Dulux goes local

I expect most people around the world recognise international paint brand Dulux.

In its early days Dulux wasn’t available through retail channels because painters and decorators were the firm’s main customers. However in the 1950s, the firm still spoke to consumers in its advertising, telling them to, “Say Dulux to your decorator”. The goal of course was to get your tradesman to buy Dulux.

By 1953 Dulux had gone retail and in the 1960s the The firm became an institution in the UK following a ground breaking advertising campaign featuring an adorable Old English Sheepdog. Nowadays, people of my age often say, “Oh look, the Dulux dog” to bemused children whenever they see an Old English Sheepdog.

Dulux has maintained a very high profile in Malaysia and I have seen numerous billboards, print ads and TVCs featuring bright colours, smiling healthy children and sometimes of course a cute, adorable dog.

It always struck me that this was a questionable strategy, not only because this old mass economy model of spraying money everywhere and praying it would stick with enough consumers to increase sales was rather an archaic approach but also because it was a very Western approach to marketing paint to consumers.

In developed countries such as the UK and USA, home improvement is big business. In the UK alone spending on DIY by householders increased from £7.7 billion in 1998 to £10.9 billion in 2008. The average per household works out at about £700. Interestingly, spending on tradesmen to do the work fell from £6.4 billion to £5.7 billion during the same period.

According to a Euromonitor report, in Malaysia about £300 million was spent in 2008 on DIY and gardening and an average per household of about £20.

One of the reasons for such a difference is that many Malaysians live in apartments but also because it is relatively cheap to arrange for someone else to do your garden and there are plenty of contractors to carry out renovations and paint your house. So the target market in Malaysia should be these small contractors and not consumers.

Anyway, up until this week Euro RSCG, an advertising company had been the incumbent on the brand’s US$100 million global advertising business which it won from DDB in November 2009.

In the last couple of days, Dulux has let the agency go and is now moving away from using a global advertising agency to implement its advertising strategy and instead is giving local markets responsibility for their own campaigns.

This is an excellent move and will hopefully just be the start as other companies such as Patek Philippe, Audi, Lexus, Cartier to name but a few, are all wasting money on traditional mass market global advertising campaigns that may make sense in one market but do little for the brand in others.

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