One of the core priorities of any marketer is to imbue their brands with an emotional resonance that extends far beyond the products they sell. This is particularly true for Dulux marketing director Jenny Hall, who faces the challenge of turning a respected paint brand into a much larger embodiment of the power of colour in people’s lives.
This brand shift began in 2010 with the launch of Dulux’s Let’s Colour Project: a community-driven campaign to brighten up neglected public spaces in cities around the world. Using Let’s Colour as its strapline, the AkzoNobel-owned brand has sought to drive home the association with a series of marketing initiatives aimed at highlighting the deep emotional impact that colour can have on society.
Last month, for example, Dulux hosted an awards event in London to celebrate the role of colour in different areas of public life including fashion, beauty and design. As part of the event, Dulux invited people to vote online for their ‘colour moment of the year’. The award went to Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, the ceramic poppy installation at the Tower of London.
This concept of the transformative impact of colour is now at the heart of Dulux’s advertising strategy. Although the brand remains synonymous with the ‘Dulux dog’ first introduced in the 1960s, recent campaigns have sought to tell emotion-fuelled stories that envision ‘a world without colour’. This includes the ‘colourless future’ campaign launched in March.
Here Hall explains how Dulux is building its brand further by focusing on content, digital innovation and new services for customers.
Q: Why is Dulux celebrating the role of colour in areas like fashion and beauty?
Jenny Hall: We are transitioning from a brand that is famous for great paint to a service-led brand that enables people to add colour to their lives. Our belief is that if you change the spaces that you live, work and play in through colour, it has a positive impact on people’s lives. The awards reflect that by spanning different areas such as fashion and beauty, through to more mainstream uses of colour with our ‘colour moment of the year’ award. It’s been a great initiative for us, allowing us to engage experts across different industries while also bringing in a broader audience with the public vote.
Q. How are you becoming a service-led brand?
Jenny Hall: Each year we run an influencing piece [of research] called Colour Futures. We have a global aesthetics centre that we work with to forecast trends in colour for the upcoming year. It generates a lot of interest in the press because we also announce the ‘colour of the year’, which this year is copper blush. We used [singer] Sophie Ellis-Bextor to promote that colour and to demonstrate to people how they can use it in their homes.
In addition to the trendsetting piece, we want to help people choose the colour and the total look of their room, so we have practical tools like the Dulux Vizualizer App that lets you take a photo of your room and start playing around with different colours. We also have a design service that allows people to use one of our design consultants to create the whole look of their room. Some people are very confident about doing it themselves but many people find it difficult and worry about getting it wrong. We are moving to becoming that total design partner and solution.
Q. Is your marketing evolving to reflect this new approach?
Jenny Hall: The change that we’ve started to make in our marketing is to go with a more content-led approach. That involves making sure that we’re delivering the right messages and the right services for people in a more individual and personalised way. We’ll always continue to invest in mass media so that we’re ensuring the category is on the agenda and that people are inspired by colour, but we also need to build that more individual brand experience.
We’re currently setting up a new team of 10-12 people that is dedicated purely to digital. That includes [managing] the conversations that we’re having online, ecommerce and building the digital experience across multiple platforms. We recognise that’s the way we need to operate going forward so we’re making the right investments and changes for that.
Q. How does Dulux foster a culture of innovation?
Jenny Hall: We’ve got to make sure that from an innovation perspective we are always forcing ourselves to imagine ‘a world without paint’ and what that could look like long-term. At the moment we’re developing a version of paint that will insulate homes. So not only will it put colour on your walls – it will act as a thermal lining to help people manage their energy bills.
We’re also bringing our colour expertise to our work with different partners in different industries. For example [interior design firm] Mockbee & Co have used our copper blush colour this year to create a range of new wallpapers. Again that allows us to translate what we’re doing into other areas of colour and design.
Q. How have the recent changes in brand strategy impacted on sales?
Jenny Hall: The market as a whole suffered through the recession. There was a trend that we thought we’d see where instead of moving house, people would improve where they live, but that didn’t necessarily play out in the market. We’re seeing now that the market is starting to recover and move into growth again in the last 12 months, which is a great sign.
The brand throughout has continued to grow – we’ve continued to build on the brand leadership position that we’ve got in the market and we saw growth year in, year out through the recession as well, so we’ve managed to future-proof the brand going forward.