The Most Important Brand

September 29, 2008

The Most Important Brand
By Matt Michel, Comanche Marketing

If the actual products, such as faucets and condensing units, are little more than parts in an installed plumbing or air conditioning system, what’s the most important brand in the system? 

With air conditioning, the Copeland, Tecumseh, and Bristol marketing departments could make a persuasive case that the most important brand is the one on the compressor.  After all, it is the “heart” of an air conditioning system. 

The marketing departments of the condensing unit manufacturers would probably disagree.  Even though different manufacturers may use the same brand of compressor, the same brand of refrigerant metering device, the same brands of contactors and relays, and use the same brand of machine tool to manufacture the coils, the marketing departments will claim the products differ. 

They’re right.  The products do differ.  The wrappers differ.  The refrigeration circuitry differs.  The wiring harnesses differ.  The footprints differ.  The acoustics differ. 

And no matter how many parts are similar, the way each manufacturer brings them altogether is different.  The parts are merely components.  The condensing unit is the finished product.

Frankly, the greatest differences are often beyond the box.  The differences lie in the manufacturer sales force, marketing and training support, incentive trips, ease of doing business, and distribution.

These are important differences for contractors.  They do not matter to consumers.  Consumers care about the quality of the installed system.  This is work performed by the contractor.  This is the design of the system, the quality of the installation, the reliability of the contractor, and the attitude and level of support from the contractor’s staff.

To the contractor, the condensing unit is a component, part of a system that includes a furnace/air handler, IAQ components, refrigerant lines, a supply air duct system, a return air duct system, grilles, registers, diffusers, and more.  The installed system is the true finished product.

The box brand matters most to the contractor.  The contractor’s brand matters most to the consumer.

Upside Down
Ironically, many contractors get it backwards.  They act like the box brand matters more than the contractor’s brand.  They think the brand on the box matters more than the brand on the truck.  Some even make the box brand the biggest brand on the truck! 

These contractors persuade the consumer that a box brand, a component brand, matters most.  When they do this, the contractor subordinates his brand, lessening its value.

“Dealer” Status Lacks “Franchise” Status
When I was in the franchising game, I used to explain the difference between franchising as follows…

• Reselling a condensing unit and coil is like going out on a date.

• Becoming a “factory authorized dealer” is like going steady.  Breaking up may be hard to do, but it’s a snap legally.  The only ramifications are hard feelings.

• Joining an alliance with a year long or longer contract is like being engaged.  You can get out of the relationship, but don’t expect to get the (investment in the) ring returned.

• Becoming a franchisee is marriage.  Divorce is painful and expensive.

Even though car dealers have the protection of a franchise agreement, they still try to stand apart from other car dealers.  Contractors who lack similar protections, not only fail to stand apart, they often try to blend in by adhering to the box brand’s identification and marketing programs.


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