Your brand is much more than a logo and a slogan.  

It’s the unique features, benefits, values, history, people, personality and attitude that contribute to the excellence of your products. Even more, each of your product brands carries its own reputation among your clients; and collectively, they form the brand reputation of your company. Protecting and advancing the reputation of your corporate and product brands is perhaps the most important driving factor for your future growth.

If your product is to become the standard for an architectural firm, your brand must be top of mind among the professional staff—the natural choice because of the sterling reputation of your brand. Cadillac is Cadillac and Apple is Apple because of their reputations as standards of excellence, innovation and consistent performance. Your brand should aspire to gain a similar reputation within architectural firms so that your products become the standard of comparison for design, functionality, reliability and dependable quality. 

To achieve this status, however, you must recognize a sometimes difficult truth: 

You cannot create the reputation of your brand. 

Advertising and brochures are great vehicles for communicating your brand messages, but they can’t create the reputation of your brand. That responsibility is in the hands of your architecture and design clients and their customers.   

Products and materials that perform consistently well, are delivered on time, are specified accurately and meet durability standards can generate a top-notch reputation for your organization in the eyes of architects and designers and can carry you toward becoming the commercial architectural firm standard.  

Conversely, products that fail to meet the architectural pro’s expectations—surface materials that prove to be difficult to clean, walkways that don’t hold up to office building traffic, technology that becomes cumbersome or glitchy in the commercial arena—can damage your reputation, requiring extensive efforts to recover. 

Consequently, it’s important to measure the levels of satisfaction with your brand through conversations between your reps and architects and through ratings and reviews from users of your installed products. Use feedback from these interaction opportunities to improve your product but also to create project profiles, case studies and client testimonials (which we’ll discuss at greater length shortly) that serve as third-party endorsements of your company’s abilities and offerings.  They  all work together to promote your brand’s reputation from the customer’s standpoint. 

Position your brand for the commercial market. 

Well before your product can become the firm standard, an architect or designer must feel confident that it’s ready for the commercial market, especially if your company is new to this space or if you are introducing a new product brand. 

The product first and foremost should align with the architect’s aspirations and goals. If you can demonstrate ways in which your product can be employed creatively and/or aesthetically, how it aligns with contemporary design trends and principles, how it can bolster the architect’s own brand and how it can help ensure the satisfaction of the building owner, strengthening the architect’s reputation, you can earn a position that significantly differentiates you from competitors. 

Of course, to position your products ahead of those from competitors, you must understand your competitors. Especially if you’re just entering the commercial market, you need first to identify your competitors, which may not be as simple as it seems. Longtime manufacturers are constantly adding brands to their product lines that serve new purposes and that may newly compete with yours. Additionally, new products or systems are continuously being developed. Initially you might not even recognize some of these products as your competitors, but they can disrupt your entire segment. 

Once you have identified your competitors, determine where each of them ranks in the market and which of their products have weak points that your own product resolves. This positioning information will help you develop targeted brand messaging. 

Building confidence in your brand among commercial architects should be your constant focus, and demonstrating that you understand both their vision and the market to which they bring their own originality can rapidly expand their faith in you as the firm standard. 

“Trust is built with consistency.”   

That observation by former U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee should be the byword of your branding efforts. To be the firm standard, architects have to know they can trust you, that you are a partner with products they can rely on. You can help build that trust through consistency in your communications and in your products’ quality. 

Brand consistency across your communication vehicles is an effective way to demonstrate reliability. If your marketing materials or technical documents look inconsistent, have spelling or image errors in them, or lead to broken links or outdated information, they are not going to create confidence with the architect that your product is reliable. 

To ensure consistency, many companies develop brand guidelines. Practicing consistent brand guidelines shapes the tone, voice cultural aspects and identity of your product in a way that attracts positive attention. Consistency helps your efforts to distinguish your products from others. 

The brand guidelines document defines your brand tone and voice, as well as the look and various approved adaptations of your logo, the fonts to be used in all your printed materials, acceptable online usage of the logo and other applications that relate to the literal image of your brand. Guidelines also note what not to do with your brand identity. Typical “what not to do” examples include logo variations, imagery and copy demonstrating how your brand voice should not come to life. 

