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Guest Column

Creating a National Passion for Insulation Products

by Ginny Cameron The shaping of consumer demand for cars is one of America’s marketing and advertising triumphs. The idea of selling cars and introducing a newly designed model each year was brilliant. The model year created the expectation that something radically different or innovative was going to arrive.

Consumers and homebuilders are fascinated with new technologies; everyone wants state-of-the-art products. Through smart design and marketing, other industries have introduced new products such as high-tech refrigerators (keeping things cold in a fancy package); gimmicky dishwashers (lots of buttons — still just cleaning dishes); and a variety of non-traditional faucets (simply dispensing water).

Because insulation products are viewed as a hidden commodity, innovation has not been an industry consideration. Customers are looking for the latest innovations, but our industry seems kidnapped by complacency. What if marketing innovation and product development created a national passion for insulation products? Rather than supporting hand-over-fist cash programs to build customer loyalty and gain market share, wouldn’t the industry be better off trying to increase the demand for more insulation? Shouldn’t the industry focus on selling high-density products and sound control packages? With soaring energy rates, shouldn’t the industry offer retrofit customers at least the U.S. Department of Energy’s recommended R-values?

Manufacturers should seriously consider investing in an intensified marketing/advertising program aimed at increasing the pie so that everyone can sell more insulation. Such a program would be an innovation in an industry that currently lacks passion for its products. Too expensive? Think again. Most building material companies spend at least 15 percent of sales on marketing and advertising — and they don’t have a product that’s required everywhere. The timing is perfect for creating demand.

Ginny Cameron (A.C. & R. Insulation Co., Beltsville, Md.) is president of the Insulation Contractors Association of America.

Putting Research to Work

The National Insulation Association (NIA) commissioned Allegheny Marketing Group, a market research company, to conduct research among decision-makers who impact the commercial insulation industry to determine the level of knowledge regarding the benefits of insulation systems, and to define the marketing communications programs required to meet their information needs. The research results confirmed some long-held beliefs and also provided insight into what is most commonly misunderstood about the cost-saving and payback benefits of an insulation system.

The number one reason for insulating is routine maintenance/plant retrofitting vs. new capital expenditures — no surprise. This tells us that we don’t have to work too hard communicating to the maintenance engineer. In the industrial sector, we should, instead, focus on those charged with plant expansion and/or reduction of energy consumption or emissions. While 69 percent of people surveyed said there were places in their plants that were not insulated, 77 percent of them said it was because it wasn’t required. This means there is some re-educating to be done on the many cost, energy and environmental savings benefits of insulation.

The problem communicating with the architects and engineers in the past is that we weren’t sure what they needed help with and where they turned to get information. While insulation isn’t a “high interest” area for these folks, energy savings, payback and low maintenance are critical in their specs. Your messages to them should focus on those benefits.

Other findings:

  • Most people have no idea how long the payback period is regarding the purchase of insulation. The cost benefits need to be better emphasized.

  • For A/E firms, sales representatives play an important role in transmitting information.

  • For plants, the contractor is the most important link for getting information on insulation.

  • The Internet is a growing source for providing information.

Incorporate these research results into your sales and marketing efforts and reap the benefits.