Get your brand noticed by Architects and Developers. Tips from President of commARCH Magazine

Learn how your brand can catch the eye of architects and developers from commARCH Magazine President Dean Horowitz

Episode 18: Get your brand noticed by Architects and Developers. Tips from President of commARCH Magazine.

What You Will Learn:

  • The presentation of your product is just as important as the concept of your product
  • The importance of presenting your brand and product to architects and developers
  • The top 3 ways to get in front of your audience

In the latest episode of GWP’s Constructing Brands podcast, we speak with Dean Horowitz, President of commARCH Magazine. When marketing your brand, it is important to think about your target. Should you position your product to the architect or the developer? In this episode, Dean explains that both are equally as important when considering who to target. The relationship between architects and developers is critical when it comes to commercial building. Understanding the goals for both parties will help building material companies position their brand perfectly to catch the eye of both architects and developers and ensure their product is seen as a real candidate in the industry.

About Dean Horowitz

Dean has spent his career connecting with audiences through contemporary media/communication practices, research, data, events, audience development, and big, profitable ideas. He is experienced with start-ups and Fortune 100 brands. He has been recognized in FOLIO, Publishing Executive, MeetingNet, and within diverse industries such as building & construction, beauty, agriculture, woodworking, consumer enthusiast brands, and home furnishings. Awards include Lifetime Membership/Recognition from NAHB, FOLIO’s TOP 40, Reed Elsevier’s Innovation Award, Habitat for Humanity and others. He has given talks at events such as International Builders Show, BIMS, Connectiv, CRMA, AM&P, High Point Market, and HFA.


Building materials manufacturers run a complex business, but we are here to help you plan for the future. Whether you are launching a new product, rebuilding a brand, trying to get thoughtful communication strategies in place or everything in between. Here on Constructing Brands, we will be talking with leading experts in construction, architecture, engineering, marketing and manufacturing to help make your building materials company stronger and more profitable. With 15 plus years of experience helping building materials companies succeed and grow, your host, Eric Lanel.

Eric (00:43):
I'm so happy to have Dean Horowitz on. Dean is the president of commARCH magazine, Commercial Architecture Magazine. I love the fact that your magazine, actually the ads and the content interact. They sing, they dance. I don't know where an ad is and where content is and to me that's exciting because visually I'm going to consume it and I don't feel like an ad is an ad where I could brush over it or content is something I need to grab a cup of coffee because I have to dig into. You found this balance in my mind of presenting content in a forum that is light enough that I can engage with it, but deep enough where I'm enjoying it. So how did you capture that?

Dean (01:32):
So what we did was we surveyed the audience that we want to target, which is architects and owners and developers because we saw that owners and developers think they're the architect and that the architect is really the draftsperson and the architect is convinced they sold the owner developer on this cool idea that's really going to work. So if you bring them together, this could be really powerful, so we're really just focused on that group. So we wanted to learn everything about that group, how they take in information, what they do with information, how they communicate, did a number of different in-person tours of offices and also focus groups. And what we found out was everyone's getting so many magazines but they're not reading them. They're like small pictures, dense content. If you're an architect or an owner developer that has a vision, you want to see something beautiful and somehow or other along the way, B2B became ugly. You know, the paper became engineered out for cost. Everything got engineered out. And so what we're doing is following what they said. So giving them an intimate experience we don't have on the cover, a point in time type content because we heard that's not what they wanted, they're reading European design magazines. They're not reading US ones. So high quality paper, just beautiful. And about the ads. It's so funny you should say that. We heard please no more ugly ads.

Eric (03:08):
Now I'm a visual person and I consume, I read stories, I don't like reading words. I like pulling in and I think your group has done a great job of actually presenting. You went down this road, so we're going to go to it, which is the cover of your magazines. Now I'm fortunate enough to have your last three magazines in front of me. And now tell me about what the impetus of the cover and where that comes from.

