Distributors have one of the toughest branding scenarios. Their job is to operate behind the scenes, and build other companies’ brands. And if they do a good job they grow the brands they represent from niche products into industry standards.
Distinctive Appliances did that with Bosch Home Appliances. Distinctive brought the first stainless steel dishwasher to market in Eastern Canada with Bosch. In 1992 they were selling 100 to 200 dishwashers a month in the region. By 2006 Distinctive had grown the brand, and was selling between 750 to 1,000 a week.
The challenge for distributors is once a brand gets large enough they tend to cut out the middlemen. The cycle is predictable for distributors, which means they have to manage their brand as strategically as the brands they represent.
Master the category
In the late 2000’s Bosch changed their strategy for Eastern Canada, and decided to sell direct. They notified Distinctive Appliances, and the two companies worked together to create a smooth transition.
Distinctive Appliances was disappointed to lose the line, but they were prepared. They are a second generation family business founded in 1980. They’ve gone through line transitions over the years, and leverage a portfolio strategy to manage the risks.
Instead of relying on one or two key brands like Bosch, Distinctive focuses on the category. They are experts in premium kitchen appliances, and work with over a dozen specialty brands. The philosophy is to grow with the industry, and bring innovative products to market.
The breadth of products and services creates an enviable market position, because dealers and designers call them first for product recommendations, design ideas and options. For example, Distinctive offers over 300 SKU’s for kitchen ventilation hoods. This gives designers lots of choice, but also a trusted advisor to help them select the right solutions.
Own the relationships
The most important brand asset for a distributor is relationships. Products come and go, but it’s the local relationships that drive the business.
Distinctive Appliances invests in four core constituents:
- Brands, the manufacturers they represent
- Dealers and retailers who they sell through
- Designers, builders and architects who recommend their products
- Consumers who use the products
Each group has its own needs and expectations, but it’s in these relationships where a distributor’s brand is established.
For example, Distinctive invests in the design community by offering workshops at their showroom in SOFA. Their ventilation program is extremely popular, and teaches interior designers the importance of ventilation in kitchen design and offers different ways to achieve stunning yet functional designs.
Become too good to ignore
Relationships and options shift Distinctive Appliances’ brand from a middleman to a go to resource.
Their goal is to create top of mind presence. They achieve this through their customer service, their breadth of products, their education programs, and their dealer network. They focus on what they can control, and make sure they go well beyond the call of duty in these areas.
A distributor may not be able to control the manufacturer, but they can make their breadth of services too good to ignore.