The Nike “Swoosh” is one of the most recognizable brand symbols
in the world. The instant recognition that the company’s logo
receives is the result of more than a billion-dollar effort to
create brand awareness.
It’s safe to say that even the largest of plumbing/decorative
hardware showrooms does not have the resources or inclination to
mirror Nike’s branding efforts. However, to view branding as simply
name or logo recognition is to misunderstand the meaning of
branding and its applicability to decorative plumbing and hardware
When you think of the Nike Swoosh, what comes to mind? It’s not
only about sneakers and sporting goods.
Too often, showrooms believe that branding involves having the
most products, the newest products or a particular product line.
But, as the Nike example illustrates, showroom branding is not only
about faucets and fixtures. Showroom branding requires creating an
emotional attachment with customers. It encompasses all facets of a
showroom’s operation including products, services, staff knowledge
and attitude, technologies, appearances and processes.
Recognize that you can’t expect to wake up tomorrow and say,
“Today, I’m going to brand my showroom.”
Branding is a long-term, cumulative process. Marketing,
advertising and public relations activities will help attract
customers to showrooms. The interaction that customers experience
once they arrive determines whether they’ll return. That’s one
reason why national companies with financial and human resources
many times greater than those of independent showroom operators
have not captured a lion’s share of our market. For the same
reason, Internet retailing has not as yet lived up to
Customers are not na’ve.
Despite what advertisements or marketing campaigns may proclaim,
today’s fickle customers recognize when their needs are not met and
when the problems they face are not addressed. Create showroom
brand awareness by understanding, meeting and then exceeding
At Bath and Beyond, we promise an experience that’s different or
better than the competition’s. We brand by delivering on that
promise consistently and promoting that message effectively to the
right target markets. We capitalize on co-op marketing and
advertising dollars, and ask our manufacturers for co-op support.
We aggressively cater to the media responding to radio, newspaper
and industry trade publication requests and look for media
opportunities. Our visibility in the media is not a happenstance.
It’s the result of a strategic effort to effectively brand our
Similarly, you can’t brand a showroom without a well-trained
staff. The salespeople on the front lines are the driving force of
an overall, effective branding effort.
Showroom operators need to teach sales staff to ask the right
questions to determine the nature of a customer’s project
(remodeling, replacement, new construction, etc.); if they’re using
an architect, designer or contractor; the budget available; the
customer’s lifestyle; what’s most important and why they’re
undertaking the project, and who will perform the installation.
Train your sales professionals to greet and question all
customers in a manner that enables them to build relationships and
set the stage for trust-building. Sales staffs need to understand
why a customer likes a particular product (as opposed to another)
in order to confirm a selection or provide alternatives that may be
better suited to meet goals, budget and individual preferences.
Asking the right questions enables sales professionals to
understand those preferences. With this knowledge, they’re in a
prime position to up-sell and make recommendations that enable them
to move beyond being a simple order taker and become a trusted
Sales staff training is essential to the showroom branding
process, and should include a mix of technical knowledge and sales
skills. The challenge faced by many entrepreneurial showroom owners
is that time for training is limited and tools that combine
technical data with salesmanship are virtually nonexistent.
Training provided by DPHA and other professional trade
organizations must be complemented by a committed effort to offer
training and professional development opportunities to every member
of the staff.
Capitalize on you
Showroom branding also requires an understanding of your position
in the market, your unique value and your ability to communicate a
consistent message and constantly deliver on the promises you
To understand your position in the marketplace, first determine
what’s valuable about your company. Conduct customer surveys. Hold
focus groups to determine your unique assets. Take the time to
visit with long-term customers to determine what they expect from
you? How well do you deliver on the promises made?
How do you differentiate yourself from the competition?
The answers you receive to these questions form the basis for
identifying and communicating a consistent and targeted
My showroom, for example, operates under the premise that we’ll
promise a lot and deliver even more. Our marketing and advertising
pieces proclaim, “It’s worth the trip.” We’ve modified the
nomenclature throughout the years, but this message has remained
consistent. We want customers to come to our showroom with an
expectation that they’ll receive a positive experience they won’t
forget. We then deliver on that promise by offering a showroom that
looks and feels different from any other they’re likely to
Our showroom offers an array of colors, textures and images that
are not seen elsewhere. We’re in the plumbing businessso water
flows freely in our showroom. We offer a m’lange of
textures, colors and images to differentiate ourselves from others
and to make good on our advertising promises that we’re a “one-stop
Other successful showrooms take a similar approach. Snyder
Diamond in southern California and Union Hardware in Washington,
DC, as just two examples, have capitalized on their longevity in
their respective markets to effectively brand themselves as a
Snyder Diamond carries selected inventory that caters to its
customer’s needs, and has made the decision to offer a complete
service, including installation. Price becomes less of an issue
when customers know that the products they purchase will be
installed correctly; similarly, an architect, designer or builder
only has to be burned once to understand the value of proper
Another effective branding tool used by successful showrooms is
to offer their own private line of fixtures and products. When your
showroom’s name is on a product, customers can’t help but believe
that you’ll stand behind it.
Creating a private label for different products is not
difficult. Many manufacturers are ready, willing and able to work
with showrooms to develop private label products that meet
certification and code requirements.
A flexible mindset
It’s important to remember, when it comes to showroom branding,
that no one individual approach is universally applicable.
An important key, of course, is to recognize that many kitchen
and bath showrooms miss opportunities to capitalize on brand value
because they’re too involved in other daily operations. But, once
you make the commitment to brand your showroom, your approach can
If you cater to the design trades, leverage your brand equity by
sponsoring seminars, showcasing new products and developing case
histories of successful project collaborations with design
professionals. Publish a quarterly newsletter or news advisory.
Issue news releases monthly, not only to the trade press, but to
clients and prospects as well.
News releases are one of the most cost-effective mediums you can
use to create brand awareness in a niche market such as decorative
plumbing and hardware. The trades will listen because they want and
need the information you can provide. They’ll be receptive to the
invitations you extend because you’re helping them to improve the
service they provide to their customers.
Consistently invest in the appearance of your showroom. Upgrade
displays and don’t necessarily use displays that are provided by
manufacturers at no charge simply because of their price.
Determine, instead, if they’re consistent with the image that you
want your showroom to project. Provide the proper training that
staff members need to succeed. Reinforce daily with everyone in
your organization the brand your firm is striving to project and
promote. Sales staffs need to understand, accept and appreciate the
brand that the showroom is developing and has earned.
Quite often, branding efforts fall short because the right
market is not targeted, the wrong mediums are used or the showroom
makes promises that it cannot follow through on. Ads – like those
in The Yellow Pages, for example are placed year after year without
checking to see if there’s a return on the investment.
Effective branding is dependent upon executing consistently,
exceeding expectations and marketing the value-added services that
differentiate your showroom from the competition’s. Ultimately,
every showroom is in a position to create an indelible brand. It’s
up to you to decide how to successfully brand your showroom.
All of us can learn lessons from Nike. The most important one:
“Just Do It.”