Dean (03:37):
Well, okay, let me see how much I tell you. Because we, when we discovered that they want it to be immediately embraced as a design type product, we knew we couldn't do cliches at all. So we started thinking about what does that look like and what's strong it what's going to grab you from a design perspective. The other part is we're big hip hop fans, so the tag on each of the covers is a different hip hop song that we're in love with at that point in time. Which is kind of like this, somebody said to me, it's like a dog whistle, only so many people are going to really pick up on it. But I got an email a couple of days ago from an architect who said, another Kendrick Lamar. Huh? But we want that open-minded, thoughtful, forward thinking group and we're doing it. Thankfully, you know, we're really resonating.

Eric (04:36):
So let's talk about your target audience. Share with me who your target is and how you're working through that.

Dean (04:42):
Okay, cool. So we decided that the underserved part was the early to mid career architect. That they looked at current media as being for that other group, the older group. And so what we decided and tested was what should we become? What will be the ESPN for architectural information and let them be the Sports Illustrated. So do heavy video. The articles in the magazine are just a taste of the article. If you want more, you go online. But that's what they said they do, you know, they have multi-platform. So when they're sitting there, why not take advantage of it? If I want to know more, I'm going to look it up. But we're looking at their habits and how they want to consume. The other thing that we learned from that group, which we didn't really think about beforehand, maybe we knew was that you're reading probably a couple of books a day with emails. And then when you want to sit down with a magazine, you want to have a different experience, and it has to just be beautiful.

Eric (05:48):
Anybody in the audience who's listening, what a great lesson about the way you present yourself in print and online because we all try to get as much information as we can because we think about how much something's going to cost and how much can we cram into that. How much can we share about what we're excited about our product and what we're presenting to our target. And sometimes we forget and it's that lesson that you're giving us right here, which is if someone's really appreciating it, visually and the content is reinforcing that, isn't that what you're, that's the hook. Maybe that's the thing that's going to bring them into your brand and they're going to remember more than the factoids that you need to kind of ram in there sometimes.

Dean (06:38):
No, no, really, really, really good point. Absolutely. But what we learned was everyone was just reading sidebars, not necessarily reading the whole content. So just to your point, like bigger images that I immediately can say I relate to it. This has something personally that it offers and then enough for the content that you really are informed. And if I want more, I deep dive on the web. It was funny I was at a trade show, and we were just about to come out and I was talking to a client and saying, look, they want this and they want video and they want all these things. I'm walk around and she's like, Oh my gosh, we just completed a research project. Let me walk you around. That's exactly what we're doing now. Before everything was, we had to tell everybody everything about our product and now we realized, no we have to tell them what they need to know about our product.

Eric (07:29):
I love the case studies that you do and the way you present that. I think it's so cool. I mean because the soundbites have been thought through clearly by you guys and by the client or however the magic is happening on your side. As the consumer, I'm actually able to consume it without being given a job.

Dean (07:51):
Ah, nice. Nice. That's the goal. That's wonderful. Yeah, and we're enjoying it. You know, we were saying in a cocky way, but maybe we don't deserve it, is that we're reinventing B2B to make it meaningful again.

Eric (08:06):
That's awesome. And I have to take hats off because it's clear to me that you're strategy and content are kind of dancing and that's, you know, when I see that, I can't help but appreciate it. Let me ask you something and I'm going to kind of now geek out on a place where I go because I've been so underwhelmed. It seems like every time we pick up a new client and we're working with them, strategy is where I jump into, and I love that part of it, but the assets, when I look at the assets that I'm, because quite frankly, they just don't have the sexy, incredible imagery. Well, I think looking at your magazine, it looks like a lot of, and I love architectural photography by the way. So I should just raise my hand and I geek out on a great image.

Dean (08:52):
Me too.

Eric ( 08:52):
So I know you do because your actually is, highlighting some really good imagery that isn't in a stockpile, I'm guessing of clients. So how do you actually procure that type of imagery?

