Occasionally, clients will come to us with a somewhat unusual assignment: to help them build their brand’s value quickly in preparation for an acquisition. It’s a process that has given us unique insights into brand marketing that hold some important lessons for all marketers.
Whether an acquisition is on the horizon or not.
Not long ago, Berwind hired us to help them prepare to sell the Rutt cabinetry brand. Their goal was to increase the value of the brand, making it more attractive to potential suitors… and to make it command a higher price.
We, of course, did the usual marketing agency stuff. Our team worked on the brand identity and messaging, giving the brand a fresh, new look that would help it stand out amongst competitors. Through that process, we also conducted research that led to a very interesting insight.
Our research indicated that describing Rutt’s cabinets as “hand-crafted” resonated with audiences more than the “custom” description they used in the past. So we set about learning how the company could pay off the “hand-crafted” brand promise.
Serendipitously, while we were at the production facility, we witnessed a rare occurrence: a kitchen was returned by a customer. The cabinets, which were purposely distressed to provide a weathered look that many homeowners covet, didn’t look quite right. They appeared as if they were distressed by a machine, not naturally.
Of course, Rutt’s cabinets were distressed by hand, not by machines. But for that particular kitchen — and perhaps others — not enough attention was given to how the distressing should actually look.
Aligning Marketing with Operations
This presented a problem for those of us charged with putting forth the “hand-crafted” brand promise. How could we credibly make that claim if the products themselves didn’t deliver faithfully?
We needed to fix it. So we took it upon ourselves to work with the production people to examine how wear naturally happens in cabinets. We visited museums and historical buildings. And the people in charge of distressing adjusted their processes to make sure the cabinets’ distressing looked authentic.
We’re sharing this story, not to make a point about cabinet distressing. But instead, to highlight the connection between marketing and operations.
Marketing is in charge of making a brand promise to customers. Operations needs to be on board with that promise and be prepared to deliver on it.
This is particularly important when the brand promise is being changed to enhance the company’s positioning and differentiation.
Re-directing and elevating a brand promise doesn’t end with a clever tagline and a slick new logo. It has to permeate throughout the organization… in production, sales, customer service and even human resources.
The lesson for marketers goes beyond the specialized situation of preparing for an acquisition. It’s critical for the brand promise to be delivered.
As marketers, we should always remind ourselves to get away from our desks and spend time on the factory floors, with the customer service reps, at the point of purchase and on sales calls.
The more we can know about how customers experience the brand — re-shaping it, if necessary — the better we can craft that brand promise.
Avoiding Buyer’s Remorse
And yet, a brand promise doesn’t end with the successful delivery and installation for a “considered” purchase like building products.
When your target audience ultimately buys your product — especially if it’s a big-ticket item — a condition known as cognitive dissonance often sets in. That buyer is apt to experience totally unintended consequences. In fact, they may develop negative thoughts that are wholly inconsistent with the feelings of satisfaction or the excitement, that you expected to be accompanied with their major decision.
There’s another more common term for cognitive dissonance: buyer’s remorse. It’s a dangerous phenomenon — especially for building products brands — because those products often come with a waiting period, before the constomer gets to enjoy the products.
Yes, buyer’s remorse is a real thing, based in human psychology. It often sets in within the first few months after a decision is made. And it’s something that building products manufacturers should guard against, lest they wind up with returns, canceled orders… or negative reviews that can reside and grow in social channels.
Remind Your Customers
To continue the story about our task for building the Rutt Cabinetry brand’s value — to prepare it for acquisition — K&A developed a marketing program to help the company stave-off buyer’s remorse.
If ever there was a product category susceptible to buyer’s remorse… it’s kitchen cabinetry. First of all, it’s a huge expense, with high-end kitchens comfortably reaching into five- and often six-figures.
Second, cabinets — especially custom cabinetry — take a long time to build and deliver. During that time, the customer is left with her thoughts, wondering if she made the right decision. And until the cabinets arrive… there are no countertops, backsplashes or often even running water.
Remodeling a kitchen is a massive undertaking, full of big decisions. It’s stressful for contractors and homeowners alike, because of the expense and the relative permanence of those decisions. We’ve learned that most owners would rather move to another residence… as opposed to the thought of remodeling their kitchen again, for the second time.
So while the consumer waits for her cabinets, the remodeling project remains top-of-mind. She continues to watch HGTV and pick up copies of home design magazines. And wonders if she made the right decision.
In that process, she tends to forget why she chose the cabinets she ordered in the first place.
So we developed a program for Rutt that was so simple, yet remarkable. We reminded her.
How? Every week during the cabinets’ construction, the homeowner, contractor and designer all got customized photos emailed to them of their actual cabinets being built – entirely by hand. And accordingly, each target audience could intimately view the very craftspeople shaping the wood, sanding, staining, distressing and finishing. Actually, getting to know them by name. Like a voyeur, peering over the shoulder of the woodworker. All the while, they were experiencing the “HandCrafted” care that reminded each of them why they decided to buy that particular brand of cabinets.
And rather than having second thoughts, they were instead getting increasingly excited… sharing those images (and brand experience) with friends and family on social media. No buyer’s remorse. Instead, we expanded our community of fans… while actually acquiring a larger, new group of prospects.
Don’t Lose Sight of New Customers
Too often marketers forget about the audiences who have recently purchased products. Why? They’re too consumed with finding new customers.
Buying products for the home is such an emotion-filled experience for most end users, contractors and specifier-influencers alike. So, it’s crucial that brands continue to market to communities. After they’ve made the purchase. While they’re waiting for delivery. And even long after that.