In challenging markets, effective promotion and communication is more vital than ever. The long-term strategy employed by the American Hardwood Export Council encompasses a diversified approach in global target markets to create a positive environment for the U.S. hardwood industry to promote their businesses and make sales. Thanks to our network and FAS funding, AHEC is able to provide support in ways that may not be easy or possible for individual companies. Activities like influencing world fashion, responding to environmental policies and developments, creating promotional tools, developing new technologies, and anticipating market developments are some of what AHEC does every day to support a healthy hardwood industry in America.
One of our most important focuses is the outreach to the “specifiers”, who are architects, designers, furniture makers, and those who have the freedom to select what material to use in a project. While not direct customers of our industry, their influence on how materials are chosen and used is vital for sustained growth in our industry. The AHEC program strategy for outreach to these groups is achieved through a wide range of creative activities and by generating significant levels of media publicity, thus keeping the U.S. hardwood industry and American hardwood as a material constantly in the public eye. Year on year we have demonstrated that this tactic works to deliver new demand. Some of these messages have remained constant, such as the variety of species available and the strong environmental credentials. What changes annually are the specific details of the messages and the methods of delivery.
AHEC programs are based on a combination of activities to pull demand through the “wood chain” with designers and manufacturers, while also working to push information into the “wood chain” by working with, and targeting, timber trade and industry. In order for this strategy to be effective it is important to bridge the gap in order to create a stronger link between specifiers and the hardwood sector in each market. Working with these global user organizations as well as their respective specifier communities is absolutely vital to the effectiveness and reach of AHEC’s messaging.
One of the biggest constraints preventing adoption of American hardwood species is a lack of knowledge about the material. Without the knowledge of the material and how it can be used, markets cannot make informed decisions and therefore U.S. Hardwood products will not get a fair representation or chance to compete. The major constraints addressed by our programs are:
• lack of technical knowledge of the variety and potential of U.S. hardwoods
• competition for market share of non-wood and “look-alike” materials
• lack of familiarity with full performance potential of U.S. hardwoods
• the need to achieve a better balance between market demand and species availability by focusing on underutilized species like Red Oak, Cherry, Maple, and Tulipwood
• lack of technical knowledge, awareness, and data on structural/exterior design opportunities for U.S. hardwoods (CLT, TMT, LVL, etc.)
• Benefits of U.S. hardwoods in meeting environmental regulations
Our target audience falls into three main categories: hardwood traders and importers, hardwood manufacturers, and decision makers like architects, engineers, and designers – the “specifiers”. Although our program is not aimed specifically at consumers AHEC is increasingly reaching this target audience through increased social media activity and publicity in the consumer press.
AHEC events in 2024 and beyond will continue to incorporate design projects and creative marketing to give American hardwoods a high-profile showcase and promote underutilized species and new technologies. An environmental life cycle analysis is also conducted on all of our marketing projects to continue to promote the sustainability benefits of using American hardwood. Keep an eye out for AHEC events next year and stay up to date through our website: www.ahec.org.