Dean (09:07):
So can we, how about I'll go there, but if we could stay on what you were just talking about, which I think is fascinating.

Eric (09:14):

Dean ( 09:15):
You'll talk to a brand and they'll describe their brand and then you look at what those creative assets are and there's no link, right? Hey, you're like, no, no, you're not bad. And like let's take video. Okay, well we're the top tier player. We're about this, you know, innovation and all that. And then they take a video with an iPhone.

Eric (09:40):
And quite frankly, and I'll tell you as an ad agency, the reason why we do, I've always been strategy strategy. We now are a full service. We do video, we do TV commercials, and we do photography. A lot of photography. That came out of what you're saying. When I saw what it was and then I heard, Oh no, we have a guy who's a photographer on staff and he's pulling out a Nikon and no offense to Nikon, whatever the camera is, if you're a photographer, you're a photographer, but he's not getting the image like he's missing not only the image, but the perspective that's needed to tell the story that reveals the brand.

Dean (10:25):
Right, right, right. So, so much it's so far off message.

Eric (10:31):
The essence of this conversation is content and strategy in my mind because you have to have a magazine that happens to have an online presence that happens to be able to present photography and video in a way that opens the brand up to a target audience, which is an architect.

Dean (10:50):
Yeah, absolutely. What our focus is audience first because we've seen in a lot of media that it's about what we think and what we need to tell you. Right. Which all starts with us. Oh no, you have to know this. You have to know that. And we start everything with the audience, with research and talking to the audience and vetting stuff before it goes live with the audience. But this is a thing that we've been doing for a few years is we pay our editors based on consumption. So like, I'll try to give an example, it's like I'm a big Bob Dylan fan. I love Bob. I bought his music in every format each time available, but he only made money off of me once. Now with the new setup, he gets money every time I listen to him, which is a lot more fair. So for us we're like, okay, we could write you a check for that article and then we're done, it's a transaction, but that's a living piece, that article. We want you to watch how it performs. Maybe change headlines, work on the piece, maybe what information you have becomes a follow up piece, create a dialogue with that audience. And then the more times your article is engaged with the more money you make forever.

Eric (12:14):
Similar to paying actors to act in a TV commercial or a show.

Dean (12:21):
Oh, that's a good point. Yeah, I haven't thought about.

Eric (12:22 ):
Like a residual you pay based on consumption?

Dean (12:27):
Yeah. Consumption and that consumption is monetized. So they're basically getting a commission off of all the monetized consumption from their product.

Eric (12:35):
Are the advertisers paying based on consumption on an ongoing basis as well?

Dean (12:42):
No, no, no, no, no. No, they're not right now. Well actually no wait, no, wait. Okay. No, they're paying off of impressions.

Eric (12:51):

Dean (12:53):
And the phase we're in right now is just that real pedestrian. Okay. How much are you going to pay per thousand impressions and how many click throughs and all the basic stuff. In a couple of months we're relaunching the site onto a bigger platform that we really desire. And with that, it'll actually tie it to the audience. So as an advertiser I cannot, I won't only get how many impressions, I'll also get who the individuals are that consume that information.

Eric (13:23):
Which is awesome. But I'd be concerned for you that your model could be upside down a little bit. I love it as a content creator. Right. That's awesome. You're recognizing that what I'm doing isn't in a box and it's a living thing that's continuing to provide content information to people. But if you get a one time fee from an advertiser and you're paying ongoing for the content that's being consumed, it's an endless, unless you do you have a stop gap with the content creator?

Dean (13:56):
So far, no, we haven't with the idea that you're going to stay on that for four years, cause it's a revenue stream. I worked at one company where we implemented it and somebody who was an assistant editor just out of college was making a few thousand additional to their pay a month based on consumption and more senior people that are so knowledgeable about the market weren't making anything. So everyone's going to that person like what are you doing? How are you promoting it?

