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How to build loyalty with architects and designers

Dec 13, 2018 DesignBUILD News

Designers are a loyal breed. When it comes to the manufacturers that architects and designers use, they tend to stick solid to the same brands.

Often that influence begins when they are students working on their first projects, learning which products and brands they like and forming a sense of loyalty from there.

The Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast raised this point recently, with Virginia Tech University’s Professor and Interior Designer, Matt Wagner pointing out that architects and interior designers often specify products that were introduced to them during their studies.

While he was in graduate school, Matt worked with certain products on a daily basis such as an aluminium cladding from Alucobond which he used on a solar decathlon house project. After graduation, he would often suggest the same cladding despite there being comparable competitor products available, because he preferred to work with the brand he already knew and trusted.

So what is the key to capturing the attention of design students and getting them to commit to a product for the long term?

Which products are continually specified in projects and why?

To begin with, it is important to note the most commonly used brands and products in design and understand the reasons behind their success.

In the Arch Daily 15 Most Popular Architectural Materials and Products of 2017, there were several products that ranked highly purely because they were new, innovative and trending. The list of products included Perforated Polymer Concrete Panels for Ventilated Facades, Illumesh (LEDs for the facade of buildings) and 3D-shaped Fibre Cement Facade Material.

But what about the more common products? Consider porcelain tiles, for example. MaxFine Iron and Trax Collections were rated above all other types of porcelain tiles, but why? While their appearance was on trend and on par with other brands, the MaxFine range was colour resistant to light, frost proof, had A1 fire resistance, flexion and deep abrasion resistant and stains could easily be removed by hot running water. Their strength and low maintenance made them desirable.

Exterior glazing is another common fixture in design and ClearShade for Clerestories and Facades by Panelite stood out in the Arch Daily list. This is because it possessed a 75% improvement in solar heat gain control over standard insulating glass units. Radiation being blocked out by glazing is measured by a Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, which provides a rating between 0 and 1 where the lower the number means the less radiation is piercing through. Panelite’s product can be as low as 0.07 at midday.

What tactics do major brands use for creating loyalty?

Marketers understand the importance of ‘starting young’ by targeting students and the importance of creating a buzz in social media and the broader online marketplace.

Matt pointed to 3form, a manufacturer of award-winning, eco-friendly and architectural hardware solutions. It has a robust social media presence and aggressively targets young designers. Their products are simple and easy to use, so much so that Matt had to ban their use in class because he felt their approach stifled his students’ creativity.

In essence, 3form are doing their job too well but Matt wanted students to think independently rather than use products that did all the work for them.

The success of 3form comes from it’s ‘easy to use’ Varia process; it’s cool brand, their strong social media following (in excess of 8.5k followers on Facebook) and the use of innovative processes using interesting, ecoresin based materials.

The success of 3form brand is not purely digital based, with ‘old school’ samples readily available in the Virginia Tech University’s art and architecture library.

Companies also use sponsorship deals with learning institutions to attract professionals early. At Virginia Tech, for example, Haworth and Dirtt are both sponsors of Matt’s studio and students get hands-on experience with their products for their design projects.

What do professionals look for when specifying products?

So if designers and architects don’t have all their product needs ‘rusted-on’ from their student days, what is the best way to reach them?

While there are many ‘how to’ guides companies use to market their products, a recurring theme is the importance of creating a point of difference. Like the tile and glazing products mentioned earlier, it’s important to make the point of difference in your product clear in all of your marketing efforts.

With so much digital noise out there as well,  a two-way conversation is suggested to engender trust. Students are more likely to be receptive to a product if they have easy access to the manufacturer in order to ask questions about its materials and best use.

Exhibiting at DesignBUILD

Working with architecture and design faculties at local universities, University of New South Wales and the University of Technology Sydney, DesignBUILD engages the rising talent in our industry whilst they are at their most receptive. As one of the platforms used by students to learn about products and materials, DesignBUILD offers you the chance to capture customer loyal from an early stage. Contact the team to find out more about the opportunities to meet face-to-face with this vibrant audience.

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