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The Role of Brand in the Digital Transformation of the Construction Industry

Medium Read

Despite being the largest industry in the world, accounting for 13% of global GDP, construction is one of the slowest to embrace change. As the world embraces digital more than ever, and our government is telling us to ‘build, build, build’, now is the time for analogue construction businesses, big and small, to redefine themselves and set their vision for the post-COVID-19 world.

A recent industry insight piece from McKinsey states a $265 billion annual profit pool awaits industry disrupters. For some within the construction industry, innovation is already embedded in their culture, but for others, change can be slow and painful. Investment in construction tech has more than doubled over the past decade. Industry innovators are championing the adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM) and digital twins, and are collaborating to develop an international standard for information management. This is set to transform the construction industry from fragmented and lagging, to a connected industry pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

Those who analyse their offering, re-consider their brand positioning, and communicate clearly will be best placed to capitalise on this opportunity. If existing industry players don’t adapt, it’s only a matter of time before innovative startups swoop in and seize first mover advantage in the new digital playing field – as Uber did with the digitalisation and overhaul of the traditional taxi and food delivery markets. Being able to converse and compete in this connected future is going to be necessary to survive and thrive. Competition for customers and talent will come from outside the traditional construction sector so companies need to think about how they are perceived; are they seen as one of the innovators or one of the stalwarts following behind? In this article, we look to other industries to learn how they have approached change and highlight some common tactics that can be leveraged for construction businesses.

Learning from other sectors

As we’ve learnt through working on digital transformation projects across the events, professional services and fintech industries, communication is key to lasting change. Communication of the future vision, the ambition and the story of how you’re going to get there is vital. This story needs to be communicated just as strongly internally as externally. The internal teams need to all be working towards a single future vision and they need to feel inspired, excited and supported to contribute to its realisation. Only with an aligned internal brand vision can a company then communicate and deliver on the vision externally. Boeing is a great example of a successful digital transformation. They approached their digital transformation from a cultural perspective. They recognised that to achieve true transformation, they needed to change the foundations of their company to be centred around a culture of innovation. They led their transformation people first, then followed up with the process and technology. By focussing on aligning their people to the business vision, the transformation moved from a siloed tech-led approach to a business-wide approach. This same approach can be seen in other success stories, such as Tesla, whose brand vision created a clear innovation culture within the business that has created a magnetic pull of talent, investors and customers gravitating towards them. This brand vision has had tangible impacts on their bottom line, making them the world’s most valuable car maker in 2020, despite only manufacturing a fraction of the cars that Toyota do.

How to stay ahead of the game

So how could this be achieved within the construction sector? There are some common starting points to help keep ahead of the new disruptors:

  • Know your audience – target your business and brand strategies to their emotional needs to truly resonate with them. Speaking to, and analysing, your audience to truly understand what they need can open opportunities to tailor an offer that you may’ve otherwise never considered
  • Define your vision – look at the marketplace and analyse your offering compared to others, including new entrants. Review your vision to ensure it’s strong and future-focussed enough to drive the cultural change needed
  • Align your vision – first impressions are 94% design related, so it’s crucial that your business has a brand your audience connects with and communicates your future vision to the world. For many in the construction industry, they’re already moving forward with the tech but their brand still feels analogue
  • Share your vision – make sure your future vision is up front and centre in your communications. Your team need to understand the common goal and your customers need to see that you’re part of the future. Talk about your digital offerings, showcase your culture and share your vision
  • Embed your values – ensure your values are properly defined and importantly, effectively communicated to your teams. Employees (and of course, customers) must be aware of your values, and be able to understand them properly in order for them to live and breathe these values in their day-to-day work. Your values must be tangible, and feed into your vision.
  • Be omnichannel – investing in new digital channels expands brand visibility and drives growth. Create a strategy for communications to reach your audiences and review your progress regularly to see where your customers are coming from and what content resonates with them most.

From a pre-Covid construction industry lagging in digital adoption, there are now huge opportunities available to adapt and introduce digital practices to help improve resilience and accelerate the journey to industry recovery. Construction is such an important sector for a country’s economic growth so it’s in all of our interests to see it become the next global innovation-led industry. There are ripples of movement in the right direction but, as we’ve seen in aviation and the car industry, culture is the key to lasting transformation. And brand is the key to creating the right culture.