With the guidelines established, apply them consistently to all your written materials, from brochures and advertising to signage, business cards, letterhead, website design and sample boxes. An architect should be able to identify a communication from your brand simply by looking at it, even before reading it.  

Your customer’s voice can call architects to attention. 

Moving an architect beyond his comfort zone and toward your brand as the firm’s standard can be a challenge. The 2023 AIA survey reported that 74% of architects surveyed relied on products used on past projects as a source of trends, up from 70% in 2019, suggesting increased risk aversion. When an architect hears from your customers how satisfied they are with your product, however, he or she is much more likely to choose your offering as a standard specification. 

Testimonials gathered in writing and/or in short videos from architects, designers and specifiers can go a long way toward helping to create a credible and positive brand image and toward influencing other architectural pros to try your product. 

Also, consider requesting testimonials from users of the installed product, from building owners who have lowered their energy bills with your technology and school staff who feel safer with your high-tech doors, to environmentalists who praise the use of your “green” concrete. 

These testimonials should address the challenges that existed, the way your product met those challenges, the results obtained and the value that you have added for the architect and the customer.  

This multi-level voice of the customer acts as a trust signal, providing architects with a clear understanding of how a product performs in commercial scenarios. 

Get out of the way of your new brand. 

While you may have a very healthy brand in one sector, such as residential structures, when you enter the commercial sector, your current brand perception may be standing in the way of your adoption into a new segment. Commercial architects may believe that you want to provide them with a residential-grade product when you actually are marketing a high-level product that can really offer a lot of value or benefit to the architect. So, a very healthy brand image elsewhere can become a negative one when transported to the commercial world. 

Often this dilemma is resolved by renaming the product for its entry into commercial applications or by retaining its well-earned brand value and simply adding a suffix or word to indicate “-Premium” or “-Professional” or simply “-Commercial.”  Then, your brand messaging and content marketing efforts can support this new entry with blog posts, social media, print materials and—in this case, preferably—a new website devoted to your brand in the commercial market. 

This is not to say that you should avoid promoting your success in other arenas. The technologies, materials and installation techniques you’ve developed all along may have great value in commercial facilities. Moreover, demonstrating that your product was the standard in one market sector may help it gain acceptance as the upcoming standard in the commercial sector. 

If your brand already has a record of success in the commercial market, assess your brand’s current health and address plans to shore up any areas that need additional marketing support. When you approach architects with a product that has proven its worth, along with appropriate messaging, they will be interested in following that brand’s growth, its market acceptance and its responsiveness to industry shifts and needs. Developing such a following can ease acceptance as the standard specification. 

Know Your Place. 

Whether a trusted and well-established brand or a new product seeking to find its place in the commercial market, your brand does not exist in a vacuum. Demonstrating where it sits within a wider portfolio helps architects ascertain its relevance and applicability. It may complement other products, be a part of a system or possibly introduce a novel solution, but providing architects with an understanding of the product’s place can create a comprehensive view of its potential roles and applications. 

A new product, moreover, can rejuvenate the entire brand and give you a chance to reinforce the full depth and breadth of your entire product portfolio. This strategy often is seen with paints and finishes, where a new formulation with greater durability or easier application, for instance, can yield a range of coatings for interior, exterior and specialized uses. This product development and marketing technique can be widely configured for offerings from wall tiles to windows. 

If you are newly entering the commercial market, it may be useful to explain to the architect where your product would fit in competitors’ portfolios with which the architect may be more familiar.  Then, deliver your unique value proposition. This type of conversation begins, “Our wall insulation is similar in quality and application to the top grade from Company X; but ours is made from sustainable sources, and it soundproofs as well—perfect for offices.” 

Your brand is the foundation of your business and your conduit to sustained success. Building a trustworthy reputation through consistency, responsiveness to the marketplace and a focus on the needs of your targeted architects can position you at the top of your product category. A healthy brand will introduce you to new ways to apply your product and new places to build your standing.