Beating Textile’s Marketing Malaise

et’s face it — competing on price just won’t cut it anymore. And neither will banking on
the US government or the World Trade Organization to give a darn about US manufacturing. Getting
serious about branding and marketing is the only road left to beat the lowest-price-producer

Lowest-cost producers have given way to lowest-price producers. The simple fact is that cost
no longer sets the floor for pricing. That may be counter-intuitive, but welcome to the global
economy. In the global model, US manufacturers must stake a new claim — a new competitive space
where they can sell an innovative product and get paid.

In a recent conversation with a well-known branding guru, the topic of textiles —
surprisingly — turned positive. “Every innovation is an opportunity to build a brand. Get there
first, and own it,” he counseled. Textile products are no longer bought; rather, marketing assets
are needed to support products being sold — a major shift the industry must adopt in order to

Textile World often is confronted with the “US Textile Secrets Phenomenon.” For some reason,
innovation is secret rather than something celebrated, branded and marketed. It is the proverbial
light under a bushel basket of the US textile industry.

In reality, there are few secrets in textiles. Manufacturing technology and chemistry are
available globally for the manufacture of“proprietary” products. The unique aspect of many textile
products, with few exceptions, is the brand. “Get there first and own it.” If your defense to the
marketing challenge is that you are integral to the supply chain, or your quality and service are
impeccable, or you are the low-cost producer — consider whether that position is defensible in the
long run.

The marketing malaise of textiles really got moving when budget cuts and closings started to
strangle the industry. The technology-centered aspect of textiles — one of its strengths — has
never given marketing prowess the respect it deserves. How many companies have cut the marketing
department, given the head of sales responsibility for marketing, and yet evaluate him or her on
current sales numbers? This puts a key person, driven by revenue numbers, in the unfortunate
position of building long-term brand awareness and value.

How about developing a serious approach to marketing? One that reflects the respect given to
technology investments by the textile industry. And an approach that values the importance of a
serious marketing plan.

Is the US textile industry innovative? Yes — and US businesses are known throughout the world
as brand champions. It is time to take those marketing skills seriously, leverage innovation and
put US textile brands on the map. The alternative? Play the price game at your company’s peril.

September 2004