Driven by a variety of factors including: stiff competition from vinyl, plastic, ceramic and concrete products, a slowing world economy, misleading campaigns - aimed at both the public and policy makers - regarding the sustainability of wood products, and most recently, the ongoing U.S. trade war with China, the U.S. hardwood industry is facing significant challenges. Markets are shrinking and businesses are looking at an uncertain future.
And while the U.S. hardwood industry has a wonderful story to tell - the beauty and desirability of its products, the history of the industry, the small family business focus, the sustainability of our raw material, and the environmental and health benefits of using hardwood - the industry has yet to be successful in developing a coordinated and collaborative initiative to promote the true story and science-based benefits of real American hardwood. Unfortunately, this has allowed our competitors and adversaries to frame public opinion and gain the advantage.
Call to Action
To brainstorm in regards to developing a collaborative effort to promote the use of real American hardwood to consumers, a group of hardwood association executives came together to discuss ideas and approaches. From that conversation came a larger meeting in Atlanta, August 16-17, 2019, when 19 hardwood association executives and association board members met to further consider actions that the entire industry could participate in and benefit from.
It was agreed upon by all to move forward in a way that is open, and engages all members of the hardwood community…receiving input and recognizing the differences of various industry segments... regardless of the many unique aspects of the industry and the different industry segments that may have different, yet complimentary, promotional needs.
And most significantly, all in attendance agreed that Real American Hardwood be our common bond, i.e. ‘brand.’
Also during the Atlanta conversations, it became clear that the first thing we as an industry must do is assess our current marketing resources - existing promotion, research projects, and data related to consumer trends and competing product availability. Once we know what we have, we can identify what we need. This information will help develop the strong brand statement research needed to effectively promote hardwood products.
NOTE: The effort to collect this information has been completed. Also, Action Team members interviewed several marketing research firms during the recent Hardwood Federation Fly-In. And those firms have submitted RFPs with costing associated to the proposal.
The second priority, closely related to the first, is to identify university architecture and design school courses and competitions related to the use of hardwood. Once identified, existing educational materials can be shared, and curriculum ideas and industry experts willing to participate in classroom presentations can be recommended.
Initially the group will function as a Coalition. Association Executives will serve as Coalition representatives.
- An Action Team has been appointed to draft communication materials that can be widely shared throughout the industry. They also are responsible for making sure all deadlines are met, and reporting all findings back to the group.
- An Advisory Committee has been set up to operate as the watchful industry eye. The Action Team will report directly to the Advisory Committee, and will forward all findings and communications it shares with the entire group.
- Future meetings will be open to interested associations and stakeholders. And communications about strategy development and implementation will be available to all.
As members of the U.S. hardwood industry, the task before us all is not an easy one. However, there is great optimism that by working together, we will overcome the obstacles facing our industry. For questions and more information, please send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.