Volume 13, Issue 5 - September/October 2011

Feature

Branded!
Manufacturers Work to Educate Retailers on Growing Brand Importance
by Penny Stacey

Editor’s Note: This article is the first in a series on the growing emphasis on auto glass brands.

Nike created its swoosh in 1971. While it’s hard to say exactly how quickly it took off, it’s no secret that today people throughout the world pay a premium just to have that swoosh appear on their shoes.

Is the quality of Nike higher? Who’s to say? But no matter what—consumers everywhere depend on the brand.

Some say that with the rise in the use of the Internet and consumers’ ready access to knowledge the same could be happening with auto glass in today’s market.

“We now operate in an era where companies use new tools to address the reputation of their brands, products and services,” said Guardian Glass outgoing president Russ Ebeid during a recent industry event. “We can access the wisdom of consumers and their interest in our value proposition. Customers and prospects have an instantaneous platform for their ideas, experiences and knowledge about us. The nature of decision-making has evolved rapidly and with impressive strength, connecting professionals to each other, and changing the dynamics of customer, management, marketing and communications relationships. Today’s global environment is a vast network of seamlessly connected devices …”

Ebeid says this could have an interesting effect on glass.

“This means the consumer increasingly is king and will demand preferred brands in the most basic of products,” he said. “It happened long ago with gasoline and more recently with coffee. Now that we have moved along the continuum from commodity thinking to value-added glass, the next era will be one of brands marked by performance and customer service.

The companies that comprehend that aspect will be the winners of the future.”

A Complex Issue

Dealing with Insurers
So what happens when a consumer tells an insurer he wants a particular brand of glass—often a logo or insignia glass that costs more than a generic windshield?
Currently, State Farm insurance policies require that the consumers “agree that replacement glass need not have any insignia, logo, trademark, etching, or other marking that was on the replaced glass.” Likewise, State Farm Offer & Acceptance program participants are required to: “invoice the program administrator for the price of the most competitively priced part that will return the damaged vehicle to pre-loss condition.”
Allstate recently announced that it will only reimburse shops for 90 percent of the price of a dealer part (see related story in July/August AGRR™ magazine, page 18.)


While the availability of information is one thing that leads to branding, in the auto glass arena complexity also is a key factor.

“There are probably several factors influencing the shops in differentiating the brand of glass and the brand of service that they offer,” says Pilkington marketing manager William George. “A couple of the things that come to my mind—the complexity of the glass has “There are probably several factors influencing the shops in differentiating the brand of glass and the brand of service that they offer,” says Pilkington marketing manager William George. “A couple of the things that come to my mind—the complexity of the glass has really increased over the last few years, the complexity in designs in glass, the advanced attenuation, etc.”

Based on this, utilizing a branded OEM part sometimes can be crucial, says George.



“Complex value-added parts like lane-change sensors and encapsulations—I think there’s more to talk about now frankly, and it’s easy to say ‘hey, I use a part that’s different from other retailers, and the parts come from an OE origin,” says George.
John Heller, vice president of Carlex Glass America LLC’s aftermarket division, says he’s long seen this with the Carlite brand (which often has been associated with Ford, where it got its start).

“One of the factors is that the glass components are becoming more and more integrated with the designs of the vehicle,” says Heller.

“Some specific examples include the acoustic interlayers for the windshields, rain sensors, etc.,” he says. “And there’s more of that technology coming—products that are going to be seen more on the glass, like lane detection and CitySafe. Those kinds of technologies all are being incorporated into the glass.”

Sometimes it’s simply a label that creates a brand draw.

“All the recent model Ford trucks have a specific model name in the windshield,” says Heller. “These model logos are kind of iconic and are an integral part of some of these very famous vehicles.”

“Now that we have moved along the continuum from commodity thinking to value-added glass, the next era will be one of brands marked by performance and customer service.”
—Russ Ebeid, Guardian Glass

Manufacturing Realm
Though consumers often are interested in a specific label that promotes the make or brand of their car, auto glass manufacturing brands certainly are not household names at this point. But some manufacturers are hoping to change that.

Pilkington, for example, has developed a program called “Pilkington Clear Advantage” that is focused on promoting Pilkington brand windshields.

While the program had not yet been officially launched at press time, George says the company eventually is hoping to reach the consumer directly through a special consumer website and other efforts to help them understand the differences in brands.

“We’re really trying to educate,” says George. “We’ve got websites and some training websites and even a consumer website that helps consumers understand the differences in glass.”

The company started working on the initiative nearly a near ago. The company planned to reveal details about the program and formally launch it at Auto Glass Week™ (see related story on page 24).

Pilkington plans to reach the consumer in a couple of different ways.

“Primarily we’re expecting the retailers that are partnering with us to recommend the website to consumers, but in addition we’re going to be doing some advertising with some search engines,” says George.

Carlex, which recently purchased the Carlite aftermarket business from Zeledyne (see related story in July/August AGRR™ magazine, page 36), spends a good deal of time educating its retail and distribution customers on the importance of brand.

“We have a very seasoned sales team that educates both wholesalers and retailers,” says Heller.
Companies seem to be keeping their branding plans close to the vest. Officials from Pittsburgh Glass Works (PGW) did not respond to requests for comment for this article, and Guardian Auto Glass officials declined to comment.

How to Educate Consumers
George points out that while visual differences in brand may be obvious to consumers—such as the aforementioned insignia—some of the more complex details are difficult to explain.

“Glass is a complex product and it’s hard to take the complexity of glass and translate it into something that’s consumer-friendly,” he says.

He looks to solar optimization as one such factor. “The difference between a solar optimized windshield and generic glass is bout 45 degrees [Fahrenheit],” says George. “I think consumers can relate to that, and it makes them realize ‘hey, I’ve got a solar optimized piece of glass in my car and I don’t want to let the heat in, so it should be replaced with the same type of glass.’”

Technical features can fall into the same category. “In today’s world you have lane change sensors and collision avoidance sensors that really work within a pre-defined range and if you change it too dramatically it can affect the performance of those things,” says George.


The Retail Perspective
While manufacturers are working toward educating consumers about brands, some retailers suggest that simply promoting quality and original-equipment (OEM) products is the first step (see related story in March/April AGRR™ magazine, page 24.)

“We only buy from OEM manufacturers, and we promote the OEM type of product,” says one industry pioneer, who preferred to remain unidentified.

But as branding grows, he does hope to someday be able to say, “we install products made by … ”

“When and if the time comes we would certainly encourage that,” says the retailer.

But there are times when brand comes up—even if rare.

“We would mention particular brand names when someone says they want a dealer glass,” he adds.


 

Penny Stacey is the editor of AGRR™ magazine.



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