Branding tips for industrial product manufacturers

  • Industry News
  • Dec 01,22
Often industrial product manufacturers scoff at the idea of branding and advertising. Here, Prof Ambi Parameswaran offers simple tips to industrial product companies for building a successful brand and reap rich rewards.
Branding tips for industrial product manufacturers

Don’t industrial products need to be branded? And if they are brands don’t they need advertising? This was a challenge facing McGraw Hill which in the 50s used to publish a range of industrial product magazines and journals. Circa 1958 and the company was not getting the kind of ad support they were hoping for. They decided to catch the bull by the horns. In what is today considered to be a classic print advertisement, they showed the picture of a rather irate looking buyer. He is asking the sales rep who has called on him, obviously to make a sale, a few tough questions: “I don’t know you. I don’t know your company. I don’t know your company’s product. I don’t know what your company stands for. I don’t know your company’s customers. I don’t know your company’s record. I don’t know your company’s reputation. Now, what was it you wanted to sell me?” The ad ends with a moral:“Moral: Sales start before your salesman calls – with business publication advertising.”

What was true of the US market then is probably true of Indian market today. Many an industrial product manufacturer scoffs at the idea of branding and advertising. They believe that branding is something that is meant for consumer product companies like Coke and Nike. They may grudgingly include services like Amazon and Airtel. But their argument would be that industrial products are all bought after they pass rigid specification guidelines, hard negotiations and are built through long relationships. Why do they need the lipstick and make-up called branding?

When I conduct branding workshops in B2B companies, I often ask the participants what separates their company from their competitors? Is it only product quality, price and service? Or is there something more. The answer often revolves around something ephemeral like ‘reputation’ ‘trust’ ‘image’ that goes beyond product quality and price.

Then I ask them what if I were to tell you branding is nothing but reputation.

The next area of debate is, what is my ‘brand’? Many industrial product manufacturers have long winding name ‘National Ball Bearings and Widget Manufacturing Company’, for instance. What is the brand?

The simple answer is: the brand is the name by which your customers call you. If they call you National Bearings, that is your brand name. Often industrial product companies don’t have a standardized way in which to present their name. The visiting card, the letter head, the product leaflet, the website all of them have the name in various sizes and shapes. If we know that the company is called ‘National Bearings’ then that should be the name that is up front. The statutory name can be in smaller size somewhere.

Now that we have got to a place where we understand the need for a brand and that all industrial products too have a ‘brand’, what to do about it? Doesn’t it take a lot of money to build a brand?

Industrial product manufacturers often get disheartened when they hear the cost of advertising. But the journey does not start with advertising. It starts with the brand, how it is written and presented. The next step, before advertising can start, is the positioning of the brand. Positioning journey starts with your target customer; who is it, what is their knowledge state, what do they value.

Branding is about positioning your brand in the minds of this target customer. In simple terms, position is the mental space that is occupied by your brand in your customer’s mind. What are the benefits that you offer that others don’t? What is the reason your customers come back to you? It could be across three broad dimensions: innovation, Value or Service. National Bearings can be known to be a very innovative bearing company. Or can be positioned as the best value bearing maker. Or the bearing maker that can custom produce a bearing and provide it as a special service to the customer.

Even before you spend a rupee on advertising, you need to align all that you have along the chosen positioning dimensions. Your brochure, your website, your visiting card, all of them will have to reflect the positioning that you have identified for your brand. If for example you want to position National Bearing as an innovative brand, your website and your brochures should reflect the innovations, the patents you have managed to acquire.

Then comes paid promotion. The best approach may be to find out what your customers read, the websites they go to and selectively post your messages there. And always provide a ‘call back’ mechanism, in the form of a number to call or an email id.

Remember all advertising need not be expensive. You do have your ‘own media’. These could be your website, your vans, your signboards. It doesn’t cost you money to post your message on your own media.

In this way you can go about building your brand, in simple steps. I call this the Brand Building Pentagon, with five steps:
1. Brand Appraisal: What is the space to occupy
2. Brand Definition: The positioning to focus on
3. Brand Articulation: How to present the brand to target customers
4. Brand Measurement: How to measure if your branding is working
5. Brand Expansion: What more can you offer under this brand

One other area that industrial product makers get caught up in is creating multiple brand names for their various products. This may be useful internally but externally it may make sense to promote the mother brand, primarily. The names and numbers assigned to various offerings could be termed as designations.

If we can apply these simple lessons to industrial product marketing, we can build a successful brand and reap rich rewards.

About the author:
Ambi Parameswaran is a best-selling author of eleven books, independent brand coach, founder of brand advisory and an Adjunct Professor of Marketing at Bhavan's S P Jain Institute of Management & Research (SPJIMR), Mumbai. His books cover a range of topic including advertising, branding, consumer behaviour and religiosity. He can be followed as Ambi Parameswaran on LinkedIn and as @ambimgp on @Twitter

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