Margot Klerkx & Petra Bijma – PPG Industries

Margot Klerkx & Petra Bijma – PPG Industries

PPG Industries is one of the leading coatings companies worldwide. PPG is known in the Netherlands for brands like Sigma, Histor and Rambo, and in the UK for the brands Johnstone’s and Leyland. Margot Klerkx is the head of international marketing and responsible for innovation, the communication behind it, new business development and colour. Petra Bijma is Business and Customer Insights manager for the region North, which includes the Benelux, Germany, England and Scandinavia. She is responsible for trend watching and how developments in the market can be translated into concepts, and how they can be tested. Petra: “Everything we do stems from insights, from concepts to product launches.”

KPI’s for brand growth

PPG has a couple of different KPI’s for brand growth. Margot: “We mostly look at market share and brand preference, and sometimes brand awareness. We look at whether we are number 1, 2 or 3. Whether we are a leading brand or not. Of course, this differs per market and brand.”

Petra: “When it comes to brand preference, we look at the brand funnel. We monitor this especially when we just launched a campaign, to look at the effect it had. The same goes for innovations. Did we notice a growth after introduction?”

Different target groups

Margot: “Something that makes our job interesting and a bit of a challenge sometimes, is the multiple target groups we have, both business to business and business to consumer. We develop products for the do-it-yourself painter, the professional painter, and for the specification market, which includes big companies such as housing associations, which are focused on maintaining their properties in the most efficient way. It makes it complex, but also fun to look at what each of these groups want, and how to explain your products to each of them. It differs every time.

Petra: “With everything we do, we keep our target groups in mind, and how to best translate their wishes and needs into innovations. And to realise this, you need to have a close connection to your target audience.”

Innovation as the main ingredient for growth

According to Margot, innovation is the main ingredient for growth at PPG. “We are leading when it comes to innovation. And it works for us, the growth we establish comes from our innovations. We are consumer insights driven.”

Petra: “When it comes to customer journeys, we can pinpoint where people struggle, and look at how we can take away those obstacles. We look at where trends go, and how we can innovate based on them. We also conduct consumer research, and employ focus groups to mirror what people are looking for. We talk to both consumers and professionals. However, we also innovate based on a new technique that has been developed. Our sources for innovation stem from various angles.”

Innovating based on consumer insight

An example is the Sigma Allure. Margot: “We were the first to introduce an exterior lacquer which lasts 10 years. The same goes for Sigma StainAway. We introduced it just last year, and it covers stains that have formed due to for instance water damage. For our target group of professional painters, we know they often re-visit a job because the paint didn’t cover the first time. However, the costs of hiring a painter lies in the hours they make, as opposed to the paint itself. As a result, painters are prepared to pay a more premium price if the paint can cover in one go, so they don’t have to come back. The same goes for Sigma Perfect, a paint that doesn’t leave marks or streaks. Which is great for the painter, as he gets it the first time right in every job. And when we translate this into a concept: no streaks no stress, it leaves us with a lot of growth.”

Petra: “Because we are so consumer insight driven, we know that our consumers want a durable result. Which is what made Allure so successful. Such innovations catch on, and address the struggle of having to re-paint more often than people would like. We look at trends and insights, and write concepts, which we then test and re-write. It’s a thorough process.”

Margot: “A concept has to get a certain score before it can move along. When we move on to the prototype-phase, that prototype needs to be tested again on the USP’s we want to promise. If the prototype goes through, a set-up is made. And when we know it will be introduced, we start working on the communication.”

Delivering the promise

Petra: “The innovation managers work very closely together with the technical product managers, because the USP’s are our main strength. What are we offering, and why is it a good product? The product gets developed to the quality level we intend it to have.”

Margot: “That’s the beauty of our category. It’s real. It’s not just a marketing story. Sometimes our innovations take a bit longer, but we deliver what we promise.”

Innovating based on influences from the market

Margot explains that the category PPG is in, experiences a lot of influences from the market: “There are a lot of things we need to take into account. Interior is an example. People have different needs nowadays and want their kitchen and living room to be in the same area. Properties are smaller, rooms are used for different purposes, wallpaper gaining popularity, more buildings being maintenance free. All these things influence the square meters that can be painted. So, we need to keep a close eye and innovate based on these things as well.”

Why are innovations failing?

If you don’t look at what is happening around you, innovations might fail. Petra explains that innovations often fail because they address something that consumers aren’t necessarily waiting for. “Innovations are being developed because they are possible, but aren’t focused on what people actually want. Something that is successful, often solves something and provides the consumer with added value.”

Margot; “Another pitfall is not having enough resources. Not so much for R&D but mainly for marketing. It is important for the success of an innovation to support it; you need to communicate what you are launching. A consumer needs guidance when making decisions on what type of paint to buy. There are hundreds of options, so you need to make it easier for them.”

Innovation as a tool

For the years to come, PPG wants to keep innovating. Margot: “In our industry, innovation is a great tool to keep consumers with us and increase our market share. I hope we will continue to innovate and innovate even more. After all, there is always room for improvement.”