iPhone vs. Android, Apple vs. Microsoft, Ford vs. Chevy, Coke vs. Pepsi, Milwaukee vs. DeWalt. These are common industry battles to win the minds, money and loyalty of consumers. The power tools and outdoor power equipment industry captures the attention of consumers through unique product differentiation. Still, brand loyalty in the power tool industry remains a mystery. Those of us who use more than one brand often scratch our heads over minor annoyances.
Cite Tool by Color
Those in the field often rate their favorite tool brand over the others, and they refer to it by color. For example:
- Yellow = DeWalt
- Red = Milwaukee
- Turquoise = Makita
- orange = rich
- Blue = Bosch
However, things get a little murky when it comes to multiple toolmakers using similar colors. Take red as an example. It really depends on the tools the pros use. Those who use a framing nailer or stapler may think of SENCO, not Milwaukee. For rotary hammers or demo hammers, Hilti comes to mind.
Having attended many manufacturers' tool events, product managers and marketers also refer to the competition by color.
Ask a contractor what the aforementioned tools are, and chances are you'll hear "SAWZALL" a lot. However, the problem with most brands of reciprocating saws is that SAWZALL is a trade name for Milwaukee Tool. You technically only have Milwaukee SawZall. Everything else is a reciprocating saw. This begs the question, are merchants more likely to purchase additional tools based on the performance of one tool, or are they more likely to choose based on a specific application?
Another popular brand confusion name is Speed Square. There should actually be a circled "R" after the word Speed (eg Speed® Square). This is a registered trademark owned by the Swanson Tool Company – and it becomes a bone of contention whenever it is commonly used to refer to other brands. The problem is that even WikiPedia and most of the big stores are using the "speed square" name incorrectly… it's an uphill battle.
Complete lines and specific applications
Next let's examine the router. Most pros will tell you that Bosch is the tool of choice. drill driver? The honor may go to DeWalt, Milwaukee, Makita or others. Brand loyalty really depends on the powerful tools you see in the industry.
Check out the tool bag and you'll find that the Stanley Fat Max Tape Measure is claimed to be the best tape measure available. In the Midwest, rattlesnake circular saws dominate, but when visiting the West Coast, most professionals use Skilworm driven saws.
Milwaukee even rewards brand loyalists with the Milwaukee logo tattooed for a chance to win free tools for life.
This is usually obvious when it comes to lithium-ion batteries, since they are the lifeblood of cordless tools. With this initial investment, it becomes easier and less expensive to expand your production line with tooling-only options. DeWalt knew this and was willing to give the batteries away for free early on – giving them a big advantage on the job site.
Milwaukee has recently made significant strides by focusing on the electrical, plumbing, and HVAC industries. They also doubled down on the battery platform and combined it with an extension of hand tools and instruments to provide extra value. Milwaukee RedLithium batteries are extremely well designed by many honest product managers in the industry – it's just not documented!
In 2008, the economy — and soon the construction industry as a whole — took a nosedive. With that comes some of the tool buying habits of professionals. Low-impact, rarely-used tools now stay in tool bags longer, and the "buy the best" mentality is starting to fade. This has certainly affected brand loyalty in the power tool industry as professionals and business owners scramble to find ways to reduce costs and overhead.
This trend has indeed introduced a proliferation of what were once considered DIY tools on the job site. Many professional-grade tools have been redesigned to accommodate this change in the market. The Ryobi ONE+ HP System arrives in 2020 and promises new brushless tools that can compete with professional brands in a variety of applications. The system provides an option for new professionals as well as those looking for additional benefits. Private labels like Lowe's Kobalt Tools are quickly entering the market with more affordable options.
Porter-Cable has long competed with all the heavyweights in the commercial and residential markets. After a series of acquisitions and mergers, the company partnered with Black & Decker, which is part of Stanley Black & Decker (SBD). Crowded with DeWalt, Black & Decker, and Bostitch, Porter Cable has lost some of its identity and seems to have transformed itself into a budget-friendly line filler against Black & Decker rather than a direct competitor to DeWalt's line of professional tools.
Heading into 2021, an exclusive partnership between Porter-Cable and Tractor Supply breathes much-needed electronic life into a brand that's been flagging for years.
Final Thoughts on Brand Loyalty in the Power Tools Industry
Now, with a buoyant economy and endless information at your fingertips, buying tools has never been easier. Our question to you is: Does brand loyalty in the power tool industry still influence your buying decisions, or are you just finding the best tool at the best price?
Let us know in the comments below.