Having known VEKA Group’s MD Dave Jones for a number of years, Collingwood were asked to partner them a couple of years ago to appoint a newly created Marketing Director role for their board. An integral part of the target candidate's background was exposure to Business to Consumer and refreshingly, Dave was keen to recruit someone from outside the building products industry. Dawn Stockell joined from consumer electronics giant LG and our Head of Building Products Unit, Mark Goldsmith, was keen to meet up to discuss how her position and marketing had evolved within the business.
Here is what they discussed:
Mark - Colleagues take the "micky" out of me for my excitement for building products. You’ll be able to set the record straight; window profile is so much more exciting and sexy than giant smart televisions isn’t it?
Dawn - Absolutely, I mean I now work in PVC and what’s sexier than that? No, seriously it’s all about perspective. I’ve spent my career in manufacturing and there is no better feeling than walking down the production line and seeing products that were developed out of market insight, to answer a customer/consumer need, come to life.
Mark - So you are two years into your reign at VEKA now Dawn, how did you find the transition between industries and what are your main observations to life within the building products sector (its view on marketing; appetite for change; quality of marketing etc)?
Dawn - Surprisingly there are a number of similarities, particularly the channel structure and the number of successful independent family owned businesses. The transition for me wasn’t about the change in industry it was more about the change in product type… and by that, I don’t mean tech vs. fenestration, I mean going from working on finished products (TV, washing machine, mobile phone) to component parts (PVC-U profile that is effectively a component of an overall window/door/conservatory product). From a marketing perspective, this was a huge opportunity to bring some cutting edge marketing practices that are more common place in the B2C environment through into the B2B world.
Mark - I often take briefs from clients who obsess about exposure in the built environment landscape. I see its importance within sales roles, but struggle sometimes where a position doesn’t require someone who understands, let alone lives and breathes, the industry (marketing, finance and operations in particular). It somewhat makes me laugh given the industry’s focus on bringing talent into the sector. What’s your view on this?
Dawn - I think it all comes down to value add, and simply in my position there was no value gain to bringing in more industry experience as my full mix marketing team already held a wealth of industry experience across product, proposition and marketing services. My role is not to be an industry expert, it is to develop and drive a best-in-class (not best-in-industry) marketing strategy and to use my experience from all the brands and sectors in which I’ve worked to drive VEKA’s marketing forward and, importantly, blending that direction with a solid backstop of industry experience.
Mark - You seem consciously aware that decision makers, especially when thinking about those who procure products, are moving into the millennial generation. With your marketing head on, how are you ensuring the message is changing to suit?
Dawn - The world is constantly changing, however the speed of change has accelerated significantly thanks to the digital age. Customers/Consumers/Audiences… Humans are more demanding than ever. Prior to the dawn of digital, we would happily wait a couple of weeks for the brochure we ordered on the phone to arrive, we would read through the brochure and highlight the features relevant to us that influence the buying decision and then we’d take time to make decisions, particularly for considered purchases such as new windows throughout the home (often needing time to save up for such a purchase).
This somewhat obsolete purchase funnel has given way to instant information, served up to answer your specific needs which ultimately facilitates speed of purchase. It’s a fact that millennials attention span averages just 12 seconds and as our future customers/consumers, our marketing has to be relevant and impactful enough to drive engagement throughout the path to purchase. Luckily we have the millennials to practice on…. And when Generation Z becomes the customer/consumer, we’ll only have an average of 8 seconds!
Our marketing must live up to these ever changing consumer demands yet also realise that marketing is no longer about transmitting our features and benefits… it’s about engaging with the customer/consumer; it’s about understanding them/their individual needs and how we serve up relevant marketing solutions for them.
Mark - One of your early challenges was to drive interest and growth to the consumer arm of VEKA, Network VEKA. With your wealth of B2C experience, how did you go about changing the offering and what obstacles were you presented with?
Dawn - Starting from a basis that all good marketing comes from a thorough understanding of the consumer, the first step was to understand what the consumer wants from a double glazing brand. This research supported a number of further pieces of activity with a brand consultancy that resulted in the re-branding of Network VEKA into Independent Network (IN). Consumers really identified with the Independent, local installer nature of the Network but were reassured by the backing of a larger organisation, so the logo for IN includes the entire VEKA logo, not just the typography. The design was developed around a ‘seal of approval’ which again was developed based upon the consumer insights via the research. The results speak for themselves, we’ve doubled our brand awareness since the re-brand and this will support our continued investment in marketing and indeed ongoing development of the IN proposition from a member perspective.
Mark - It’s interesting listening to the work you and VEKA’s Head of HR have put into your “SPIRIT” values proposition and employer branding. Why did you feel this was important, is it an often overlooked area of responsibility for a marketing team and what are you most proud of in this area?
Dawn - Upon joining VEKA, I worked with Gabriela Hammond, VEKA’s Head of HR, to develop an Employer Brand Project team. I have always worked on the basis that a company’s best Brand Ambassadors are their employees and I was keen to harness the already good work that VEKA’s HR team had put in place. Having developed a clear Purpose, Vision & Mission… we recognised that the values were not widely known or recognised. So using the results from our annual employee survey, VEKA SPIRIT was born and stands for our core values: Success, Pride, Integrity, Responsible, Improvement & Team. But that’s not where it stopped…. The business now runs its recruitment and annual appraisals through the SPIRIT Values, team members are praised on their achievements against the SPIRIT Values. After receiving the results of this year’s Employee Survey, I’m most proud at how well it has been adopted by the organisation, a significant proportion of our employees can not only remember SPIRIT, but they can recite the individual values and give examples of their own contributions. Now that’s VEKA SPIRIT!
Mark - Being new to the building products market I suspect you have been shocked by the lack of women involved at boardroom level (re Northern Powerhouse Woman work you are doing)?
Dawn - I’m not so sure this issue is specific to the building products sector as this is yet another parallel to my former industry, however I do think things are changing – likely fuelled by the digital age, the transparency of information and the empowerment that it delivers. That said, I recognise that as a women, I often have a different perspective than the rest of my fellow board directors and I believe that in itself adds value to the overall board discussions. I’m a keen advocate of gender diversity and am active with the Unique Women Business Network, powered by East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce as well as working with Northern Powerhouse Women.