Building materials brands, both large and small, are gaining critical advantage by leveraging something that may surprise you. Although companies are enjoying better numbers and expanding operations again, there is an abundant resource available that, when left untapped, leaves big money on the table. This missed opportunity is design.
During a conversation with Festool Marketing VP Michael Williams, I asked him what is the driving force behind the company’s growth? His answer, “We design tools that will have an impact on our customers lives. We have a common vision.” This resonates in Festools credo as well:
“At Festool, we design our power tools…
To solve problems.
For the way work happens.
With your comfort in mind.
To save time.
For quality, reliability and flawless execution.
For healthier environments.
To work together.
A key word in Williams’ answer is DESIGN. In a sea of “quality” and “solutions” and “customer service”, here is just one example of a company in the building materials industry that’s leveraging design to gain critical advantage over their competition. But isn’t design just about logos and annual reports and websites? True, these communication tools are an important part of your brandhood, however, there is something much bigger at work here.
We can learn a big lesson from, not a design pioneer, but a technology geek–Steve Jobs. He wasn’t trained as a designer or engineer, but was a user of technology himself. He was a visionary. As Jobs told Inc. magazine in 1989, “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try and give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” It isn’t necessarily about market research anymore. It’s about prolific thinking. It’s about focusing on the customer at all times and staying true to your brand truth. Design plays a major role in everything from marketing and advertising to production processes and supply chain.
“From GM to 3M, in boardrooms
and on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley
and on Madison Avenue,
design matters more than ever.
-Linda Tischler, Fast Company
A perfect example of this is the 99-year old quietly creative innovator, 3M. Why would a $27 billion dollar giant, best known for it’s notes, tape and sponges, have any need to hire a 26-year old designer from Milan? They were already successful. What would design ad to the mix? Sales, that’s what. From the redesign of their mini-projector to his new line of tape dispensers, Mauro Porcino has had a profound impact on 3M’s bottom line. Think “double”.
So, do you spend hundreds of thousand of dollars on brand awareness or take a step back and design a better experience. I believe in starting with the experience. People ask me all the time, “So, I have X to spend on marketing our brand…what should we spend it on?” My answer is always the same. “Slow down and take look around you before you start throwing money at a billboard campaign or hosting a golf tournament.” What’s worked in the past? What’s currently in play? How do customers feel about your brand? Where do they go? What are they talking about? What would serve them? When was the last time you walked through your buying process “like a customer?” If all that’s in order then let’s take a look at the customer touch points and design a strategy. There’s no faster way to erode brand equity than to throw a bunch of money at brand awareness only to have customers irritated or disappointed once they respond.
What’s Working Well
At one time Festool had a monster marketing budget and sold many things to many people. This worked well for a long time, but they knew it could be better. By aligning sales, marketing and upper management, the Festool team speaks the same language now. They know exactly who their customers are and what drives them. They also know who their customers aren’t. No more selling all things to all people. Design is driven by design. Festool took a step back to design a better approach. To have a better understanding of customers needs and desires. Their attention to detail is second to none. Their system of tools is not only extremely efficient, but beautifully designed—not to mention highly coveted by building professionals and enthusiasts alike.
You don’t have to be Apple® to realize good design matters. From marketing strategy and product design to photography and messaging—company’s in the building materials industry are thriving on design. What used to be considered an after-thought or “something your nephew could do” is now at the center of what’s driving corporate America. Finding an edge is becoming harder. As Farenheit 212′s Mark Payne notes, “Design is differentiation made visible, visceral, and experiential. Creativity and innovation are emerging as disciplines because we have no other choice.” Design, in other words, can be the critical competitive advantage.
Driven, by design?
Here’s to creating a sensation.