Blog: „The ceramic tile is our competitor!“

In cooperation with:

(February 2013) Angelo Marabelli has proposed an „International Round Table“ to find ways to competete with the ceramic industry (en, it, es, pt, dt). Marmomacchine and Stone-Ideas.com open this Blog to discuss his idea.

On Marmomacchine’s Facebook page the discussion may also be continued in Italian.


  1. Very good website you have here but I was wondering if you knew of any forums that cover the same topics talked about in this article? I’d really love to be a part of group where I can get opinions from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Thanks!

  2. The blog has been online for a good four weeks and a closer look already reveals some interesting facts.
    * There is an agreement that marketing is needed. So furthermore, the question can only be: who has to do it and who has to pay for it?

    * First: As a matter of fact, the stone-family to which Angelo Marabelli is addressing doesn’t exist any more. There is no more a „we“, an Italy-dominated „we“, as it was in the sixties and seventies. Rather is the stone sector in a process of differentiation and fragmentation: many companies don’t exhibit any more at the stone fairs because they do not find their customers (architects, designers, builders) there.
    Would a marketing for stone be interesting for these firms? No, because their marketing has to focussed on their design products or on their ideas for interior architecture, not on the material as such.

    * Second: Also are the stonemasons leaving the family. Nowadays, they have artificial stone in their product palette – simply because the customers want those materials.
    Should they be interested in a campaign especially for stone? No, they would need a marketing for the stonemason as the supplier for e.g. kitchen countertops, not for the material as such.

    * Third: The only members of the old family with a need of a stone-marketing are the quarry owners (producers), the processors and the wholesalers plus the stone-fairs and the machinery producers.
    They would fully profit from marketing for stone – so they do have to do it and to pay it.

    * Forth: Paul Daniel’s link to Wonasa clearly reveals where the problem is: Wonasa is an association of producers and wholesalers – and it has begun to do marketing e.g. by issuing that paper pointing out the values of natural stone, as Paul Daniel writes. Yes they are doing something, great, and the paper is in many languages, even better. Yet: it is not available on the webpage and it is only distributed at stone fairs.

    So the question is: do those who have to do marketing really know which is their target group and where they can find it?

  3. The Cosentino Group describes itself as a ´ world leader in the production and distribution of innovative surfaces for architecture and design…´ The Group has identified its target market very clearly.
    Paul Daniel

  4. As Mr Viethen says, a material that competes with natural stone can never be as good as the original. However there are ´horses for courses´. For example quartz surfaces are produced by the action of heat and pressure on natural quartz powder mixed with a little binder resin and colouring, so could be considered as ceramic. Especially for kitchen worktops these quartz surfaces have advantages over marble and even granite. The well-known companies Cosentino (Spain) and Classic Marble Co. (India) are offering natural stone and quartz surfaces.
    There is a great need to educate the general public (as potential buyers) about the positive aspects of natural stone in practical situations. I believe that WONASA – World Natural Stone Association has produced a most valuable educational aid in the form of a single-sheet leaflet Do You Know? which provides straightforward answers to 10 basic questions. http://www.wonasa.com has the details.
    Paul Daniel

  5. NEW
    I’m a designer from Brazil, founder of Zidea company, and I have long been working for the stone sector. More than this, I also have been involved in the ceramic sector, in wooden furniture, in jewellery and in teaching architecture, product design, interiors and fashion.

    First: The modern society is rapidly and constantly changing – today’s consumer behaviour is different from how it was ten years ago. The ceramic sector is much more attentive to this constant change and the need for constant self-modernization. So should do the stone sector: continuously update itself to the consumers’ wishes.

    Second: The focus of the stone branch must be more on architects and designers (and less on itself). This target group (plus the private consumer) has to be convinced that stone is a better material than many others.
    Third: Part of the message must be emotion. Until now, the stone sector has done too little to communicate the emotional aspects of its material: the beauty of the stone, its touch, its naturalness, its sustainability…
    Stone is more then just stone.

    Conclusion: I recommend to create an international working group of professionals from different fields. It’s task would be to ask questions like: Why do customers choose stone (and when not)? When do they prefer certain types of stone (and why others not)? Which are the preferred colors in certain markets (and why)? What about surfaces…?

    The result would be an overview over the consumers’ habits in decision-taking in respect of stone.

    With this knowledge, the working group should create new products.

