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The Uncomfortable Truth About Built World Brands

26 Oct 2023

I have always had a problem with branding when trying to grow the sales or preference for a Built World company. The biggest problem I have with branding is that it is an easy way to spend or waste money with little or no accountability. 

When I ask a company why they are exhibiting at a trade show or investing in a new website, too often the answer is “We’re doing it for the brand.” WTF does that mean? How do you measure success? 

The most frequent measure of success is anecdotal comments like “The CEO likes the exhibit.” The CEO’s personal opinion has nothing to do with success. 

The other problem I have with branding is that it is thought as to how you present your company to customers. It is not thought of as how customers experience dealing with your company. 

An impressive presentation quickly loses any brand value when your customer service is not at the same level as your presentation. 

The branding experts have chimed in and shared a guest post on the important subject of branding. 


Ethan, an architect, looks at the sea of gray floor-tile samples spread across his desk. He carefully picks up each one as he weighs their subtle differences. Sometimes, his decision is immediate. Other times, he will compare spec sheets, download case studies, and review lookbooks until a clear winner emerges. Today is a good day – the choice is easy. Ethan selects one of the tiles and heads off to a client meeting with total confidence. 

To the untrained observer, all the tiles look the same. So, which tile did Ethan choose and why? 

That’s the billion-dollar question. 

Architects and designers specify thousands of architectural products, surfaces, and building materials, representing billions of dollars in sales for manufacturers. 

Getting specified – the creative side of connecting with and marketing to this audience – remains somewhat of a mystery. 

One reason is that manufacturers typically have a sales rep between them and the design professional – they rarely live in the specifiers’ world. Without that immersion, a manufacturer’s marketing does not speak the language of a design professional. 

Another reason is that most marketing agencies don’t understand the sales journey for building materials because it has many different gatekeepers. It may include the specifier, owner, contractor, distributor, and installer. Without a clear understanding of each persona, agencies cannot create marketing campaigns and collateral that connect and convert. 

And finally, one of the biggest challenges manufacturers face is creating, understanding, and leveraging their brand. 


Your Brand Matters More Than You Think

On the one hand, your brand is your most powerful asset. 

On the other hand, your brand is not your logo, brochure, website, or product. It’s not one specific thing; it’s everything. It’s intangible. 

We live in a data-driven world where analytics are identified, measured, and reported. Data is indisputable. It tells you what has happened with 100% alacrity. We love the confidence data gives us. 

While data is hindsight, branding is future-forward. 

Branding can feel nebulous and opposed to analytics. 

Brands are enormously powerful – but they aren’t measurable. They live in our hearts and minds. They are what customers say about you when you leave the room. 

It might seem that brand building is achieved by responding to data, but the opposite is true. In this topsy-turvy world, companies that only rely on data often make choices that lull us into indifference. Because analytics are reassuring, we can easily make data-driven decisions that put our customers to sleep. 

Your customer, the specifier, is looking to be inspired. 

I’m going to start with a radical perspective – your brand dictates both the marketing tactics, tools, and analytics needed to grow awareness, generate leads, and convert sales. Not the other way around. 

Once the brand is articulated – once we’re truly able to understand where we live in the hearts and minds of customers like Ethan – then we can design our websites, define our marketing tools, and plot our data points to track progress. The brand represents everything – the trade shows we exhibit at, our Instagram strategy, the associations we join, the type of salespeople we hire, and even the content we post on our site. The brand is the strategic core of our company, and everything else, including the products we manufacture, is just one small piece of it. 


How to Build a Brand You Can Leverage

  • Be Authentic

Start with why your company exists in the first place. 

Every organization has a purpose that goes beyond the products they manufacture. It infuses everything they do , yet they rarely define it. 

I’m not talking about a 1990’s Mission | Vision statement. The “why” is emotional. For example, take a company that manufactures commodity construction materials. Their brand ethos is to ensure no man is left behind. The entire brand is focused on service – getting the right item in the right contractor’s hands at the right time. 

You can quickly see how their brand drives every marketing decision they make. The website shows product inventory and estimates delivery time. The how-to-videos are in English and Spanish, and their social media features sales and delivery folks, as well tips and tricks from real-life customers igniting real engagement and dialog. The messaging is clear, friendly, and supportive. 

  • Be Creative

Big creative ideas get in the hearts and minds of people. They connect. 

My time working with Built World companies taught me the power of brand building and executing significant creative ideas. 

There is an inherent freedom, though. Big ideas make the mothership uncomfortable – and that is how it should be. The creative agency’s role in a rebrand is to push a company out of its comfort zone and show it a new version of itself. 

Whether it is a renovation or a makeover, everyone loves a good before and after. The real payoff is when the after is dramatically different yet related to the before. It’s the moment the company steps up and becomes the very best version of itself. Don’t be afraid to be daring and bold. 

  • Be Consistent

From the product to the website to the installation, every communication point should be consistent with your brand. 

If you have a sleek, high-performance brand, the website and the mobile experience should be seamless. If you have an ultra-affluent product, your lookbook should have high quality, aspirational photography, and the brochure should feel great in your hand. 

Be consistent in your communications and ensure your brand is elevated enough to match your product. 


Know Your Audience 

Getting back to Ethan the architect, what exactly made him pick one gray tile over another? 

In his own words: “The project is a second home for a repeat client. They wanted me to design something that would feel like a natural response to a rugged landscape. The tile I chose looked similar to a cheaper option, but it has a great cradle-to-cradle story – I was able to justify the higher price by telling them a story that was important to them. The website has a cool visualizer tool. My client is hands-on; they could try some selections and easily see how a subtle change in the color of the floor would make a big difference. This company is so sophisticated even the sample packaging feels elevated. My client loved it.”

I hope this article has given you some more effective ways to think about your branding.