When I first started getting involved with the generic UPC discussion, I became attuned to products that fall into the generic category, like apples. I realized that fresh produce is handled generically. When you go into a grocery store, you don’t see separate bins of similar types of apples each labeled with the name of the grower. What you do see are apples in bins grouped by type (Macintosh in one bin, Granny Smith in another, Fuji in another). You have no idea if all of those Granny Smith apples came from the same orchard and are similar quality. As a consumer, you usually shop for apples by type, or what it is, rather than where it came from.
Similarly, when a contractor is bidding on a contract and they make pricing requests to distributors, they simply need to price out a job, time and materials, in hopes that they win the contract. They don’t typically ask for a specific brand, they just want to know what the price is and if the distributor can supply it. If the distributor replies with a good price and has the materials in stock, there is a good chance they’ll get the business if that contractor wins the bid.
These price requests come to distributors referencing a generic product code (98-Series UPC number) and maybe a generic description (I need 10 apples please), usually no other information. Yet the distributor’s business system is based on the UPC’s and part numbers provided by their preferred suppliers (the grower or orchard). So how do they make the connections? Today, distributors go to their own internal database that they have built over time, to manually match the supplier products they carry with the generic 98-Series UPC they received in the bid. If they carry many brands of that product, they have to decide which one to use in the quote. Needless to say, distributors typically quote the lowest price in an effort to win the business.
This is the way electrical, industrial, construction and other like industries have done business for almost 100 years. The reality is that this is our environment and we are not going to change a 100-year old habit. However, the manufacturer can change how the decisions get made.
Once the contract is won, and the order to fill the bill of materials is sent, the contractor can specify preferences for the product brand (I prefer apples from Whittamore’s Farm). But that only happens once the contractor understands the differences between brands and brand recognition has been established. Establishing brand recognition with the downstream channel is the key.
So how can manufacturers stand out to become the preferred brand?
For the first time ever, IDEA has made it possible for manufacturers to provide a linkage between their products and the generic 98-Series UPC's to increase brand recognition and simplify the decision making process for customers. More specifically, manufacturers can provide the Non-Specific Manufacturer UPC (the IDW field name for the generic 98-Series UPC) along with their own UPC when they load their data into IDEA’s Industry Data Warehouse (IDW). The distributors can then automate their processes to ensure that they are matching the right brands with the generic requests that come in from contractors.
When the Non-Specific Manufacturer UPC is provided by manufacturers through the IDW, distributors can then share all the other descriptive information (this specific apple is tart and crisp) you provide about your product in the IDW with their customers (You requested an apple, but rather than just giving you any apple, I’d like to make a recommendation based on your brand preferences). This will help educate contractors about what makes your product different and help manufacturers increase brand recognition. And once the contractor knows their brand preferences, they’ll start specially requesting those brands in the future (Macintosh apples from Whittamore’s Farm please!).
Distributors want to help you sell more products, but they need the right information from manufacturers first. Distributors are asking manufacturers that sell products with a generic counterpart to populate the Non-Specific Manufacturer UPC in the IDW by the end of the year.
Bridgeport Fittings and Cantex have led the effort, and are now providing the linkage from their products to the 98-Series Non-Specific Manufacturer UPC's that contractors use to place bids and orders. Distributors can now access this information in the IDW.
“Generally, Bridgeport does not support the use of 'generic' commodity number schemes as we wish to maintain our brand identity and value proposition. However, we do support the use of the Non-Specific Manufacturer UPC field in the IDW as a means of increasing our brand’s visibility to contractors and end-users that use the non-specific codes when communicating with their trading partners. By doing this we create an environment where a distributor can easily link the non-specific codes to our proprietary UPC numbers electronically, thus increasing our chances of securing an order and increasing our market penetration," said Paul Suzio, President & COO of Bridgeport Fittings.
You can learn more about this initiative by reading these articles from past issues: "IDEA Licenses the 98-Series UPC Numbers” and “3 Ways Distributors can Access Generic UPC’s through the IDW.”