In their influential book Groundswell, authors Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff state “your brand is whatever your customers say it is.” So, in spite of our efforts to advertise, promote and communicate the superiority of our products and services, ultimately the customer’s perception is what counts.
What is this brand stuff all about, and why does it matter in our industry?
Prior to returning to the rotomolding industry in late 2012, I spent four years as Marketing Director with a medium-sized, second generation steel company. Much of my time was spent “re-branding” the business from what was considered a well-kept secret to a highly visible, leading voice in the industry – no small task given the highly commoditized nature of steel.
As I re-entered the roto realm, I noticed a parallel challenge with that of my previous stint in steel: the rotational molding industry remains a well-kept secret, and still has a ways to go before it differentiates itself in the eyes of the Design Engineer.
Seeking a broader perspective relative to our industry, I’ve asked friends, family members and anyone with a relevant opinion to describe their perceptions of the rotational molding brand. In my highly unscientific and statistically insignificant study, here’s some of what I discovered:
- The vast majority have never heard of rotational molding.
- Many of those who claimed to have heard of rotational molding confused it with something else (most often injection and blow molding).
- One responder (an engineer for a global HVAC manufacturer) said “it’s for big, cheap, low-volume parts, right?”
- Another responder had a family member employed at a large, Ohio-based manufacturer utilizing rotational molding, and associated the process with “plastic toys and kids’ playground equipment.”
The point here isn’t to be critical of our industry, but rather to emphasize the opportunity to more effectively brand ourselves; to build a perception that creates more appeal to target audiences (i.e. Design Engineers, OEM’s, etc.), and generates growth opportunity for all of us.
How do we collectively and more effectively build our brand?
The most effective and sustainable branding initiatives involve an inside-out process. It’s first necessary to start internally, ensuring we’re all marching in lock-step before communicating our advantages and appeal to an external audience.
Some ways in which we, as an industry, can collaborate to optimize our brand-building effectiveness:
- Align our internal audience by ensuring a shared understanding of the benefits of rotational molding;
- Clearly define what we do better than any other manufacturing process (develop go-to facts, testimonials, endorsements, etc. which establish our position relative to other processes);
- Develop and articulate messages that describe these advantages in a value-added context (shared vernacular and taglines we can all use when preaching the gospel of roto);
- Communicate messages consistently and concisely (at conferences, workshops, regional meetings, on websites, in articles, etc.);
- Position messages relative to sustainable growth opportunity (determine where and to whom these messages should be delivered and deploy resources accordingly);
- Undertake the responsibility to act as industry brand ambassadors (when we band together, we brand together!).
In future posts, we’ll discuss ways in which we can improve industry brand perception by positioning our message relative to external audiences. In the meantime, by focusing our immediate energies on internal alignment, we’ll ultimately be more effective shifting external perceptions of our industry away from “big, cheap, low-volume parts” to the unparalleled awesomeness that is rotational molding.
Tom Innis is Commercial Director for Polimeros USA, a Cleveland, Ohio-based provider of plastic materials for the rotational molding industry. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and La Universidad Ibero-Americana in Mexico City, Tom is a fluent speaker of Spanish and Portuguese, and has given technical and market-focused presentations at numerous international conferences. Throughout his career, Tom has directed new business development initiatives, led successful brand-building campaigns, built self-directed, high-performing teams, and developed global manufacturing alliances. A native of Madison, Wisconsin, Tom currently resides with his family in the Northeast Ohio community of Chagrin Falls.
The ARM Blog is written by a variety of leaders in the rotational molding industry. We encourage you to share your input in the comment section. If you’re interested in writing a post for the blog, email ARM staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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