How effective brand development strategy changed the perception of Kingspan

Kingspan is one of the biggest and best known names in building and construction, and it is synonymous with one thing; top quality ‘sheds’ – big, practical, high performance buildings that wouldn’t be out of place on an industrial estate.

So when Kingspan wanted to launch a new company that delivered ‘stunning and inspirational wall and roof facades for iconic buildings’ (the antithesis of the ‘shed’) it had a serious perception issue to tackle.

Kingspan tasked B2B marketing communications specialist, IAS b2b Marketing, with devising a brand development strategy that would create the perfect positioning, creative and collateral for the new company, as well as an impactful integrated communications campaign that would completely transform the industry’s deeply embedded perceptions of Kingspan.

Architects presented the biggest challenge; this key decision making/target group is notoriously ‘snobby’ and difficult to influence.

Research into Consumer Attitudes

As part of its Brand Asset Management (BAM) process, implemented to develop the new brand positioning, IAS conducted a series of focus groups with architects to gain an in-depth understanding of their wants and needs.

This revealed that social media was becoming an extremely important communications tool and information resource for them. IAS recognised that this presented a unique opportunity for Kingspan.

The agency developed a robust process driven social media strategy that would see Kingspan’s new division take a bold leap into this largely uncharted (in B2B terms) communications universe, differentiating itself from competitors and the wider Kingspan Group, and putting the company right at the heart of its key target audience.

Kingspan is the global leader in the design and manufacture of high quality fire safe insulated roof, wall and facade systems for the construction industry. The company enjoys a very high profile within the building and construction industry and is well known for designing and manufacturing high performance building solutions for large scale building projects and innovating modern methods of construction.

Focus groups conducted at the campaign outset by IAS confirmed that Kingspan was seen as:

  • Traditional
  • Industrial
  • Trusted
  • Market leader
  • Offering high technical service competence
  • A manufacturer of insulated panels
  • A manufacturer of insulation

In 2010, Kingspan launched an ambitious plan to further develop its burgeoning business by entering the high end architectural facades market. Until then, the company had very successfully focussed on developing a first class offering that served the more ‘functional’ end of the building and construction industry.

It turned to B2B marketing communications specialist, IAS b2b Marketing, to develop a new brand and positioning for the new division, and ‘Benchmark’ was born. Both Kingspan and IAS knew that this bold new company had a challenging uphill struggle ahead of it. To be a success, Benchmark would need to shake off the deep routed perceptions that the notoriously ‘snobby’ architectural industry held about Kingspan companies (functional, practical, ‘sheds’).

Focus groups conducted as part of the BAM process had shown that the architectural community was a big advocate of social media; they like to communicate and investigate using SM platforms.

This presented an excellent opportunity for Benchmark. SM was a largely uncharted territory for B2B brand owners, who are unsure of how to utilise it properly in a business context. This gave Benchmark a virtually competitor free environment to communicate and build relationships with architects, and create a brand perception that reflected its ‘aspirational’ and ‘cutting edge’ (desired) positioning.

Working as part of an integrated marketing campaign, IAS used its eight-stage process to develop a robust social media strategy for Benchmark. [See accompanying image]

First, IAS conducted and in-depth analysis of the SM landscape and the opportunity it presented:

  • It researched architects behaviour, popular communities and the types of conversations they are engaging in/topics they are interested in
  • Identified where the Kingspan brand was already being talked about and how
  • Analysed competitors, their social media activity and relative success
  • Reviewed the style, type and tone of communication that worked/didn’t work with architects
  • Identified channels, forums and groups that offered the best opportunity to engage architects

Next IAS conducted a planning workshop to map out:

  • Strategic objectives
  • Activity focus
  • Desired outcomes
  • Strategic messaging
  • Channel and content planning
  • Implementation
  • Internal roll out and corporate policy
  • Advocate strategy

Key SM objectives were:

  • Support the brand launch activity and increase awareness (positioning and territory)
  • Maximise awareness of the product range/benefits
  • Establish thought leadership credentials for the brand/key spokespeople
  • Create ‘personal’ relationships with architects
  • Leverage the international nature of SM to promote high profile overseas projects
  • Drive traffic to the website
  • Improve SEO ranking

As well as the key target audience of architects, ‘contractors’ and ‘engineers’ were also targeted. Key messages were tailored to their individual wants and needs (as identified in the ‘BAM’ workshops):

  • Architects - Visual/aesthetic, performance, budget
  • Engineers - Technical performance, certification, installation, risk factor
  • Contractors - Ease of installation, speed, affordability, sustainability, H&S

IAS produced a tactical plan outlining which channels were to be leveraged and how – in line with agreed objectives, messages and the wants and needs of the target groups.

