There can be no Brand Influence for Windows & Doors

Can manufacturers build brand equity in window and door purchases in Lumberyards and Home Centers?  No. Windows and Doors are Source Specific, not Brand Specific.

Consumers choose where to by rather than what to buy.


Each year, when Industry Magazines report the top 100 window and door manufacturers by sales, it is interesting to note how little market share the top three window companies have.  Over 85% of the residential window business is given to companies without any meaningful brand recognition.

What, then, is the importance of brand?  Every manufacturer of a product wants to establish some brand recognition.  Ideally, that recognition would be with consumers and contractors who would flood stores seeking a particular brand - and through pull-through demand gain greater market share.  No one has attempted this better than Andersen.  Ask any person on the street about windows and they brand most often quoted will be Andersen, while the vast majority won’t be able to name a brand at all. Most contractors and architects will mention one of the top three companies.  Yet, annual sales figures show any valued brand recognition has netted these companies very little overall market share.

The truth is, brand recognition has very little impact on consumers and contractors.  Why is this so?  There are three reasons:
            1. Most consumers only buy windows or doors once in their lives, eliminating the possibility of building brand preference.
            2. Most consumers do not have access to sufficient information to select, specify or order their windows requiring the search for information before making a choice.
            3.  The criteria for selection can be so varied (style, color, use, price, performance, climate, etc.), and the available product options can be so extensive that one particular brand can never be perceived as satisfying all the possible selection criteria.

Looking at the following 8 “Truths”,  it’s not hard to understand why establishing brand can be so ineffective for window and door products: 
1. There are 2 kinds of windows made - those made before the sale, and those made after the sale.
            a. Windows made before the sale are stock, and the opening is made to fit the window - new construction and additive remodeling with new additions, etc. This sale can be made at the retail/wholesale location
            b.  Windows made after the sale are by nature replacement and the window is made to fit the opening - i.e., measurements, assessments and specification are necessary before the window’s) can be ordered. This sale has to be consummated in the home.

2. Approximately 60% of all windows sold each year are for replacement/retrofit. These are predominantly “after the sale” windows made to fit the order either by size, style, features, and climate specific performance.

3. Homeowners ostensibly buy replacement windows once in their life. There is no repeat business. Without repeat business there is no real “brand preference”.

4.  Because of the need for a professional in the equation (measure, specify, remove and install) replacement windows are, therefore, Source Specific, not Brand Specific.
            a. Andersen, Marvin and Pella account for less that 15% of all residential window sales annually. 85% of the windows sold come from unknown brands.
            b. If there is any “preference” it will be the source that helped out the consumer and performed the service satisfactorily, and that usually is not brand dependent.

5. While there are arguably upwards of 2,000 window manufacturers, there are less than 10 national brands. It is a cottage industry where proximity to source is limited to a few miles. More than that, the available brands may change. Climate and distance from manufacturer can have national chains having different “brand” in different locations.

6. The number one brand in Vinyl Windows (in terms of sales) was always “American Craftsman”. This was the captive brand sold by Home Depot. It was Home Depot’s preference as a source that accounted for the “brand” dominance, not the other way around.

7. Studies show that people like to buy from someplace large, local and familiar. And that usually is a retail location such as a Big Box Retailer or Mass Lumberyard chain. The small remodeler or dealer is at a disadvantage. They must rely on the Internet (if they know how) to level the playing field a little more.

8. Windows are typically climate dependent. A window made for Fargo North Dakota will not serve Ft. Lauderdale Florida, and window used in Galveston Texas will not be good enough for Bangor Maine. EPA and Energy Star standards differ by climate zone. This is another reason that Source is more important in product selection than Brand. Consumers and Contractors alike rely on lumberyards, Home Centers, and Building Materials Dealers to make the selections for them.

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