The Real American Hardwood Coalition (RAHC) is making crucial progress on efforts to establish a united marketing strategy for the American hardwood industry. The RAHC met at the Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen’s Association meeting in February and discussed recent accomplishments and upcoming action.
To date, the RAHC has generated over $238,000 from 25 industry associations. Those dollars are funding the first phase of our project, research and brand development. Professional companies are under contract to provide market research and a brand messaging development.
There have been questions about the need for research. For in the industry, the answers seem obvious. In order to properly address the issue…the decline of domestic hardwood use and understanding of the benefits of using our products…we need to gather direct feedback from the consumers. Buyer decisions are fluid and can (and do) change rapidly. In order to understand how to strategically promote our products effectively, we need to know what consumers and those who influence consumers are thinking TODAY.
To assess consumer attitudes, two focus groups were held in late January and early February. A focus group is a strategically selected group of diverse people assembled to participate in a guided discussion about a topic prior to the initial launching campaign of that specific topic. In our case, hardwood promotion, we talked to two types of people at each location. The first consisted of consumers that had performed major renovations in their homes within the last year. The second was a group of architects, contractors, and designers. Online polling of additional prosumers and consumers are being planned, as well as phone interviews with industry leaders to round out the research process.
A series of questions by a highly qualified facilitator led to dialogue about home renovations, materials, sourcing, forest products, sustainability and much more. Some key findings of the focus groups include:
- Perform most of the research themselves on their renovation projects. They rely on a variety of different resources; for instance, popular online shopping sites, television shows, local home improvement stores and word of mouth;
- Want a “quick and now” answer for their renovations, often based on current trends;
- Decisions are most often budget-driven;
- View hardwood products, including floors and cabinets as high-end luxury items;
- For the most part, do not understand the terms sustainability and environmentally friendly;
- Misinterpret characteristics associated with the forest products industry.
Architects, Builders and Designers:
- Generally not the influencer, customers know what they want;
- Typically forced to stay within a strict budget;
- Believe home improvement television shows do not present realistic costs and time estimates;
- Agree most popular home renovations are kitchens, bathrooms, and flooring;
- Have numerous sources for their raw materials and no allegiance to products Made in America.
Much of this information is already well known by hardwood insiders, but there were data points that were unexpected. These will help us as we move into our second phase, brand development.
On April 1, marketing professionals from various segments of the industry will gather to work to develop a brand statement that can be adapted and incorporated by associations and businesses alike, creating a common message that runs throughout multiple promotion platforms and campaigns.
Our marketing consultants will also develop a go-to-market playbook which will consist of many ways companies and associations can engage…with the average financial obligation attached to each option. At that point, RAHC can begin to consider where we start and how funding needs will be addressed.
RAHC members are attending industry/association meetings throughout the year. Please look for these opportunities to connect with those association executives that are actively engaged. And if you are interested in someone from the RAHC participating in one of your meetings, please reach out!!
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