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May - June 2003

CODE/CONCERNS
Micheal D. Fischer

Regulatory Marketing:
Codes for Sale!
by Michael D. Fischer

The world of construction products marketing has become more complicated in recent years. More than ever before, the door and window industry is involved in the regulatory process. In the past, manufacturers sorted through numerous provisions to determine the applicable code requirements. With the consolidation of the model codes into the International Code Council (ICC), the code process has become more streamlined. 

The ICC’s move to a consensus code development process has encouraged the industry to take a bigger part in creating the code requirements that govern product performance. Whether independently or through trade associations that provide code advocacy, door and window manufacturers see the benefit of taking a proactive stance toward code development.

Marketing to Super Consumers
The digital age has created a new breed of super-consumers who explore the Internet to gather information that will help them make buying decisions. Building product manufacturers include specifications and details on their websites. Today’s homebuyers research trends by watching cable television programs targeting this key demographic group. After watching a PBS episode of “This Old House,” the homebuyer is likely to switch to the Weather Channel, where the latest tropical storm system is covered with live feeds. The question begs: How to develop a sound strategy that communicates the correct regulatory message?

The first step is determining just what that message should be. A homebuyer doesn’t need to know that his new patio door was tested to National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) 100. However, he does need to know that the Energy Star® label on the door means savings on the energy bill. The fact that a skylight meets sloped-glazing criteria is only slightly less important to the consumer than the fact that the skylight passes water testing found in industry standards. What the consumer really wants to know is “will this skylight leak?” 

Test performance is the feature, the weather-tight installation the benefit. The focus of the consumer message should be the axiom, “What’s in it for me?” Consumers seek reassurance that the products they select will perform. 

Publicizing Code Compliance
While manufacturers often tout product features and performances, a measure that is often overlooked is participation in an industry certification program. For example, consumer awareness of the Energy Star logo appearing on windows is growing daily. The NFRC has revamped its labeling format recently to make it more user-friendly. Jim Benney, NFRC director of education, believes that greater focus on performance labeling benefits all. 

“By using the information on the NFRC label, builders and consumers can compare products and make informed decisions about the windows, doors and skylights they buy,” he said.

What about the savvy super-consumer? 
“Homeowners have made it clear that they need ratings information on the web, in literature and in retail materials found in home stores,” Benney added. 

The Window and Door Manufacturers Association’s (WDMA) Hallmark Certification Program is another opportunity to showcase key performance features of a window, door or skylight product. Simple labels indicating compliance with industry standards create a sense of consumer confidence and add strength to the brand. Communicating what those performance measures mean to the consumer will go even further in fostering brand equity. 

The changing regulatory environment and the rise of the super-consumer contribute to the need for better technical communications. The opportunity to reach more technically savvy buyers is there for the taking. Don’t let this chance to build your brand pass you by.


Michael Fischer serves as director of codes and regulatory compliance for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association, based in Des Plaines, Ill. 

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