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COMMENT AND OPINION | John Robinson


JOHN ROBINSON OPINION


Consumers are more aware of brands and more educated about companies these days, but what challenges does this bring retailers? John Robinson, marketing manager at Blanco, offers his thoughts on the matter


W Brand-focused


consumers


e all know that branding and brand values have become more and more important and more influential in purchasing decisions and repeat purchases over the past decade. Communication has become easier, more personalised, targeted and always ‘on’ as channels and media innovations


have multiplied.


When the Joneses are shown round the Smiths’ new kitchen, it’s reasonable to assume the


components are named by brand


The fashion, retail, technology and automotive industry, arguably, were the pioneers, so how brand- focused is the kitchen and bathroom consumer today and how can manufacturers help the retailer optimise opportunities here? We all have access to relevant consumer insight, especially in sales and marketing, but we all still have to make assumptions about the specifics. An example – how long does a consumer spend looking at appliances and bits and bobs for their new or planned kitchen renovation or refurb? We do know that more time spent at home in the past year has meant more time looking at ‘things’ and interacting with brands in general; of course, only for those lucky ones who have had the luxury of time. Whereas the homeowner may have known what brand of oven or fridge they desire, would they think of sinks, taps and all other component parts of the kitchen in the same way? The answer is probably yes now that, a) they have been captive at their screens, and b) products like hot water and smart taps have hit the TV and multi-media channels in a big way.


They’ve also been using their kitchens more and know what annoys them about both functionality and looks! It’s safe to assume that the consumer is now far more involved with the satellite brands that orbit the core kitchen retail and manufacturer brands. We’ve certainly seen this for ourselves with web, social traffic and enquiries increasing twofold since before the first lockdown.


Awareness and aspirations The real question, the answer to which will play out over time, is – do consumers still listen without question to what the retailer wants to sell them in their ‘complete’ kitchen or do they now go in requesting their chosen named brands? Are end users becoming more demanding of retailers to offer those brands that they have engaged with directly?


I am talking about the brands and products that they have spent time researching, discovered an affinity with, and have invested in the aspiration that they match their own ethos and lifestyle? It would make sense that this is the


case and, least anecdotally. So how can a manufacturer help when a retailer wants


to sell their products to the new brand-conscious consumer? Consumer marketing, including digital PR, online content and social media, are obviously key as are POS and functional displays, training, showroom experience, collateral outlining what the brand stands for and partnerships with said brands the list goes on. When consumers start to take note of manufacturer brands – of products traditionally seen as part of the kitchen or bathroom package – it’s the forward-thinking retailers that will embrace and run with it. After all, we all hear about ‘famous’ brands without even trying, and what makes us buy their products? Exposure to their messaging and, an area the industry knows all too well, customer referrals. There is nothing quite like keeping up with the Joneses to bring in new business. When the Joneses are shown round the Smiths’


new kitchen, it’s reasonable to assume the components are named by brand, by range name, by function and lifestyle benefit.


The car industry has relied on this awareness of brand, model, and specification for their entire existence. There is no reason then, why the kitchen sink, tap, extractor and other component products that complete the dream kitchen should be any different.


22 · August 2021 certainly, we are hearing this at


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