Eric (14:26):

New Speaker (14:28):
Now for the advertiser, I want to be a little more specific. So, they're saying how long, but yeah, we certainly could open it up and say as much consumption on that, whatever. But where we really want to go is say, we want architectural firms in the Northeast that specialize in hospitals. Okay. How about you just pay us to deliver that audience?

Eric (14:50):
Probably your number job is to protect that vehicle that you've created. Right.

Dean (14:57):
If I could protect that relationship.

Eric (15:00):
Okay. Okay. So with that said, I think we're going to the same place. And I guess my question back there to narrow it is how are you ensuring, so if you have an agency providing content for you to advertise in your magazine and online and you have a client saying, Oh no, I want and they're sending you ads, I'm not seeing those traditional looking kind of like ads that I'm just going to go by. I'm seeing content integration in a form of a different way of doing it, which is what's exciting me. How is that consistently happening?

Dean (15:39):
So that's a good point. I got to really think you know how to articulate. But we've been lucky that everybody involved in this is pretty passionate about it. And then when they're talking to advertisers, agencies, they're articulating who our target is. And just saying you can't run what you were doing beforehand. It's just not going to fit. We know this and we test it because every month we do, I mean every issue we do, our readership study, we also test ads at the same time because we want to know when, you know, recall and all that stuff so that we can go back and say the average ad performed like this, yours hit this mark but not this mark for the next one. Why don't we help you?

Eric (16:24):
Excellent. So you're really involved with, regardless of it's the client or an agency that you're working with, kind of coaching them based on you are the expert with this target and you need to be, you need to trust us in these are the type of assets that work well or these are the type of communication platforms. This is the communication content, I guess is what it is, right?

Dean (16:51):

Eric (16:51):
That they're consuming. So feed us that way so we could get results for you. Is that kind of the...

Dean (16:58):
Exactly. We have to be the expert in our audience.

Eric (17:01):

Dean (17:01):
Help you make sure that you just hit your target each time and it's really resonating, otherwise you're not going to stay with us. And then year after year, you know, things are going to be questioned and we'll just be off to the side and we're like, we can't allow that to happen. We can't have a one off customer. We've got to have a client that really is part of this thing.

Eric ( 17:21):
What would you say are the top three things? If I've got people who are listening to this who are building material companies that are struggling and fit, trying to figure out how to market their brand, that, you know, so many of them are product people who focus their time, energy, and effort on creating a product that they think is going to help the world in which we live. And they haven't started thinking about marketing yet. So tell me, what are the top three ways that you've seen that you could get in front of an architect?

Dean (17:58):
No, that's great because so many lunch and learns are being done and online education and I worked on online education in the past and we're trying to figure out how to make it more relevant in this scape. So we're going to launch something soon. But yeah, the first thing is don't torture me. These are human beings for God's sake.

Eric (18:22):
So I'm writing this, don't torture me is the first way to get your product in front of someone?

Dean (18:29):
Because so many times they have to go into these meetings and they're just inundated with information they don't need.

Eric (18:37):
So, on a serious note, lunch and learn, do you think, is that the first primary? What would be the top three ways to get in front of an architect who has not picked their drinking buddies?

Dean (18:50):
Well, okay, so lunch and learns are great and I think really, really important. But there are only so many people for each company that can go and do lunch and learns. And maybe they're out at an architectural firm once a year, once every two years doing a lunch and learn. It just, it doesn't work. So, obviously I believe the media that serves them keeps a constant relationship.

Eric (19:14):
Your number one would be the right media that connects with your target.

Dean (19:20):
Yeah. And yeah, so part of me is like, yeah, I'm sorry for saying that because that's what my background is, but we believe that otherwise we wouldn't do this.

Eric (19:28):
That's fair. What's the number two?

Dean (19:31):
Number two is online product selection to make sure that you're part of any kind of catalog where the architect on demand can find out about you.

Eric (19:43):
So you're talking about, just for my audience to really clearly understand, you're saying that's not where you're creating, you're providing your information in the way that the other, you know, this is resources that are available and you're injecting your product information in those places. Is that what you're suggesting?

