Unaided Brand-name Awareness is Low
Most kitchen and bath product brands in all key categories
apparently remain a well-kept-secret to the average home
improvement consumer, whose brand-name awareness is extensive by
comparison for literally every major product, from canned goods and
clothing to airlines and automobiles.
Unaided brand-name awareness for some kitchen and bath products
including cabinetry, countertops and bathtubs is so low, in fact,
that it seems almost a wonder that the products are an integral
part of literally every home in America, and that billions of
dollars are invested in those products every year by U.S.
The degree to which kitchen/bath product brand awareness is so
limited is the key finding of a major new consumer survey conducted
late last year by the Chicago-based research firm Leo J. Shapiro
& Associates on behalf of National Home Center News, a trade
magazine serving the home improvement retail market. Results of the
national telephone survey which involved more than 900 households
were released recently by National Home Center News, which granted
Kitchen & Bath Design News permission to publish selected
The survey reveals, for example, that only 11% of the consumers
polled could readily name a brand of kitchen cabinet. Similarly,
only 11% could name a countertop brand. By comparison, 47% of the
consumers surveyed were able to name a brand of faucet, and 28%
could name a brand of toilet (see related graph).
The survey also underlines the role being played by home centers as
an increasingly competitive environment for kitchen and bath
purchases even at the mid-range to high end. It concludes, for
example, that home improvement stores are generally thought of as
both a “good place to buy” kitchen and bath products, and the last
place where those products were actually purchased a finding which
suggests “that the home improvement store is increasingly perceived
as the best source for almost all kitchen and bath products.”
Moreover, home centers have “an even greater upside opportunity to
capture more sales from specialty retail outlets because of
consumers’ very positive perception of them” a message which
contains potentially serious ramifications for independent kitchen
and bath dealers (see related Editorial, Page 7).
The National Home Center News survey also contained several other
important findings. Among them:
- Consumers at home centers are more likely to purchase small,
commodity-type products such as showerheads and water filters than
they are major remodeling components such as cabinets, vanities,
countertops and plumbing fixtures a conclusion that, combined with
the finding on brand names, lends credence to the claim that
kitchen/bath dealers, designers and related professional specifiers
remain a powerful force in the product-selection
- Consumer purchasing plans for most key kitchen and bath
products are fairly bullish and are expected to remain so, given
the positive economic and demographic conditions that exist in the
marketplace (see related graph).
- Consumers use widely differing criteria when buying various
kitchen and bath products, although many consumers continue to
“buy” key intangibles offered by product specifiers (see related
story, Page 42).
Unaided brand-name awareness for kitchen and bath products is
highest, by far, in the faucet category, the NHCN survey concludes.
Of the 47% of surveyed consumers who could name a brand of faucet,
29% named Moen, 21% named Delta, 14% named Kohler, 10% named Price
Pfister and 9% named Peerless. Quality (31%), style/looks (29%) and
price (22%) are the three most important product attributes
surveyed consumers said they consider when buying a faucet.
Of all the kitchen and bath products noted on the NHCN survey,
faucets are also the most likely to be purchased in the next 12
months, with 11% of those surveyed noting that they plan to
purchase a faucet in that time span.
By comparison, 9% of the surveyed consumers said they might
purchase a new countertop in the coming year, although only 11%
could name a brand of countertop. Of that 11%, Corian (in 35% of
the cases) and Formica (29%) were the two most prominent brands
mentioned, while quality (40%), style/looks (38%) and price (11%)
were the three most significant product attributes sought by
Regarding other products:
- 8% of those consumers surveyed said they’re considering
purchasing a showerhead in the coming year. 19% of the surveyed
consumers were able to name a showerhead brand, with Water Pik
(17%), Moen and Delta (each 14%) the most-commonly-named brands.
Quality (34%), style/looks (23%) and price (18%) are the three most
important product characteristics affecting showerhead purchase
decisions, surveyed consumers said.
- 7% of the surveyed consumers said they were planning to buy a
toilet in the coming year and, of the 28% of surveyed consumers who
could name a brand of toilet, Kohler was named by 43%, and American
Standard by 30%.
- 6% of the consumers questioned said there is a chance that they
might buy a cabinet in the coming year. Only 11%, however, could
name a specific brand of cabinet. Of that 11%, KraftMaid (11%) and
Merillat (9%) were the most prominent brands mentioned. Another 9%
of the surveyed consumers mentioned “Sears” as a brand name of
cabinetry. In terms of cabinet attributes that are important to
them, consumers cited quality (37%), style/looks (28%) and price
(15%) as among the keys.
- 4% of those surveyed said they’re considering buying a bathtub
in the coming year. Only 10% were able to name a brand, with Kohler
being mentioned as that brand 45% of the time. Quality (27%),
style/looks (25%) and price (17%) are the three most important
product characteristics affecting purchase decisions, consumers
- 3% of those surveyed said they are considering buying a
whirlpool bath in the coming year. While only 9% could name a brand
of whirlpool, surveyed consumers said that the most important
product attributes affecting their decision to buy are quality,
price and style/looks, in that order.
- Only 1% of the consumers surveyed said they were considering
the purchase of a sauna in the coming year.
Today’s consumers are demanding more choices than ever when
making kitchen- and bathroom-related purchases, but they’re also
demonstrating a willingness to exceed their budget and pay more for
designs, products and services that exhibit demonstrable
That’s the opinion of Mimi Cooper of the Cooper Marketing Group,
Inc., an Ohio-based consumer research and marketing consulting
firm. Cooper says that it’s critical for kitchen and bath
specialists to create a distinct “comfort zone” for their customers
by being cognizant of the fact that most consumers have a very
clear sense of what they want, but need to have a wider-than-ever
range of choice.
“Buyers today are more educated, more sophisticated shoppers who
are aware that there are more things from which to choose, and they
expect more choices,” Cooper observes. “They want what is
distinctive and different, but want to feel comfortable with the
selections from which they will choose. Kitchen and bath
specialists must be something to everyone. Choice creates a comfort
zone for customers.”
According to Cooper, a company’s level of professionalism is the
first criteria consumers consider when deciding on a kitchen/bath
remodeling firm. They ask themselves such questions as: How many
years has the company been in business? Does it have a showroom?
Does it provide referrals? What kind of customer service can they
expect? Are the sales staff and business owner approachable?
Cooper says the key to connecting with today’s kitchen and bath
consumer is “to make your products and services stand out.”
“The consumer is more sophisticated today,” Cooper notes, adding
that most kitchen and bath prospects have had experience in
shopping at everything from outlet malls and discount chains to
catalogues and upscale department stores. “They are not shopping
amateurs,” Cooper says of most kitchen/bath prospects.
Cooper advises kitchen and bath professionals to be aware of the
fact that, with significant changes in homeowner demographics, new
kitchen and bath customers may desire different designs, products,
styles and materials than the more traditional customers of the
“Take this change as opportunity,” Cooper advises. “Their choices
cannot be ignored.”
The first step in determining those choices, Cooper says, is simply
to “ask enough questions to impress the customer with (your)
professionalism and gather enough information to offer them the
choices they are looking for.
“They have a lot of expectations, and they’ll get very angry if
those expectations aren’t met,” Cooper cautions. “They want the job
done faster and more efficiently, and want more details,” she adds.
“Understanding your client leads the way to open and honest
buyer-seller relationships, particularly when it comes to a major
purchase like a custom kitchen or bath.
“That relationship is necessary to convince people to buy from