We talk a lot about goals, reflections, projections and trends at the start of any new year. But this year may be different for building materials brands than in years past for many reasons. Market segment forecasts for both residential and commercial construction are climbing, improvements in performance and technology continue to challenge manufacturers to innovate, and there are more available touchpoints for brands to reach their target audience than ever before.

These are all important data points that lay the foundation for a year in which companies primed for disruption will flourish, and those that are resistant to making bold moves may lag behind their more innovative competitors.

At Interrupt, we take a 360-degree view of the landscape and like to look at the why, not just the how. So we asked some of our team’s subject matter experts to share a trend that building materials marketers need to know, and the rationale behind why they think it’s something to keep an eye on in 2016.

1. Time to Get Real with Augmented Reality

Homeowners expect more. They want to see the results of a project before even signing a contract. No longer is it acceptable for builders and contractors to showcase a homeowner’s vision with a brochure, outdated visualizer or something as rudimentary as product samples. It’s time for manufacturers to embrace the sophisticated tools and technology of augmented reality and to empower their customers with visualization platforms that can truly bring a homeowner’s vision to life. Take a look at what TimberTech has developed for their deck visualizer tool. Contractors and homeowners are able to mix and match products, designs, and colors in both 2D and 3D, through an intuitive interface that doesn’t feel clunky or too fabricated. This is a great example of the convergence of technology and building materials that helps to sell products to end users.

Keep an eye on other uses of augmented reality through tools like the Oculus Rift’s virtual reality head-mounted display, for truly immersive tours through architectural renderings and beyond.

-Anita Holman, Executive Creative Director & Brand Strategist

2. PE Investments, Mergers and Acquisitions Continue

According to a recent report by Standard & Poor’s, analysts still view the building materials industry to be in the early- to mid-stage of a cyclical recovery. With organic growth and margin improvements continuing to be somewhat elusive for many suppliers, the industry seems ripe yet again for more mergers, acquisitions, and private equity money. I think we’ll see more consolidation in virtually every facet; service sectors, builders, product manufacturers, and distribution.

With a lot of attention centered on managing these shifts, it also seems like a great time for niche and non-traditional companies to shake things up in some categories that could, frankly, use it. In many segments, value chains are still long as sales and marketing continue to evolve much slower than in other industries. These new and emerging concepts will have an uphill battle to contend with. But, a few success stories could open the flood gates to change.

Solidifying your brand’s position with core customer segments and, keeping that focus in place as you look to target new priorities is a great hedge to these trends and potential threats.

-Bill Rossiter, CEO

3. Look at the Trends, Find this Year’s Strategy

When we aggregate conversations we’re having with industry leaders, several similarities seem to be floating to the top.

  • Companies have been filling their lines with demand products to help fill capacity, and how that capacity is getting tighter, attention is turning to efficiencies and margins.
  • Overall expectations are for continued moderate growth in most sectors of construction, with anxieties over what impact international market conditions may have closer to home.
  • It’s an election year and little clarity on key policies is expected.

What’s might we draw from these factors? The first one tells us that there’s probably a lot of product line rationalization taking place and companies are looking to improve their mix. That means more aggressive sales and marketing efforts could be in the works and could lead to potentially more assertive price increases. The second factor, coupled with other influences, leads us to believe that the more agile, smaller competitors may be better poised to make stronger inroads on their larger, multi-national counterparts, at least in the short term. As for the last factor, well, who knows? The election is going to consume media, frustrate consumers and continue to send mixed signals on policy that impact many facets of the building materials world.

-Dave Schiever, Director of Strategy

4. Quality is King

The shift of marketing to substantive and educational content. The most valuable brands are the ones that provide the most valuable and meaningful content to their customers — content that answers their real business challenges and helps them succeed. Those are the brands they won’t hit “unsubscribe” on. Marketing teams now more than ever need to have a cogent, consistent, strategic approach to their content with a focus on providing tangible value to customers.

-Dave Hochanadel, Senior Copywriter

5. Listen

Hear me out, this may sound like a simple concept, but the art of listening is often times a challenge for the very nature of a marketer and the efforts we shepherd. But sometimes listening will tell you everything you need to know, before you even ask the question.

The digital and social world offers incredibly powerful tools for listening and insightful data on how customers are interacting, and what they’re doing, thinking and wanting from a brand. For example, we often hear building materials marketers say “builders don’t use social media” or “our customers aren’t used to digital tools.” But in the digital space we always say, the analytics don’t lie.

Builders, contractors and architects are using digital and social for both their personal and professional lives. We know this because we have the analytics, we have the case studies and we’ve listened, watched, learned and enhanced.

When it comes to crafting strategies for our client’s goals, simply listening, thinking strategically and reflecting back a shared vision, often provides the very beacon of light through the fog of uncertainty that our clients are seeking when it comes to the digital world.

-Brandy Wimberly, Director of Digital & Social

6. Unbrand Your Brand
Sometimes the best way to sway brand perception from “stereotype” to “reality” is to remove the brand entirely; instead, letting the products and/or services stand on their own merits. Case in point, this faceless Chevy promotion.

Photo Courtesy: AdWeek

Photo Courtesy: AdWeek

Look for more of this (un)branding approach in 2016, as companies look to (re)define their brand meaning, perception and most importantly, their brand reality.

-Matt Davis, Associate Creative Director

Have anything to add? We’d love to hear your thoughts on our predictions and any that you think we should be looking at for 2016.