Dean (20:06):
Yeah. But okay. So if what my company I need to establish my brand, my benefit, begin a dialogue with this audience somehow. And that's what we're doing in our part now. Then they're working on the architect is working on a project and there are going to be times where they're like, okay, who fits this spec? How do I source it? So being part of any of that kind of resource is just absolutely essential.

Eric (20:38):
Any type of online resource that you could get your product involved with so that the architect, when there's a consideration set being made, you're in there.

Dean (20:50):
Yeah, absolutely.

Eric (20:51):
And what's your third?

Dean (20:54 ):
So my third would be the lunch and learn and education.

Eric (20:57):

Dean (20:57):
It's so going to your part about age and not to, so about 15 years ago we were launching online education. So we're meeting with all these architectural firms. And in one of the meetings, the only person who got it was this individual who was in his seventies and he started talking, picking up his phone and saying, I want this. I don't want to consume this way. And other people in the room are like, nah, we'll just go to AIA and take the classes during the show. And he's like, no, no, this is how you do it. He is the target, no matter what. You were saying earlier, that's who you want and it's those innovators that are going to switch to your product.

Eric (21:41):
And it's those innovators who quite frankly, if you have a building material company and you're creating building products, they need to be your target regardless of who your drinking buddy is, so to speak. Because if you're only hanging out with that group and you're not thinking and you want them to be your drinking buddy, right, because they're going to help keep you relevant and help you, help challenge you to where you need to take your company, I would argue, but if you're not in front of these folks, then you have to be, because they're the ones who are helping create the future. And I love the idea of it's not just the architect because it's that dance between, it's the architect and the developer, right. It really is.

Dean (22:30):
It's a great conversation because both of them are really proud of what they're creating together.

Eric (22:36):
And both of them can value engineer you out.

Dean (22:39):
Yeah. Nice.

Eric (22:41):

Dean (22:41):
Yeah. But one of the things we're working on right now is taking approach to business information and make it as beautiful and exciting as we're doing the other types. Because we saw that a lot of architects and architectural firms are being relegated to only one part of a function within the process, that the general contractors are now dictating so much more of what's going on for the owner developer. So we want to do is educate that architect so they go raise the dialogue. So that way it's really resonating with the owner developer so that way they're not just a service provider or a one off, that they're really part of this.

Eric (23:25):
Makes sense. Makes sense. Well it all speaks to content integration, right?

Dean (23:30):
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've been thinking a lot about Tom Peters though that now he's like a yesteryear brand type person, but he made business exciting. You'd watch him and be like, yeah, I want to start a company and we've lost some of that now it's all about startups and digital type place. But we've lost that, let's make something great.

Eric (23:57):
On in the content driving strategy approach.

Dean (24:03):
Yeah, absolutely. We have a line. It's only sustainable if somebody keeps it.

Eric (24:13):
That's good. That's great. So, let's talk about the future. Tell me about where you see the future of this industry.

Dean (24:21):
For the overall?

Eric (24:24):
Tell me the future of architecture. Where do you see that going?

Dean (24:28):
Okay, so I, for about 20 years, worked in this market and then worked in other industries and now I'm back. So when I was here about a decade ago, everybody was talking about everyone has to embrace them and all these different communication tools and how to design. And I was just blown away. I go to these brothers, I’m like, this is brilliant. How in this software and this technology wisdom is, you can actually figure this stuff out just in a beautiful way and share it with everybody involved and know how it ends. And so I come back, like I said, about a decade away and what's everyone talking about? We've got to get on them. So one of the few things that we really want to accomplish is, one, we want to raise the level of the dialogue architects have with their clients. We think that's really, really important. The other thing is make them not afraid of technology because really see what the benefits are that right now they might be working in AutoCAD and then using SketchUp. So why do you have two different databases and you do two different things. Why not use this technology and you'll actually end redundant work and how does that impact what you do? Cause hopefully that just makes you more creative.

