You can’t lift a load with a logo, says Doug Stitt, president and CEO at The Caldwell Group Inc.
We’re all susceptible to marketing messages, especially in the consumer sector, where movie stars can convince you that wearing the same fragrance as them can make you appear as cool, visually appealing, or successful. Clothing companies, luxury items suppliers, and food and beverage firms, are at it too. It works, which is why Doritos paid David Beckham so much money to front a campaign in line with the controversial football (soccer!) World Cup in Qatar.
But it would be a mistake to adopt a similar marketing – no, branding – strategy in an industrial, business-to-business space. Scroll through LinkedIn, thumb the pages of a trade journal, or walk the aisles of an exhibition, and you’ll see a lot of own goals in the form of generic, self-serving marketing, that essentially says, “We’re the best,” or, “Trust us with your lift ‘coz we’re cool”. I call it ‘me too’ marketing, where a bunch of companies put their hands up as if to acknowledge that they’re part of the same product sector. They make no attempt to be different.
In our industry, real value comes not from the brand or tagline—and certainly not from an influencer—but from the application of a solution and the ability to solve a problem. It’s like blogging: are you going to waste time telling people why you think you’re the best, or answer an audience’s questions and explain how you can help?
I’ll do the latter. And your marketing strategy should follow the same lines.
Your brand here
There is still demand in manufacturing industries for catalogues and product guides, where the theory can be applied once more. Sure, it’s important to put a company name and brand there so people know who to call, but you’ve got to give them a reason to do so. There must be a constant focus on why a product was launched, what it does, how it helps, and what makes it unique. It’s cool if it makes someone’s work easier and safer, not just because the marketing team says so.
Other sectors again lead us astray here because we live in a world where Photoshop, Uber, Skype, etc. have become verbs; we Photoshop things, Uber to places, and Skype our pals and colleagues. This is dangerous territory in the industrial space because while your brand might sound great when ‘verbified’, it also means that others can easily be seen to do what you do, because it’s cheapened and dumbed down. We can ‘Hoover’ even with a ten-dollar vacuum cleaner that’ll last five minutes.
We believe that industries like the lifting sector are much more complex than that. Sure, we have simple products that can be replicated in a fabrication setup, but more often in our business, it’s the ability to apply experience and expertise in the design and fabrication of a lifting solution that allows us to create and offer value. It’s not like the good old days where someone could fabricate a lifter and if it survived a proof test, it would be OK. Our products are designed and fabricated for their specific application by people that are certified to be in those jobs.
What suppliers can do, is organise a portfolio of products into families that each represent solutions, not brands. Don’t try to create a household name, create something identifiable as a pathway to answers to material handling or other challenges. There’s a difference. A load rotation family, for example, might be geared toward helping users identify solutions like Posi-Turners that not only lift products but also rotate them. If a customer has a 40ft, 40t bridge section with an off centre of gravity, and they need to lift and rotate it 180deg, they know we’re likely to have the solution for that.
Today, people do ask for a (Caldwell) Rig-Release and Posi-Turner when they really mean remote, non-releasing hook or a tool that turns a load, but this wasn’t the result of branding strategy, it was because of generations of work presenting a company as a solutions provider.
In other words, I don’t know what I need but I know this company can help me. Many of our jobs aren’t necessarily based on the hundreds of products we offer but often start with a blank sheet of paper where we create a bespoke application for their lifting challenge.
In conclusion, if you want to grow a manufacturing, solutions-based business, you’ve got to authentically help people and eventually you’ll be recognised as someone that does as much. There are no short cuts.
This isn’t potato chips, it’s products that directly relate to the safety of the users, and those users need to know there is more than just branding in play, but solutions with substance.
It’s a slow process, therefore, not a marketing pivot. It’s about solutions, not branding. In lifting, it’s not just about grabbing a product off the shelf but knowing that what you’re grabbing is the right product. You can try to be known for spreader beams if you want, but do you mean simple, 1t capacity beams or 500t capacity, engineered solutions with custom pick points, designed for high duty cycles in the aerospace industry? Same with lifters: this word refers to the act of lifting but what about the environment, temperature, duty cycle, design factors, and so on?
You can’t tick all boxes because of a brand. You can’t lift a load with a logo, remember.
Is your marketing strategy on target?