Washington, D.C. -- The American hardwood industry is facing significant change driven by stiff competition from wood look-alike products, mislea

The industry has a powerful story to tell about the beauty and desirability of the products, the small family businesses that make them, the sustainability of raw material, and the environmental and health benefits of using real hardwood. The industry has not yet been successful, however, in developing a coordinated and collaborative domestic initiative to effectively tell this story and communicate the science-based benefits of real American hardwood products.

That is changing with a new emphasis by a coalition of hardwood association executives, energized by the success of their joint effort on the Hardwood Economic Impact Study. This group came together in early 2019 to brainstorm approaches for a voluntary industry-wide promotion initiative.

The top priorities of the initiative are transparency and moving forward in a way that engages all members of the hardwood community. The mission is to develop a clear, concise and overarching brand statement and promotion program that can be echoed throughout the supply chain.

The hardwood association brainstorming session led to the following objectives: establish a real American hardwood promotion program directed at domestic consumers, specifiers, educators, influencers and end-users with a launch date of spring 2020; identify steps and deliverables vital in developing a coordinated initiative to promote the true story and science-based benefits of real American hardwood; and bring other association executives to the program and expand the reach of the message.

The goals the group aims for to determine the success of the program include: educating consumers and raising public awareness of real American hardwood; generating new products; increasing markets and sales; and improving industry stability.

More than 30 executives of hardwood industry organizations and associations—local, state, regional and national—have been a part of the conversation to establish consensus and develop an action plan. The focus is to capitalize on the expertise and skillfulness of the hardwood association executives who manage diverse priorities and expectations, sharing the same common denominator: Real American Hardwood.

Broad participation from every industry segment is vital to develop the overarching brand statement. To date, 24 organizations representing lumber, flooring, molding, cabinetry, veneer and industrial market segments have come forward to participate, agreeing to pool funds and finance at least the first two phases of work.

For the American Hardwood Promotion Coalition, key components to a successful, sustaining, promotion program include: Advocacy, Research & Development, Marketing, and Education. The group plans to: collect new and review existing data; identify missing data regarding consumer attitudes towards hardwood products; identify the unknown. The coalition will work with a vetted research firm to collect significant data from consumers, architects, builders, designers, educators and industry associates on buying habits, key influencers, little know (un)truths about hardwood products and the environmental favor they hold versus other materials.

The group also will develop a "Brand" by engaging a firm specializing in brand acceleration to utilize the research results to develop the over-arching brand statement, and identify the most effective go-to-market road map. This will hopefully include strategic efforts that can be implemented at little or low cost. A priority of both phases will be to keep industry association leaders aligned and engaged.

In terms of education: Develop a database of post-secondary programs related to forestry, sustainability and wood as a primary building material. Association and industry leaders will be able to search for opportunities to present and educate the build/design influencers of the future about the benefits of sourcing hardwoods for finished goods, construction and industrial applications.

The next Coalition meeting will be held on Mon., Feb. 3, 2020, at the Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen’s Association (IHLA) Convention in Indianapolis. All interested association executives are encouraged to attend. A Coalition update will be presented at the general session on Tuesday, Feb. 4.

To offer support to the initiative, contribute financially, or receive additional information, email hardwoodpromotion@gmail.com.