The Brand’s the Thing

There’s been a lot of talk lately about “branding,” especially among the glass manufacturers. A number of manufacturers believe that consumers will respond and one day request PPG glass, or Guardian, let’s say on the strength of the brand. I’m guessing the hope is that they will request one of these brands, rather than a no-name product.

This has already come to pass in the auto glass industry, where glass manufacturers such as Pilkington, Guardian and PGW are working hard to distinguish their glass from the “generic” products toward which insurers forcefully push their customers.

It’s a scenario that has been repeated over and over again in many industries. The quality manufacturers do the research, develop the quality products, offer the warranties, have the best performance indices and provide the highest levels of training. They are active participants in the industry they work for and help set its agenda. They monitor and lobby for legislation and do work for the entire industry. Yet they have not yet been successful in  distinguishing themselves from the least of their competitors.

So these manufacturers may think the success of their branding campaign will be how much awareness they create among the consuming public. I personally don’t see it that way. I think that building a strong group of loyal and supportive glass retailers will be the key to any branding initiative. Here’s why:

First, think about the trajectory involving any residential remodeling. The homeowner might buy some books and magazines for ideas, then head over to one of those specialty kitchen and bath showrooms, where they may even get a plan drawn up and products spec-ed. But 9 times out of 10, they then take the plans into the local Home Depot or Lowes and “match” it with something that they are told is as good as what they spec-ed.

This phenomena is not just limited to showrooms. How many times (and I have to say guilty on this one), do you see something in a store and try to find it “more reasonably” priced in a virtual store online?

Which leads me to my second reason why retailers are crucial. If it’s not a discretionary purchase such as a remodel, the homeowner is usually fixing something—the result of unexpected breakage or crime. And we all know that homeowner will want his glass replaced as quickly as possible. So, even if he asks for ABC brand glass, if the store doesn’t have it, he’ll go with what they have because he just wants it fixed now.

This is one of the reasons why the retailer is so important. Because all he has to say in answer to the “Do you have ABC-brand glass?” is “No, but we have DEF-brand which is just as good as ABC.” Or he may hear my personal favorite, usually used when consumers are buying windows: “No, we don’t carry ABC, because all you’re paying for is their big marketing campaigns. We carry DEF-brand which is just as good as ABC at half the cost.”

One “just as good as” can negate a whole year of branding.

If manufacturers are going to brand, that brand has to reach all the way down to the dealership level. Though I haven’t been by recently, there is a shop not far from me that has been in town for almost 100 years. It’s one of those glass-and-paint shops that really is a hardware store in disguise. And it’s a wreck to look at. To me, it looks old and dirty on the outside and unkempt inside. And in the window, on an almost 100-year-old, nicked, dirty sign it says “We Sell XXX Glass.” I am sure if XXX ever saw this sign or the location in which it’s been placed, they would not be pleased. It negates everything they are attempting with their branding.

Manufacturers are going to need to think this all through as they move forward with the consumer. And there’s another challenge. Many of these same manufacturers are extremely focused on value-added products. That’s a good business strategy. But it is going to negate their ability to be a single supplier to retailers who are still going to sell just basic plate glass or a generic tempered or laminated.

For now, it seems, everyone wants their name remembered. Check this recent commercial out:

Does this help Saint-Gobain?

So I took a cue from the commercial and recently stopped by a shop across from a hotel in which I was staying. “So,” I said, “I might be interested in remodeling my bathroom. Do you sell Saint-Gobain mirror?”

“No,” the proprietor said pointing toward the wall, “but we sell this and it’s just as good as Saint-Gobain.”


I was pleased to see that Arturo Carrillo, the former president of Vitro America, is still in the glass picture. Arturo is now running Binswanger Glass as a separate business unit of Sun Capital. Arturo, in fact, was subject of the a story we call “the article that never was” for our USGlass magazine. Editor Megan Headley had done a great interview with Arturo that we were readying for our April issue. For more information, please see the related article.

Congratulations to Ellen Rogers  of our staff, who was the “guest host” on the “Glass Chat” held through twitter last week by Patricia Linthicum, a lover of all things glass who also blogs for our Decorative Glass magazine. Ellen’s visit generated a great amount of interest. If you’d like to see the discussion, you can find the transcript here.

It’s my understanding that there are still a fair amount of changes going on at the new Trulite, and AGC is picking up some good additions as the result of the merger. I would expect a few announcements over there soon.

You may have greeted the news Friday that Saint-Gobain purchased Bekaert’s Specialty Films business with a “so what?” It’s a exceptionally strategic purchase by Saint-Gobain. Interlayer maker Solutia owns the old CP Films and has found it a good fit, but this is the first time a glass manufacturer has recognized the advantages of offering a glass-film spectrum are strong enough to go out and purchase a company.

I have gotten more than a few comments recently about a cover shot from USGlass magazine’s April issue that just appeared on the September issue of another industry publication. I was so thrilled that people recognized our great cover when it appeared elsewhere. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

Long blog today, I know, but there’s a lot going on. Have a great week and let me know what you think. You can comment here, or catch me on twitter (@keycomm) or on LinkedIn or via email to Have a great week.