winning companies. Some of these would include the usual, such as: exceptional product quality, innovation, professional service, and superior operations, but we also noted terms like “commitment,” “visionary,” “contribution,” “pioneers,” and “leader.”
Do these terms describe your company? What positive tags have your customers applied to your brand, considering that they always vote with their pocketbooks? Better yet, given your customer tagged brand attributes (hopefully positive!), how well are you leveraging this with your current marketing?
We have seen several companies weather the housing downturn, by concentrating on the consumer market within the large home products retail channel. Building products manufacturers that depend on new home building and remodeling activity may not be able to use the same strategy; therefore, they would be wise to concentrate on the business facets they can control until the new homes sales market picks up.
Here are a few questions that can help guide your company towards creating and maintaining a strong brand, even during tough times:

  1. Look at the above list of words, add to them and choose several to help strengthen or clarify your current company strategy – with your current operations, will customers let you “own” those terms?
  2. Do your employees have a flag to rally under and do they know what they are “fighting” for?
  3. Have you tightened up your customer service operations so that your sellers find it a pleasure doing business with you? Will you be able to ramp up smoothly when the market returns?
  4. Do you know if your message is strong, clear and effective? Are you reaching your customers within the right medium and are your expectations real?

Award-winning companies that have their marketing machine well oiled share one thing in common – increased chances of profitability. You may not be able to do much about the current market demand for your products, but if you have your employee bases covered, your operations streamlined, your manufacturing efficient, and lastly, a good, strong message (used consistently in the right targeted medium), you will be a standout in a market downturn and be even more profitable when the market returns. That’s award-winning brand magnification!