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How Manufacturers Can Build a Legacy Brand for a Competitive Advantage

The new year is a great time to start looking at your company’s brand and the story you’re telling online. Does your building materials brand stand out from the competition? In this episode, we look at how not one, but two, great building materials brands are setting up their own long-term legacy.

Photo of Zach Williams
Photo of Beth PopNikolov
by Zach Williams and Beth PopNikolov

More About This Podcast

The Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast helps industry professionals find better ways to grow leads, sales and outperform the competition. It’s designed to give insights on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.

This week’s guest, Heather Bowman, is the Director of Marketing at Key-Link Fencing & Railing and Superior Plastic Products. Both are fencing and railing brands built for long-term success, and we got the full story from Heather on how brands can set themselves up in the same way.

Starting a Solid Brand

We talk a lot about brand marketing on this podcast, but what really became clear during this conversation is that a brand is so much more than your logo or product or Facebook page activity.

Jeff Bezos is quoted as saying: “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” And a few years ago, leadership at Key-Link (part of the Superior Plastic Products family) was at a crossroads with both of their brands.

“They were trying to decide what is next for both of these brands,” explains Heather Bowman, who joined the team just two years ago, when the companies were going through this stage of questioning. Superior and Key-Link wanted to build long-term success into the brands, but that meant a solid plan for sustainable growth was needed.

“Both of the brands are family-owned companies, that can be around for generations, [so] what are we going to need to do in order to continue to grow in a healthy way and retain employees, attract and recruit people who will be able to get us to the next level?” explains Heather.

The two brands, Superior and Key-Link, work with distributors and dealers, but they sell decking, fencing and railing products to a wide audience, including homeowner customers and other markets down the channel. “Our goal in sales and marketing is to have relationships with everybody in the channel. We are really working to strengthen those partnerships,” says Heather.

SBMM 150 How to build a brand legacy 2

That work was already underway when Heather joined the team. “So as a leadership team, they started to define why we do what we do, our values and our culture,” she explains.

The products were already known in the industry, and both Key-Link and Superior are established brands, “so it was really just beginning to craft the communication and the messaging and define the space that we wanted to grow and lead the company in the next phase of its life,” says Heather.

It’s easier said than done, of course, but the Key-Link and Superior leadership were committed to seeing the brand development project through. That meant buy-in from all departments and teams.

How To Refine Your Brand Story

For an established organization, going through the process of brand development takes some soul-searching and quite a bit of leg work. “I think the first step was that leadership clarified who we were, so they defined our why. Why do we get up every morning? Well, for our brand, it's to improve people's lives,” says Heather.

Part of brand development meant telling that story of “why,” so they broke that down into a few key points:

  • “We can create a product that makes a beautiful space for people to live in, and we know that that brings health and happiness if you can be outside and be with your friends,” says Heather.
  • The company also cares about its team members and wanted to include that part of the brand story. “We know that paying fair wages improves people's lives; it improves the community,” says Heather.
  • Key-Link and Superior also wanted to grow its influence outside of the construction industry: “We believe 1,000% that small businesses, medium-sized businesses, I mean, truly any business can influence a community for good, and we want to be a part of that,” explains Heather.

Nailing down those company values is a crucial step for any marketing team — those values become a part of the brand story. But before that story is told, marketing teams need to set standards around how the story is told and who the story is for.

“We knew who we sought to serve,” says Heather. “We took a similar process, but for each brand, it had a little bit of a different position in the marketplace, so who we sought to serve was a little bit different for each of them. Obviously, the color and the messaging is a little different too, but they both were foundationally built on the why we do what we do as a company and the value and the culture.”

From the logos to the color palette to the font, the new brand “personalities” for Key-Link and Superior took shape. The marketing team paid close attention to every detail. “Whether that be the thickness of the font or some of the design pieces of the icons are all done with intention,” says Heather.

The next step, after launching the new brands, was to stay consistent in telling the story. “I think that's what makes a strong brand, when you have a consistent message and it is consistent across all of your channels,” says Heather.

“What we're working on right now, which is just going to all of our dealers and auditing websites and that tedious work to make sure that anybody that we sell to has their website with our new logos, has new photography. So to me, that's challenging, because it's important work, but it's a little tedious,” she explains.

Leveraging Your Fresh New Brand

The work is tedious, but Heather and the marketing team have been highly committed. To build community with customers and introduce the newly updated brand, Key-Link took their storytelling show on the road and invited their top clients to join them.

“Part of what we've also been doing over the past year is inviting them on plant tours, because not only did we update the marketing of our brand, but we implemented some operational improvements,” says Heather. “So we want to show, back to what I mentioned originally, that we have a whole story of how we're moving our company forward, not just new colors and a new logo.”

For Key-Link, “moving the company forward” means having video libraries and installation guides for customers, who are responding enthusiastically to these new digital resources.

“So, those things I think are tangible ROIs where we're hearing back from our customers saying this is exactly what you guys need to be doing in order to sell more with us, to improve our partnership and ... to grow in the future,” says Heather.

Key-Link’s new brand was officially rolled out in November 2020, and Superior’s in March 2021 — when many homeowners started making improvements and demanding remodeling projects. “And we know the market isn't always going to be as hot as it right now, so we're just continuing to put ourselves in a place for continued growth,” says Heather.

What does continued growth look like for an already successful brand family? “I think technology is something that we're continuously looking at,” says Heather. “Not the homeowner necessarily, but our distributors [and] dealers. Is there new technology that we can get them, so if we have a product update, we can get it to them through a digital exchange?”

It’s customer-centric questions like these that make a good brand great, and why we can expect to see more great work from Key-Link and Superior in the coming years.

Want Even More Insight?

“Building a great brand” isn’t just something tech startups or creative businesses have to think about. Your brand is a valuable framework that allows you to tell your company’s story, and it ultimately supports the way that you connect with customers.

“The real key to creating a brand that will last is one that is linked to core values, linked to strategic initiatives, versus just, ‘Oh, this looks pretty, or I like this today, this is on-trend, so let's move the brand in that direction.’ It really has to be linked to something that is real and authentic,” says Heather.

You can learn more about the Superior Plastic Products and Key-Link Fencing and Railing brands by visiting them online.

Does your brand tell the story you’re intending? Listen to the full episode for more ideas and strategies for your brand’s success.

Or get in touch with us here at Venveo to get started on telling a better story in 2022.