Fragmented Industry Opens Doors to Opportunity

How important is "brand strength" in a "small-company's" industry?

You've likely read umpteen articles about how important branding is. That's because it is. Branding is also a lot more involved than many people think. It's not just slapping together a slick logo and tagline, or hiring a well-known celebrity to endorse you. Branding is about creating an experience for the customer so the customer thinks and feels a certain way about your company.

I thought branding would make for a good topic in this issue's column for a couple of reasons.

First of all, our industry's premier national association, PLANET, is being completely rebranded. This will include a new name for the association, which will not be revealed until February 26. The new branding is then scheduled to begin being implemented in April. So look for more on this on our website and in our March/April issue. For now you can hear some of the rationale behind the rebranding effort by listening to my interview with PLANET's current president at

Also on the topic of branding, we're in the process of publishing updated landscape contractor brand favorability ratings for key types of landscaping products. We did this in our January issue, and are continuing the effort this issue with our features on lawn care products, excavators and walk-behind mowers. You can also check out "Landscape Contractors Rate Top Brands" at for a quick rundown of all evaluated product categories.

We've received a lot of interest in these brand favorability ratings. Now people want to know the un-favorability ratings, which is the percentage of contractors saying they flat out don't like a given brand. We're mulling over whether or not to publish this data; I do have a sensitive side and don't always want to hurt people's feelings, you know.

In the meantime, I can tell you that, generally speaking across all key product categories, a given brand's weaker favorability rating is not the result of high un-favorability. Only a handful of brands creep into the 15-20% un-favorability range, and most score less than 5%. Rather, a given brand's weaker favorability rating is largely the result of poor brand engagement (contractors saying "no opinion").

As I've said before, this is a big industry predominantly made up of smaller companies that operate on local levels. While most suppliers do market their equipment products nationally, most have their geographic sweet spots too, which is why they can be relative unknowns in one region but wildly popular in others.

The point I take from all of this is that you don't have to be the biggest brand name out there. You just have to commit to what you want to stand for, make sure your customers feel it, and carve out your own little niche. Growth and success—as you define it—can then follow.