Brand labels give your products extra exposure

My competitor labels its building products conspicuously with its name and logo. Though it doesn’t cost much, I’m not sure following that example will help my sales. Are architects and contractors influenced by seeing brand names on products in their buildings? Could there be a negative reaction?—I. L., product manager

Sew an alligator on a knit shirt and you can double the price. Embroider the right name on a pair of denim slacks and suddenly they become designer jeans. As proven in the consumer market, brand labeling can help shape customers’ product perceptions and heighten their awareness of your company.

The construction product business is more complicated, but many of the same principles apply. Prospects must be familiar with a product before they can develop a preference for it, so repeated exposures to brand labels do play a role in influencing designers and contractors. Even if your product is concealed within the structure, labels can still enhance your reputation among the dealers and tradespeople who handle your products.

Of course, brand labels in themselves do not create value, but they can sharpen your brand’s image and give it an identity. A well-established graphic identity can help you transfer the image of one product to others in your line. Labeling works best with high-quality products, where the brand can build on the products’ reputation and performance. It is less important with commodity products.

The roots of brand labeling in construction go back to the first mason who chiselled his mark into the structures he built. Today, branded building materials are all around us. We are bombarded by thousands of marketing messages every day and probably tune out most of them. But the effectiveness of brand labeling is evidenced by the general public’s widespread knowledge of construction brands. Many people know Otis makes elevators, Sloan makes toilet flush valves, and Yale makes commercial locks, even though those products are not marketed to the general public.

The proliferation of labels, however, has raised concern among designers and owners about their buildings becoming too crowded with advertising messages. A major Seattle-based department store chain, for example, prohibits visible product labels in its stores because it wants to control the marketing messages shoppers are exposed to. And the general requirements section of CSI’s SpecText master specification suggests such a ban. But most architects do not enforce that ban as long as labels are discreet.

There are many examples of lowkey labels. Pre - engineered metal buildings often carry a signature plate on the ridge cap at the top of the eaves. One window manufacturer puts its circular logo on the end of the knob on its window cranks. Many bathroom accessories have their manufacturers’ names stamped or engraved into their stainless steel surface. Aluminum entrance doors typically have a small nameplate attached near the bottom rail.

Brand labeling can be even more subtle. For example, Weyerhaeuser indicates the grade of its wood doors with a trademarked colored dowel on the edge of the door. While the general public would not recognize this, you can bet that the trade knows exactly whose door they’re looking at when they see the dowel.

To reduce the likelihood of an architect or owner objecting to your label after the product is installed, be sure the labels are shown in your product literature, in your product mock-ups and samples, and on your submittal sheets or shop drawings. Then if anyone objects to the label, you have the defense that your standard product carries it, and it was clearly indicated in the material the architect presumably reviewed or approved.

Before you proceed with branding, you may want to conduct a focus group showing prospects several products, some with labels and some without, and see if the label changes their perceptions. Have a strategy in mind for removing a logo in case someone does object strenuously. How hard would it be on your production line or your distributors if you had to produce a special order without the labels? Is the label permanent or could it be removed with a little elbow grease, paint, or sanding?

One of my favorite stories about brand identification concerns the now-defunct Inryco Inc. At the time the company introduced its composite steel and concrete floor deck, it was widely believed that indentations were needed in the steel deck to create a stronger bond with the poured-on concrete. The company later proved that the indentations had little effect on the structural capacity. Nevertheless, Inryco retained the indentations ... in the form of its lozenge-shaped logo.

By Michael Chusid
Originally published in Construction Marketing Today, Copyright © 1993