Eric (25:50):
So, the future includes actually taking on and working with technology in a way that it's a tool to help you and not being afraid of it, but really integrating it into your daily life.

Dean (26:04):
Yeah. Really accepting that. That's it. Yup.

Eric (26:06):
And the marriage between, an architect and a developer and their client, really the partnership.

Dean (26:14):
Another area that we're really thinking about, we haven't really gone and done anything yet, but we're thinking a lot about is that architects right now are doing these transactions. Why not have the architect be the owner developer? Why aren't they creating their own assets for a long term well? So we want to start figuring out how we could give them the tools so they could start thinking more of, okay, we're not just this type firm. We could be a firm for ourselves.

Eric (26:45):
Well, I mean, if they were a developer isn't a developer have a much different job than an architect? I mean, it's a different skillset. Really.

Dean (26:54):
Quite a few conversations with architects where we're trying to figure out how to, make this resonate. They're like, look, I got into this not to have to deal with business.

Eric (27:04):

Dean (27:06):
I don't want to deal with business. But, and then larger firms will say, well, we'll just hire a business manager if we want that, they'll go off and do it. But they really have to be sensitive to what the impact is. And when talking with a client to be able to say, well, we made these decisions and as a result of these decisions, you're going to get a higher price per square foot. Or that we did some market research and saw that this community looks at life this certain way, and as a result we're making the building that they'll immediately feel a relationship with and want to be part of.

Eric (27:47):
That's interesting. So you're saying that the future you see is where developers work more with people who truly understand not only how to design and build buildings, but almost have skin in the game and understand the ramifications of their decisions. Is that it?

Dean (28:08):
Yeah. Great. Yes. Yeah. We covered a project in Rockford, Illinois an elementary school and the architect, Robert Benson, he's just brilliant. When he was working on it, he worked first with the kids and asked the kids to design the building and he got their input and what happened was they never thought put the cafeteria next to the gym, but somebody had suggested, well, because of these behaviors, this is what we'd like to do. He was like, wow, we would never have known. He engaged all those and then when he went back to the client, he was able to say, this is the research we did. This is our experience in education and this is why this is going to be a great building.

Eric (28:53):
So it sounds like in that case it wasn't necessarily him acting as a developer, but more of him really not thinking he knew everything because of what he knew. But actually doing that legwork to understand how to enhance the project in front of him.

Dean (29:13):
Yeah. Perfect. Yeah. Yeah. Which so many architects are doing, I just thought this was really exquisitely done. One architect said, look, I live in this tiny condo in the city and all the general contractors have all different places around the country, but their multimillion dollar, what's going on? And it's just how can we help them become that valued asset? And I really think Robert did a nice job with that. And there's so many examples.

Eric (29:42):
So, tell me now. I want to present a new product and education is my primary and then trial would be my secondary. So it's first education.

Dean (29:55):
Okay. So we're doing something that's working really, really well. It's contests and please don't think cheesy contest. But we have for the architects where they take a series of questions that walk you through a product line and your decision making process. And then as a result you can win X types of things that are associated with that brand and that project.

Eric (30:25):
Dean, thank you so much for joining me today. If people want to find you, what is the best way that they could find you?

Dean (30:32):
Oh sure. Go to the website, commarch.com and then we have stuff. And also I have an email address, Dean @ideasoil.com. Idea soil, because that's where ideas grow. Ooh.

Eric (30:47):
I knew this was going to be fun and you did not disappoint. Thank you very much Dean, Dean Horowitz, president of commARCH. Thank you so much for today.

Dean (30:58):
Thank you Eric so much. Just an honor to be with you. Thank you.

Conclusion (31:02):
Thank you for listening to another episode of Constructing Brands. Your feedback is how we thrive, so please leave us a rating and review on your favorite platform. And if you want access to even more great information, go to constructingbrands.com.