Forget about politics; the recent Georgia special election teaches some very interesting lessons we can use about marketing. Mainly, the Democrats spent many times as much as the Republicans, and still lost.
There is a belief among run-of-the-mill ad agencies, as well as marketing and political organizations, that spending more money gets more results. That is true, up to a point. However, as history has proven time after time, there comes a point at which humans act like humans instead of herd animals, and they don’t like being pushed, and they don’t like special interests trying to control the dialogue.
In the end, however, people get a sense of what is fair and true, and who is working for them and who is trying to play them for dupes.
The secondary wood-processing sector in America does not have an active marketing organization that represents its interests, so we can’t look nation-wide and find any sense of perspective. Even our own trade media, for the most part, became monotonous voices for a handful of advertisers, lost the attention of their readers and failed. It is a simple fact that any medium that has any value will survive. No value: no survive.
But imagine this. What if we had an association and a media that could buy advertising and advance a public relations campaign designed to educate and elevate – educate the American public and elevate the market for all producers.
Looking back over the past 15 years or so, the mainstream media picked up on the mantra that China is a juggernaut of low-cost/low-value goods that will change the wood industry forever. And, of course, that happened. Now, however, the question is whether the media was clairvoyant or whether they created a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, there was no opposition and no debate.
Not to pick on China, but the name comes up, so let’s see if there is a debate to be had. In the first place, China has no forests of any size. Therefore, they have no saleable fiber. If they are selling fiber into the U.S., they are buying it elsewhere, no matter if it’s cabinetry, bedroom furniture, flooring or toys.
The obvious conclusion is that we, too, could buy fiber from and “elsewhere” the Chinese can, and likely at a better price, especially since much of our available fiber is home-grown, and most of us can buy raw oak, walnut, cherry or maple, not to mention particle board and plywood, within a hundred miles of home, just to pick a round figure. To buy the same fiber, the Chinese have to ship it across the Pacific twice.
But you know all that. And we can go into currency manipulation, dumping, kickbacks and so on…..
But what if we had a PR program running in key states that promoted wood from known sources, just for an example? Not “sustainable,” necessarily, but known? Or how about after-sale service? Or replacement parts? The list of ideas may not be infinite, but it’s also not small. And, for a fact, Ikea competes against China quite handily, based largely on adding pizzazz (value) to low cost.
Another area we are being beat by marketing is in labor. If you check with your local, regional or national skills-training institutions, you will find that seats in wood processing go wanting, while there is a line-up for parks, ambulance techs and forensics.
You may wonder what that’s all about, since we all know that young people are wasting away at their parents’ homes, unable to pay their student loans and bemoaning the lack of jobs for bark-chip spreaders, health heroes and homicide geniuses.
The fact is, most kids enter career training based more on what they see on television or hear from their friends than they do on career potential.
How do we compete against fads? Back to imagineering, Kansas City last weekend hosted its Maker Fairs. There, we can see the predictable litany of 3D whatever, alternative energy, drones, mobile devices, fashion, gaming, etc., along with one lonely entry under the wood industry. Congratulations Chelsea Shelton for keeping the lines open. Also, congrats on the first original “selfie” we’ve seen in a while.
A strong national, independent voice would be able to intervene on regional issues of regulation, labor, compliance costs, complaint resolution, legal advice and more. The issue of regulation is particularly poignant, since the current administration seems much more inclined to rule on behalf of manufacturers, and we are not positioned to move the wheels.
Anyway, we don’t have such a voice. Only the slow, monotonous churn of news releases, “new” product reports and stories of peers that recently got a discount for featuring a purchase in an interview. Same old, same old.
As for anything new, AWFS is upon us. Every show is a new show, if that’s what you want to make of it. New people to meet, new ideas to hear and new markets and competitors to learn.
Wood Industry US will be there with bells on. Drop by our Booth #9774 and say, “Hi.” We would love to hear your ideas of new topics, new ideas or new directions you would like to see addressed on a national or international basis. Who knows? We might even find something new that works in changing the slow, shrinking flow of industry.