Why do big-name hand and power tool brands heavily advertise new or specific tools during the winter holiday season? Why do brands that exclusively target professional users flood retailers with consumer-targeted products around the same time? Why are there so many products during the winter holiday season that straddle the fine line between innovation and gimmick?
If you asked me this question a week ago, I would have thought that sales would have been the sole motivation. Tools sell very heavily during major gift-giving holidays. Consumers spend big bucks around these times, and tool brands want as big a piece of the action as possible.
Plus, in a lot of cases, new and exciting tools and related products help bring customers into stores, where there is a high likelihood they will add additional merchandise to their carts.
I had a very short discussion with a brand manager on Friday, and the words brand awareness came up when discussing their holiday-timed tools. It blew my mind.
Some new tools and gizmos elicit a very positive response from me, others I wouldn’t use as paperweights. In the past I wondered about some of those tools that I didn’t quite look upon favorably. In a lot of cases these holiday-timed gizmos did not exactly fit into brands’ grand marketing schemes.
Sometimes I take for granted how familiar I am with tool brands, but there was a time when I knew about very few brands.
All along I really thought that it was about immediate benefits – product sales, direct profits, and in the case of stores with house brands, increasing foot traffic in stores.
But those simple two words – brand awareness – entirely changed the context I view such tools in. It won’t change my impression of all holiday-timed tools, this is something I won’t fail to consider in the future.
This also changes my understanding about some of the tool bundles and “special buys,” and why you’ll find clamp sets, tape measure sets, special gift sets, and so forth so heavily promoted around major gift-giving holidays. In some cases it’s about direct profits. But in others, it’s at least partially about getting a tool in your hand and brand name in your head.
I know some of this sounds obvious, but it wasn’t to me. And if you made it this far into the post, you’re probably wondering what my point is. I’m sorry, but I don’t really have one. It’s just that, as a consumer, I wish I were aware of brand awareness product and marketing initiatives, among many other things, years ago when my tool-purchasing decisions were more easily influenced.
I always try to be transparent with my thought processes, and how I arrive to opinions and conclusions about brands, products, and retailers. I am discussing all this now in case I forget to “show my work” in the future. Now that I know there are additional strategies behind “Q4 tools,” my perspective might change. Or it might not. Even with brand awareness as part of the marketing goal behind holiday-timed products, direct sales and profits are still likely top priority.
It can be a challenge for reviewers and consumers alike to see the truth behind the curtain. Honestly, I don’t know if a better awareness of the why behind certain holiday-timed tools and products will really change anything for me as a reviewer or consumer; I’m just glad that I now know about and better understand one more factor in the equation. Hopefully you feel the same way.
There are many books on advertising, branding and brand awareness. Many companies spend lots of time and money in developing their brands – brand names, logos etc. Logo and trademark infringement is a big deal – and keeps staff of lawyers busy. I’m guessing that some of the promotions at holiday time are used not only just for awareness – but also to try to shift or reinforce the position of the brand in the marketplace.
In the past I’ve commented on the Porter Cable (PC) Brand – which once was synonymous with professional portable electric woodworking tools – and its now “sister” brand Dewalt (once synonymous with the professional RAS). When Rockwell International acquired PC – they promoted expansion of the brand outside of woodworking – but still placing the brand ahead of their homeowner (Rockwell line). When Rockwell sold PC to Pentair (who also bought Delta) – the PC line shrunk – eliminating some “off-target” items like rotohammers. When Black & Decker acquired PC – I’m guessing that they had to figure out how to place the brand vis a vis their Dewalt and Black and Decker brands. It seems that they believed that Dewalt was the stronger brand name for professional users – and placed PC in the middle of their lineup. When Stanley acquired B&D – they probably had less trouble – having long since abandoned their marketing of powered saws and routers under the Stanley name.
With their overlapping product lines, Stanley Black & Decker’ brands are possibly the most complicated to make sense of, in regard to brand identities and branding. I started writing out specific examples here, but it’s really an issue I shouldn’t touch in a comment with a ten-foot pole, as such a discussion could easily span several thousand words.
For cheapskates like me, “getting a tool in someone’s hand” is a very valid strategy. A couple years back, Gearwrench sold a 20 piece MM/sae set at Sears’ Black Friday for like $49.99 or something. Regularly $99.99. I’m too cheap for the $100 price, but I got that $50 set, like the quality and toughness and bought more.
I bought flex ratchet wrenches during a sale later on and also purchased Gearwrench’s locking extensions. Before owning their flagship ratchet wrenches, I NEVER would have considered their regular hard-line tools an option. But they’re pretty OK for Taiwan. Decent quality/price ratio and easy to warranty at my local auto parts stores.
They got tools in my hand and see what happened?
Joe 'the Pro' Sainz
One of my favorite teachers often said “A brand is a promise”.
It’s really difficult for the consumer to know that promise if they aren’t aware of the brand. The really tough part is to build the awareness without damaging that brand (remember that promise? does that promotional product live up to it?).
Good article. One other interesting thing is that many of the retailers drive these gift-giving products, going from vendor to vendor saying that they “want ___ at $$ price, what do you have for me?”.
That’s a great point. Unfortunately, not a lot of brands practice that philosophy these days.
Regarding retailers and pricing, I figure that volume contracts are what allow for certain things, such 4-piece Stanley tape measure sets for $10 (although the fact that they’re made in China or in USA with global components (25′ only) might have something to do with that), name-brand accessories sets, and Leatherman gift sets.
As some one still learning, tool awareness certainly has helped influence my decisions. But it’s getting harder and harder to be influenced by simple displays and holiday sales. I like other things do plenty of research before making purchases on big ticket items such as expensive tools. I do my own product comparison online and enter a store knowing what I am getting. Store displays may supplement or reinforce my decision but no longer influence entirely. The last and final decision is physically seeing and holding the tool itself something that can’t be done reading a review online.
That’s kind of the point. For bigger ticket items, a lot of people take to the web for reviews these days. But a lot of people might have a narrow focus in terms of brands and retailers.
Market a $5 staple, such as a tape measure, $10-20 innovative tool, or great value set in front of shoppers, and the price is low enough that they might shrug and buy it without much hesitation. This works especially well for gift items and stocking stuffers. Then, the next time the shopper or the gift recipient wants to buy something else, they’ll include that brand in their research and purchasing decisions.
Brand familiarity is not a new concept to me, especially in regard to repetition, but I suppose brand awareness is what seeds that initial spark.