Vendors & Dealers: A Branding Balancing Act

Serving a clientele with a variety of tastes ranging from classic to contemporary to edgy allows showrooms to work with many different brands. That mix of products is essential to meeting all sorts of demands and catering to different income levels and lifestyles.

Manufacturers want to work with local retailers because those are the people that promote the brand and build relationships with the end-users. Dealers get the advantage of major manufacturer's marketing budgets and training resources; when a relationship is strong, some dealers become exclusive distributors, carry special product lines or benefit from showroom updates.

A mix of colors, brands and styles doesn't tell customers anything about a showroom's brand.

While most showroom owners we work with know their clients and their products inside out, they don't always have clear, well-implemented branding guidelines. As our designers note, it's often easier to use vendor guidelines instead of coming up with a defined brand vision for the showroom.

Branding 101: As anyone in retail knows by now, a brand is more than a logo. A brand is the way a retailer or corporation creates an emotional connection with the consumer, by appealing to nostalgia, curiosity, aesthetics, concerns, fears, you name it.

Brand Loyalty- What Are You Doing About It?

Adding to an unclear brand image is the fact that most showrooms don't have a brand of their own, but instead combine a variety of national and international brands that are in line with customer preferences. Vendors and manufacturers will often offer to provide displays for a showroom, which of course are branded with their colors, logos and particular style.

The result? A hodge-podge of brands, colors and display sizes. Our designers see it all the time in existing showrooms, and make it a priority from the very beginning of the design phase.

What to do?

Over the years acting as showroom designers, we have found a few different ways to incorporate vendor displays into the showroom. No matter what, our designers suggest that the overall look of the space and the displays stays consistent.

A striking display with a subtle manufacturer's logo.

Ultimately, our design specialists say, dealers should have control over their showrooms. They should decide where vendor displays are positioned and how much vendors should pay for the space. So what can a vendor do when deciding what to do with the valuable real estate in the showroom?

  • Custom displays can be built to respect manufacturer specifications but still match the colors, style and sizing of the rest of the showroom's display fixtures.

  • Use manufacturer displays to take advantage of their big marketing budgets, keeping logos but changing colors to match the showroom's brand guidelines.

  • When using logos, make sure all logos the the same size! Vendor logos can be huge and really take away from the over-all design of the showroom.

  • A specialist design-build firm like SH can assist with negotiations between dealer and vendor. SH works with manufacturers like Kohler and DXV to develop displays that suit the branding needs of both parties.

Even without clear brand guidelines, the right designer can help transform a showroom into a space that makes a statement about the brand. The designer is also the person who finds that balance between the showroom brand and manufacturers' brands, incorporating as much showroom brand information as possible (color, style and merchandising).

A large Kohler shower display sits at the center of this showroom, but fits perfectly with the showroom's branding.

For a showroom offering multiple brands, often from all over the world, it is essential that the showroom brand speaks loudest of all. Ensure that your brand isn't forgotten in the shuffle by keeping displays and overall design unified and consistent, sending clear messages to your clientele, and providing unparalleled customer experience.

More about branding: SH Branding Guide: The Showroom Edition