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Awards case study 2019: How Clear B2B delivered a 12% growth increase for Södra Wood in the UK

Södra is a co-operative of over 52,000 Swedish forest owners, supplying timber to various parts of the world, but was relatively unknown in the UK. Following its  acquisition of UK-based Crown Timber, Clear B2B undertook a brand initiative to position the Södra Wood UK division more explicitly for the UK. 

This resulted in 12% sales growth and winning the BMJ’s Best Timber Brand 2019, as voted for by people in the industry. 

The agency Clear B2B decided to make Sodra a brand known for being the most sustainable supplier to the UK. It created a UK website for Södra Wood UK to carry relevant information for the UK as the parent site was only effective for forest owners and the mature Swedish timber market. 

The brand was elevated through a launch event and thought leadership programme, stimulating UK industry conversation about timber as the construction material of choice. This credibly positioned Södra as the most sustainable supplier and ‘go to’ partner for timber knowledge.

 

“Post-acquisition we set out to establish the Södra brand in the UK, and there is no doubt we’ve achieved that. Taking a thought leadership and UK centric stance, Clear B2B has helped us drive the conversation around timber and position Södra as the leader in delivering sustainable timber supply.”

Nigel Buckley-Ryan, UK Sales Director

Challenges

  • Numerous timber suppliers serve the UK market – but as most are not growers, they have limited control over supply and the industry suffers from a lack of trust in quality consistent supply and price fluctuations. 
  • Most UK suppliers were far better known, as Södra was effectively a new entrant – even though it had been supplying the UK on a fairly large scale via Crown Timber. 
  •  Gaining recognition and credibility in this market was going to be a challenge, given existing perceptions of better-known players. Opportunity existed however, to champion timber and address construction needs. 
  • The UK construction industry has lost know-how on wood, as brick and block have been the common building material for so long. Wood’s natural qualities deliver sustainable build standards and energy saving needs, but the UK requires mass education to overcome misconceptions on fire safety and information around its performance and usage advantages. 
 

Strategy

  • To address these issues by providing audiences with the information they need, educating and supporting construction ambitions, easing specification of timber, while giving ultimate reassurance on supply. 
  • The brand initiative was for UK-orientated messaging via a website and thought leadership to deliver on all needs and give Södra credibility. 
  • Clear B2B developed a key brand proposition ‘Södra growing sustainable timber supply’ to run through all communications, which Södra would become known for. Akey visual asset supported recognition of this positioning. 
  • This gave Södra a brand platform to stand out as the most sustainable supply partner 
 

Objectives

  • Increase UK sales by 8% over the first 12 months and grow key accounts 
  • Retain the majority of Crown Timbers’ existing customers.
  • Build sales of timber through better understanding of wood’s advantages/ influence construction choices. 
  • Promote Södra’s sustainability credentials and build belief in their supply promises
 

The target audience

  • Architects/specifiers: Their focus is to fulfil ambitious design aspirations – but they also need support in specifications/planning and needs around energy and sustainability advantages. 
  • Timber frame and roof truss manufacturers: To ensure partnerships in technical knowledge for specifying, performance, stock choices and assured supply. 
  • Merchants: Build understanding that Södra is more committed to UK supply and building long-term value-generating partnerships. Also help them on knowledge to serve customers, stock rotation, storage, etc.

Media, channels or techniques used 

The brand initiative started with a customer and press event at the Swedish Ambassador’s London Residence to demonstrate UK commitment and give audiences a unique experience. It reinforced Södra’s long Swedish history in wood to achieve instant credibility. The keynote speaker was Andrew Waugh, a leading architect and proponent of timber construction. 

To ensure the brand was positioned more effectively for the UK, the agency built a GB & Ireland-specific website to ensure relevant content for UK audiences which require more detail compared to the parent Swedish market where timber construction is mature. The new site had sections for each key audience – with applicable product details and information to help them specifically, such as tips on storage/display of timber for merchants and thought leading articles on designing with timber for architects. 

The UK construction industry and merchant trade press is well read. Clear B2B created compelling thought leading features using subject matter spokespeople from Södra. Social media was used to promote links to coverage via the sales team and encourage inbound links to the website. 

The client and agency took customers and press to Sweden to see the timber lifecycle. It related the scale and quality of Södra’s operations and inspired press interest. 

The brand initiative brought to life the supply of timber and why it’s the smart choice to meet sustainability targets and fix the UK’s broken housing market. 

Client gave strong opinions and spoke out about post Brexit supply for timber, explaining what the new ban on combustible materials meant for timber. 

A unique visual asset was used across PR, events and website. Merchant sales support/educational collateral was provided. 

 Timescales of the campaign

  • April ‘18: Swedish Ambassador launch event
  • April ‘18 – Mar ‘19: Thought leadership articles development, placements and press trips 
  • June – Dec: Website developed, tested and launched 

Fees

  • Thought-leadership: £5,950/month
  • Residency event: £35,500
  • Creative and asset generation: £10,000 
  • Website: £43,000
  • Merchant support: £5,000

Purchases

  • Event and giveaways/collateral: £7,500 

Results 

  • 99% of Crown Timber’s customers retained by Södra.
  • UK market sales up 12% (vs target 8%).
  • 21% growth across key accounts.
  • Winner of Builders Merchants Journal’s Best Timber Brand in 2019 
  • The UK website has attracted 68% more visitors and 47% more dwell time compared to the old UK pages on the parent site. 
  • 100% earned coverage from thought leadership:
  • Average of 4.2 pieces of coverage per month (target two) in 2018 and we are achieving 11 pieces of coverage per month in 2019 (target five) 
  • Reached over two million potential customers (target 500,000) in 12 months 

*Achieved average 5.74 key messages per piece published 

“Our visibility is growing rapidly. When customers start saying they are seeing your face everywhere, and you are winning business you know your brand communications initiatives are working.”

Nigel Buckley-Ryan, UK Sales Director