Individual strategies for each channel were produced, including the type, tone and frequency of activity, together with a fully integrated plan to maximise activity across all channels:

  • LinkedIn
  • Blogs
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Flickr
  • Slideshare

Benchmark ‘experts’ were tasked with developing credentials in key channels in strategic areas - brand vision, sustainability, technical services, design, training.

A training and implementation workshop introduced key experts to the SM strategy, aims/objectives, channels and desired outcomes and trained them to maximise their own activity, as well as their colleagues’.

IAS developed a SM Etiquette Policy and a Crisis Communications Policy for Benchmark, which was rolled out across the company, as well as a SM advocate strategy, which mapped out key third parties that would be targeted by the campaign in line with strategic objectives.

As well as pro-active activity, IAS developed a plan for maximising reactive opportunities to maintain the momentum of the campaign, police key experts and ensure they stay ‘on message’. The agency:

  • Monitored the SM landscape daily, focussing on key channels, forums and bloggers
  • Provided timely reports on relevant conversations and comments
  • Recommended/highlighted the most relevant opportunities, advised which key expert or advocate should respond/comment and what key messages/strategic themes should be focussed on
  • Identified and advised on opportunities for multimedia/white paper placement to achieve maximum dissemination

IAS carried out continuous monitoring of the campaign and produced monthly measurement reports and analysis.

It also continued to provide support with ‘creative content planning’ and developed initiatives that would elevate the on-going campaign, including:

  • RIBA Stirling Prize Sponsorship
  • White papers
  • Multimedia and video production (for the Benchmark YouTube channel)
  • Customer days (filmed by Benchmark ‘journalists’ for the YouTube channel)

Results (6-month campaign)

  • 25% website traffic from SM channels
  • 115 positive social media mentions
  • Benchmark SM share of voice increased from 0.8% to 20%
  • YouTube channel received 546 views and 664 upload views (8 films uploaded)
  • Experts accrued over 1,000 followers on Twitter – 75% ‘gold’ contacts (posted 965 tweets)
  • Blog site received over 400 unique visits (10 blogs uploaded)
  • Benchmark went from zero SEO to being number 1 in Google for ‘wall cladding’ and ‘roof cladding’

Brand Awareness

An independent research exercise in January 2011 showed Benchmark in a very positive light, with 88% of respondents showing awareness of the brand, 23% higher than its closest competitor.

Just 29% of respondents had never considered using Benchmark, a figure nearly half that of its closest competitor. One third indicated that they frequently or always use Benchmark products. More than three quarters of all respondents believe that Benchmark’s range of products is currently leading the architectural facade industry.

Client Testimonial

“Kingspan has an enviable profile within the building and construction sector. When it comes to high performance, modern building systems that reduce time on site, improve quality and enhance the performance of completed buildings, Kingspan is widely regarded as the market leader, which is a great position to hold.

“However, when we developed the concept of Benchmark, we were well aware that this positive, would actually become a negative in many ways. We are targeting high level architects with an offering that is all about delivering iconic, aspirational buildings, but their perception of Kingspan companies is firmly in the territory of ‘functional’ and ‘practical’, rather than ‘aesthetic’ and ‘inspirational’.

“IAS recognised that social media offered an untapped opportunity for Benchmark to get close to architects in a largely competitor free environment. The process they took us through ensured that we approached the campaign in a strategic way that was properly targeted, monitored and measured, to ensure we stayed true to our goals and achieved tangible results. Six months down the line we have developed direct links with key targets in a way that would not be possible using traditional communications channels.”

Chris Witte, Marketing Director of Benchmark

This case study was the winner in the category of Brand Development or Extension Strategy at The Drum Marketing Awards

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