More on Student Design Competitions

I have written about the marketing benefits of sponsoring design competitions among students. A correspondent points out another benefit: Recruiting. She writes,
I participated in student competitions when I was in school for Construction Management. I was trying to figure out why Centex would put up all the money to do the competition.

Then I realized that they essentially got to interview all the best CM students in the country and run us thru the most grueling interview circuit I’ve ever experienced. They offered internships to the ones they liked and jobs to the ones graduating that they really liked.

Advertising Excellence Award Finalist Created by Chusid Associates

Ceiling's Plus' "You Wood If You Could" advertisement is a finalist in Architectural Record's 2012 Advertising Excellence Awards.  Architectural Record tends to attract the best, most thoughtfully designed and altogether tasty advertising in the construction world,  providing what the magazine publisher calls "stiff competition." According to Laura Viscusi, VP of McGraw-Hill Construction Media (which publishes Architectural Record and SNAP - the ad appeared in the latter publication), the finalists were picked from 170 ads.  "This is no small feat, the ads get better and better every year."

The ad was also the top response-generator in SNAP, a measure of effectiveness which we find perhaps even more gratifying than an award nomination.  It was designed by Chusid Associates; Steve Klippenstein, Art Director; Steven H. Miller, Copywriter; Michael Chusid, Account Executive, for client Nancy Mercolino, President of Ceilings Plus.  

Winners of the 2012 competition will be awarded at the Excellence in Advertising Awards Breakfast will be held on FridayMay 18th at the Grand Hyatt Washington, in Washington, DC, during the 2012 AIA convention.

The Ultimate Roll-Up?

I was recently asked about the attractiveness of having a single company provide all elements of the building envelope, including roofing, foundation, exterior walls, cladding, windows, curtainwalls, entrances, storefronts, insulation, vapor barriers, and the rest. The question came from a business strategy firm, suggesting that some group of investors is seriously contemplating such a move.

At least one company is already well on its way to being able to offer complete building envelopes. Oldcastle is one of the company's that is well on its way toward offering a complete package, with strong positions in masonry, concrete, glass and glazing systems, curtainwalls, doors and skylights. Add a roofing manufacturing line, and they have it.*

The past few decades has seen strong trends towards "roll-ups" -- bringing many small producers under one corporate ownership -- in attempts to gain economy of scale and improve competitiveness by dominating an industry and combining related products into package.

Roll-ups are well established in some sectors. In lighting fixtures, for example, Hubbell has acquired over 20 previously independent brands, and electronic giant Philips recently acquired the sixteen brands that had been rolled-up by Genlyte. Assa Abbloy and just a few other firms now dominate door hardware.

While roll-ups do have important competitive advantages, many suffer from the following syndromes:
  • They lose the edge in innovation to smaller, more flexible and entreprenurial business.
  • Promotion of individual brands suffer from having to follow a corporate model. For example, some of my clients have to use corporate websites that focus on selling to investors instead of to designers and builders.
  • Managers, striving to improve the profits of their division, become jealous of and competitive with each business units, to the detriment of the overall company.
  • Product offerings become so diverse, that individuals within the firm are unable to cross refer prospects or identify opportunities for other brands.
  • Size dilutes the expertise.  What salesman can be an authority on glass AND roofing AND insulation? In smaller companies, a prospect can deal directly with a principal or other senior personnel with true expertise in a field.
Indeed, I have been a consultant to many large firms and roll-ups that crumbled due to their mass, and were more competive when unrolled.

Further, roll-ups have to compete with companies that do not manufacture all parts of a system, but assemble or "package" products from multiple vendors into bid packages that also create economies of scale. Packagers also have the advantage of using the "best" product or a job without the limitations of having to use those from sister companies. They also have the flexibility to take advantage of attractive spot pricing.

In the final analysis, every general contractor is a packager, and already offers all elements of the building envelope.

* Pre-engineered metal building manufacturers do already offer a complete envelope, including walls, roofs, structure, and accessories. But that is a subject for another blog post.

Copy Websites (Yours & Your Competitors')

Make copies of websites.
Building product manufacturers should make copies of their websites and other online assets. Having off-line copies will be helpful:
  • In case your website crashes and your webmaster forgot to save on offline version.
  • To preserve a record of your marketing claims to use in preparing a product liability defense.
  • To preserve your company's history for future reference.
  • You can refer to your website even when off line, such as during air travel, on a jobsite, or to make presentations at a prospect's office without having to access their internet service.
Also consider making copies of your competitors; online assets; you may be able to glean valuable intelligence by observing changes in a competitor's presentation.

