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Author: Ross Sturley – CIMCIG Committee Member (@rosssturley)

It has been suggested that brands don’t matter much in construction. What matters is cost and timescale, everything else is being procured out of existence.

However this risks misunderstanding the nature of brands. A brand is not a glossy logo and a snappy strapline. A brand, as one of my old friends says, “is a philosophy of being”. It encapsulates what you deliver and how you package it. It explains what sets you apart from the rest. And it gives you the most crucial marketing weapon: differentiation.

Differentiation is at the heart of branding. Setting yourself apart from the competition by communicating why you are different, and why your product or service is unique, allows you to charge a premium. This allows you to make a larger margin than your competitor, which in turn allows you to invest more, grow faster, and generally outperform them on a continuing basis. This is what marketers term ‘sustainable competitive advantage’.GleniganNewsletter_CIMCIG_Jul-14

Differentiation is about expressing your USP – your unique selling point. It’s the ‘unique’ that really matters here. When asked what it is that sets their company apart from others, many construction leaders say it’s their people. But having ‘great people’ isn’t unique. You need to have people who do something no competitor can manage. What is it in your teams’ skills base that is unique? That is the source of the differentiation.

This philosophy of being is about living it. Your brand has values – what are they? Your staff need to bear them out every day, in everything they do. When they meet or talk to your customers, they need to be the living personification of your brand values. Are you clever, lively, challenging? If so, then your team need to be seen to be.

With many companies moving their communications back up through the gears as the economy recovers, and considering sprucing up their corporate ID, it’s worth keeping the basics of branding at the forefront of marketing minds.

The combination of focused differentiation and living values is what brands are all about, and the techniques described here are alive and well in most sectors of the global economy. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t work in UK construction. What doesn’t work is the ‘colouring-in’ approach, where brand management is a colour choice and a stationery order. That really doesn’t matter much anymore.

Do you think UK construction companies understand what makes a successful brand or does the ‘colouring in’ cliché still dominate opinion? Get in touch with your views on our social media channels via the icons at the top of the screen. 

Ross Sturley is principal at Chart Lane, a strategic communications company specialising in construction, property and regeneration, and a committee member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing Construction Industry Group.

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