Anatomy of a product rollout

Ace had already rolled out its Clark+Kensington paint-and-primer- in-one to almost 3,000 stores.

A five-year plan to expand from 4% to 8% of the overall paint market in the United States is in the very early innings. Big boxes alone have 65% of the DIY paint market, according to Ace’s tally. “We want to put Ace on the map for the driving decision,” said Janet Davidson, marketing supervisor for Ace paint. “We think we have a good story to tell.”

A lot is riding on Ace’s latest paint name brand, Clark+Kensington, as the co-op seeks to brush its way into relevance in the competitive paint category. That’s why a lot went into its rollout.

“We really did build this from the ground up,” said Jack Wickham, VP manufacturing, Ace Paint. “We put a lot of RD into the product.”

Here are some of the key decision points that went into the rollout of Clark+Kensington: 

• Listening to the consumer

Paint and primer in one, regardless of anyone’s opinion about the importance of a separate primer, was clearly seen as a product in demand by the consumer. “When researching this, we learned that people go to the paint store and they ask for paint and primer in one,” Davidson said. “The selling proposition is very simple, and very straightforward.”

• The celebrity question

Nike has Michael Jordan. Jell-O had Bill Cosby. Should Ace’s new paint product have a celebrity endorser? Rachael Ray’s name came up in brainstorming discussions. Ace executives thought about it, but never very seriously.

• Picking a name

Before settling on Clark+Kensington as a brand, Royal Advantage was considered, which would have linked the new product to the current workhorse in most Ace paint departments. The team decided on a clean break for a breakthrough product. Clark+Kensington combines the Clark Street of an early Ace store with the Kensington Court address of the current Ace headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill.

• Ace brand vs. national brand

One of the most emotional decisions about Clark+Kensington dealt with the branding of the packaging. Should “Ace” be promoted on the can, or should Clark+Kensington stand on its own? After heavy consideration, Ace went with the latter.      

• Meet the product

Typically, product introductions take place at dealer conventions. But in the case of Clark+Kensington, Ace executives organized much more intimate gatherings with dealers on a regional basis. The product was promoted at 23 specially organized paint expos and 100 training sessions around the country in 2011.

• Make it work

Headquarters supported the program by offering market research to dealers, color display kits to stores and also programs that allowed dealers to send back older paint.

The results: Ace said the product is the most successful rollout ever.

By Dec. 3, 2011, the paint was on the shelves at 2,700 stores — above its internal goal of 2,500. Today, the penetration is close to 3,000, said John Surane, Ace VP merchandising.

The next step is national advertising, which kicks off Feb. 29, during an episode of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” on CBS. A free paint giveaway program is also coming to stores in early March.

“You name the medium and we’re going to be there with the Clark+Kensington paint lauch,” Surane said. 

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