Is Design the New Differentiator?
Window and door manufacturers touted R-5 efficiency, HVHZ impact resistance and a host of other performance attributes at last week's International Builders' Show. Walking the floor and talking to exhibitors, however, I sensed an increasing emphasis on design issues. In talking to exhibitors, styles and colors seemed to trump Energy Star. I think I heard more people say things like "streamlined" and "sleek" more than I did "low maintenance."
I don't want to imply that all those performance features are decreasing in importance. What I suspect might be happening, however, is fewer companies see performance numbers as a good way to differentiate themselves and/or their products. Even claims about green and sustainability in various booths seemed less prevalant than at previous shows. Perhaps, again, it is because more companies see meeting such demands as part of the ante to compete, rather than a selling point in themselves.
Our poll question this week is designed to test my theory. Is your company talking more about style and design? Do you see better potential for differentiating your company? I'd like you to vote, but more importantly, let me hear from you. Email me or post a comment below and let me know if the balance has changed in your product development and/or marketing efforts.
Survey Results as of 01/25/2011:
How does your company differentiate its product lines?
We have always emphasized performance and we still do.
We talk about performance, but style and design options play an increasingly important role.
We offer high performance, but emphasis has always been on style and design over performance numbers
It's difficult to draw conclusions from this week's poll result. The largest percentage of respondents said they remain focused on performance, but the fact that more than a third of you indicate that style and design options play an increasingly important role, I think, is significant.
The comment shared by Gilkey Window's Jerry Hartman echoes comments I've heard from a number of companies involved in the replacement window business. I also received emails from a few other people that my "takeaway" from IBS seemed "on the mark."
For some, such a change may be a challenge. If you've been selling energy efficiency, it isn't easy to turn around and start selling style. But it can be rewarding. Personally I think people will pay more for things they want than things they need. That should provide new opportunities for many.