News & Opinions
The latest news and insights from Hanley Wood’s outspoken experts and key thought-leaders throughout the residential and commercial design and construction industry.
Just Getting Started: Ply Gem Wins Top Marketer Award
Dennis Harrington / Hanley Wood / September 26, 2013
The U.S. housing recovery has put building product manufacturers (BPMs) to the test. Most BPMs have aggressively seized the warming economy to ramp up production, marketing and sales. A few have even taken steps to leapfrog their way to product category leadership.
Then there’s Ply Gem.
Today the Cary, NC-based exterior building products company stands out as a striking example of how to respond to changing market conditions. Their remarkable string of recent initiatives has transformed the 70 year-old company into a $1.5 billion media-smart, brand-centric BPM powerhouse.
Today their remarkable constellation of building products includes nearly everything for the home exterior … from windows, doors and siding to designer accents, stone veneer, fence and rail. What’s more, Ply Gem is knocking it out of the park as the #1 Building Product Manufacturer in vinyl siding and aluminum accessories and #2 in vinyl and aluminum windows.
Their brand roster reads like a who’s who of BPM excellence: Mastic Home Exteriors®, Variform®, NAPCO®, Ply Gem® Stone, Kroy®, Cellwood®, Georgia Pacific, DuraBuilt®, Richwood®, Leaf Relief®, Gutter Warrior™, Monticello® Columns, Ply Gem® Windows, Mastic® Replacement Windows, Ply Gem® Canada, Great Lakes® Window, Gienow® and Mitten®.
In recognition of their leadership, Hanley Wood recently honored Ply Gem as the winner of its inaugural 2013 Marketer of the Year Award. In selecting Ply Gem, David Colford, chief customer officer, Hanley Wood cited a record of achievement that “shines as a North Star of industry excellence. It’s a standard of accomplishment that sets a magnificent Award benchmark going forward.”
In accepting the Award, Mr. Robinette said, “Our employees, shareholders and partners are humbled by this exceptional distinction. The Award will inspire all of us to reach even higher, to dare even more as we strive to deliver even more value for our customers and stakeholders.”
The Award is a fine testimony to their achievements. But Ply Gem is just getting started:
Ply Gem is a fierce industry advocate, demonstrating their commitment a variety of ways, most notably their constant annual investment in the International Builders Show. 2013 was no exception. Or perhaps it was an exception: Ply Gem expanded their booth size by 40%, to a record 9,000 square feet (10 semi-trucks of equipment). What’s more, a sizable portion of that vast space was given over to Ply Gem’s new professional education program, ProTalk. IBS is just one example. Ply Gem also supports the industry by sponsoring and attending numerous remodeling and replacement contractor conferences.
In what started as a “glimmer of an idea” less than 20 months ago has rapidly evolved into a powerful new expression of the Ply Gem name. It’s called the Designed Exterior by Ply Gem and this innovative bundling of Ply Gem’s product line is being embraced by a growing circle of respected home builders as a key sales differentiator.
For example, Savvy Homes, a Raleigh-based builder of about 500 homes a year, puts the idea to work on their website through a powerful visualization tool Ply Gem supplied. This interactive tool not only helps burnish the Ply Gem name, but also offers visitors to the Savvy Homes website a high-value (“sticky”) tool that saved Savvy Homes a significant amount in development costs. Now military customers in one of Savvy’s top markets – Fayetteville, NC – can spec exterior options and colors from Afghanistan or other military posts.
To give contractors the “air cover” they need when they talk to brand-aware customers, Ply Gem has teamed up with national broadcasters to publicize the Ply Gem name. Ply Gem was prominently featured in ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition for their disaster recovery special, Seven Homes in Seven Days for Seven Families. Ply Gem played a central role in helping turn around the lives of the families through generous donations of time, talent and resources. Television viewers also learned how Ply Gem products can transform an older home’s appearance from a week-long segment on Fox & Friends. Ply Gem’s active social media program also helps communicate the Ply Gem story.
“Innovation is core to our growth and success,” Robinette observes. So much so, Ply Gem recently invested in the formation of a new R&D company, Foundation Labs. Foundation Labs is a business incubator, allowing the company to innovate with new materials, product design and advanced manufacturing processes. What’s the next generation of siding? Windows? What comes after fiberglass? Foundation Labs will help Ply Gem gain a leg-up on competitors by “Moving Building Science Forward.” Stay tuned to 2014 IBS for Foundation Lab updates.
Market Expansion & Public Ownership
Ply Gem is no stranger to strategic acquisitions, counting no fewer than six of them within the past 10 years. To continue its expansion across North America, Ply Gem recently acquired two respected Canadian companies, Gienow and Mitten.
Earlier this year, on May 23, Ply Gem (NYSE: PGEM) became a public company with a successful initial public offering of stock.
Ply Gem is a demonstrated industry leader in sustainability. At one facility, Ply Gem installed an on-site ultra-filtration system that prevents 80,000 gallons of waste water from entering landfills. Similarly, they constructed a three million-gallon retention pond to use storm water runoff for manufacturing. Ply Gem products are also leading the way. Insulated siding from Mastic® Home Exteriors by Ply Gem contributed LEED points that helped earn Florida’s first Gold LEED home certification.
By any standard, Ply Gem is a great American success story. Their perseverance, vision and focus are a testament to a leadership team that has proven to be exceptionally nimble and resourceful.
Their selection as the 2013 Marketer of the Year is a well-deserved honor. For industry colleagues and the marketplace at large, the next chapter of the Ply Gem story promises real fascination. What do they have in store for 2014 and beyond? Given their history, it’s a safe bet Al Jolson nails it: “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”