    The work would need a funding by stone producers, processors and traders (because they are the ones to benefit from the answers found). Associations should also give support, international fairs, too.

    Meetings of this working group composed of architects, designers, anthropologists, machinery specialists, installers, transporters … would take place at the international fairs. To prevent unnecessary travel, most of the work should be done via internet.

    The stone sector does not need just marketing. It needs professionalization for the market.

  6. Peter, Stone-Ideas.com:
    During the first week of our blog, some people called our office or sent us mails giving short comments to the topic in their languages. Here’s a summary:
    1) Ceramic tiles and engineered stone are not a competitor for ALL companies in the stone branch. E.g. stonemasons or tile shops DO HAVE TO INTEGRATE those materials into their range of products.
    So the need for stone marketing lies mainly on the production side of stone with quarry owners, processing factories (which cut the slabs…) and wholesalers/big international traders.
    2) As a matter of fact, none of those producers makes use of the whole range of the promotion-tools. The wholesalers from Brazil to Italy and Turkey to China e.g. do not clad their buildings in stone (except the main showroom): Their storage halls are done in cheap materials – although these walls would offer so much chances for innovative façade ideas with stone.
    It’s as if a a glass producer would use plastic for his own windows!
    If this observation is wrong, send us photos from your storage halls. We’ll publish them.

  7. Hello

    My name is Paola Blasi from IMM (Internazionale Marmi Macchine) Carrara.
    I was informed by Peter Becker of Stone-Ides.com about the Mr. Marabelli’s idea and the blog.
    I reported to Peter some of my experiences related to the subject of our discussion and he asked me to copy and past my mail in the blog.

    Here it is:

    Dear Peter,

    Thanks for your mail. The subject is very interesting, but, as Mr. Viethen has written, I think that stone industry has “strange ideas” about this competition. Some years ago, I informed a company in Carrara that a ceramic producer was using for its product the same name of very well known marble, quarried and marketed by this company. The reaction was: “Very well! They give a very good publicity to our marble!”…

    More recently, during a meeting of the CEN TC 246 WG3, that as you know, is the European Committee for Standardization dealing with products in natural stone, Italy was the only country voting against the proposal to consider “brittle materials” the natural stone, whereas ceramic and agglomerated stones are not. I tried to explain that this definition could affect adversely the marketing of natural stone, but without success. For clarity sake, the introduction of this definition (“brittle materials”) is finalised to upgrade the system of assessment and verification of constancy of performance (that means more onerous tests for the companies), while ceramic and agglomerated stone are still in System 4 (less onerous tests).

    Finally, please find a link to a “private” stone magazine: http://www.furrer.it/uk/magazine-furrer/magazine-furrer.asp
    In the last issue at pag. 5 you will find my editorial on this topic.

    My own personal conclusion is that “the stone industry has its reasons, that reason knows nothing of…”

    Kind regards


  8. Dear Mr Marabelli,

    what a great Idea!

    I am responsible for the exhibition Stone+Tec since 2010 and have come to a similar conclusion.

    I would, however, expand the statement. The competition is not the ceramic tile, but all other building materials in competition with natural stone. Most of these are industrial based and are backed by good marketing and communication. I would even go so far as to say that lack of marketing is the enemy.

    When I started working on this exhibition the first thing that I did is to find out more about natural stone. I quickly realized that there are many types of stone, they are all more or less beautiful and natural. What I could not find out in public knowledge is what the properties of stones as a building material are.

    I soon found out much about the other building materials, such as wood and concrete. In the case of ceramic tile, I also found out why ceramic tile is so much better than stone – I received this information from a stone mason!

    Let us take your suggestion one step further, should we instead join hands with the other building materials and follow their footsteps? Would it not be better to have a nice stone sink in a bathroom showroom with a ceramic wall? Or a kitchen stone top with a wooden floor in a kitchen showroom? Or a wooden sauna on a beautiful stone terrace in a garden center?

    One of the best statements I have heard was at a stone exhibition in Las Vegas from a keynote speaker: “I welcome any stone imitation in the market. It is free marketing for the stone industry, it creates an awareness of the product, but will never be as good as the original. In the end, it will create desire for the original!”

    I am looking forward to a lively discussion and would be more than welcome to host such a round table at the next Stone+Tec here in Nürenberg – who will join us?

    Willy Viethen

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