A useful tool for copying websites is For your archiving to be successful, you will need the discipline to download sites on a regular basis and save them to a permanent storage device.

Designers Become Competitors

Global architectural design firm HOK has launched a new business: HOK Product Design, LLC. Through this venture, HOK designers from across the firm will design products for use in and around the firm's core business of architecture and interior design. HOK Product Design will license its designs to manufacturers for fabrication and sale.

Many building product innovations have been developed by architectural practitioners, and some architects have even gone on to form successful building product companies. However a large, well organized program of innovation like HOK's changes the game, transforming the design firm into a veritable business incubator.

This may change the traditional relationship between building product manufacturers and designers. In the past, manufacturers with innovative ideas often sought feedback about concepts or prototypes from architects. Now, there will have to be more concern about whether the designer is actually a potential competitor that might use your ideas not for a building but for a product launch.

A press release from the organization states:
"Product design is a new outlet for our unique brand of design thinking that aims at creating value for HOK by creatively responding to the needs of a new range of customers, in addition to those of our current clients," explains Riccardo Mascia, AIA, a member of HOK’s executive committee. "We also want to offer our people new opportunities for creative expression and professional development."

HOK Product Design, LLC, which is structured as a standalone business within HOK, is led by Susan Grossinger, former director of interiors for HOK Los Angeles. The business will support the development of products ranging from architectural and interior design to consumer, health care, and sustainable offerings. "Product design is a natural extension of what we already do in terms of developing innovative solutions to our clients' challenges. Our goal is to start from square one in terms of creating new concepts, as opposed to simply modifying existing products that are already on the market,” says Grossinger. “We also operate as an extension of HOK’s long-term leadership in sustainability, and are committed to having all our products enhance environmental quality.”

The new company already has secured business arrangements with manufacturing partners for 12 products designed by HOK people.
  • Designed by HOK’s planning and architecture designers Matt Snelling and Paul Wilhelms, the FRENO Rain Garden is a kit-of-parts, urban rain garden for stormwater filtration and groundwater recharge. This patent pending modular system saves clients more than 30 percent over traditional construction in both budget and time and is licensed to Midwest Products Group.
  • HOK Chicago interior designers Tom Polucci and Natalie Banaszak designed Mannington's rubber and carpet tile Spectrum Collection.
  • HOK Houston interior designer Paul Smead designed an executive lounge seating group as part of the Cumberland Furniture Designer's Speak program.
  • The Shadowline Wall Coping designed by Los Angeles architect Chris Anderson is licensed to WP Hickman and was simply a response to the lack of commercially available standard options.
  • Other products under development target the health care, lighting, urban planning, furniture, finishes, fire and life safety, and sustainable sectors.
"HOK's global experience in strategic planning, workplace, health care, science and technology, and other specialties gives our designers the creative vision required to identify gaps between what's available in the market and products that can provide value to our clients while improving the experience, health and productivity of end users," says Grossinger. "We want to fill these gaps with our innovative product ideas."

Most Innovative Product Award Call For Entries

The call for entries is out for the 2011 Most Innovative Product awards, given by Concrete And Masonry Products magazine and awarded annually at World of Concrete in Las Vegas.  It's open to any WOC exhibitor. 

In the past, we have found this a cost-effective form of publicity for our concrete-related clients.  Entries all get exposure in the magazine, in the WOC daily magazine, on the WOC website, and in a special display at the show in the central concourse of the convention center.

This year's entrance fee is $500 before Oct. 15, 2010, or $600 until the Oct. 30 final entry deadline.   We can help prepare an entry to meet that deadline.

Mockett Design Contest

Mockett Annual Design Contest
Mockett is holding a design contest in which they are seeking innovative ideas in furniture parts, components, accessories and hardware.  Even if you think your product "is too prosaic or too dull or too unusual or 'not good enough'... send it in and let [them] decide. You would be surprised at how many First Place award winners were shocked when they got the congratulatory call! They never thought they had a chance."

Winning a design contest is a great honor for any building product manufacturer.  You can use the award to better market your company and products.

To enter, send a write-up, drawing, or model of your idea.

Deadline is September 7th.  The judges will decide the winner in December.

There are only First Place awards and an unlimited number; in the past winners have ranged from one to four. First Place is awarded $1000, an engraved achievement trophy, and a royalty based on sales.

Questions can be emailed to:, or call 800-523-1269 , from the USA, Canada, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands or 310-318-2491 from everywhere else.