PPG aims to get name out there

| Thursday, March 17, 2016, 12:03 a.m.

Any do-it-yourselfer is likely familiar with the Glidden and Olympic paint brands that are carried in big-box home-improvement stores around the country.

But how many know those paints are made by Downtown-based PPG Industries Inc.? Not as many as the world's largest paint company would like — which is why PPG is beginning to put its name on those paint cans as part of a broad corporate rebranding and marketing effort.

The company has started tagging Glidden with the PPG logo. All of its consumer products, which also include Liquid Nails adhesives, Homax decorative textures and Pittsburgh Paints, will get the logo over time.

Companies rebrand for a variety of reasons, including to better connect with their customers, attack new markets or to distance themselves from a controversy that may have hurt its reputation. In PPG's case, the company is hoping to boost sales by connecting its various brands with the corporate parent, which executives believe is perceived by the public as producing high-quality products.

“We will be making the PPG brand much more visible, helping to strengthen our brand and our engagement with customers,” said Bryan Iams, PPG's vice president of corporate and government affairs.

The project expands on an effort last year in which PPG rebranded its more than 600 standalone outlets, a hodgepodge of names acquired over several years, including Masterwork Paint and Westmoreland Supply in the Pittsburgh region, as PPG Paints stores.

Known as “endorser” marketing, putting the PPG logo on products is similar to a strategy employed by other companies to preserve the equity of individual brands while gaining additional relevance from the corporate name. Examples include Marriott International Inc., the hotel chain that owns Courtyard by Marriott and Residence Inn by Marriott, and the industrial conglomerate 3M, which tags Scotch tape and many other consumer products with the 3M logo.

“They must have determined that PPG has relevance and it ties together the different brands,” said James Craft, a professor at University of Pittsburgh's Katz Graduate School of Business and a marketing expert. “If PPG has that kind of reputation, then I think what they're doing makes sense.”

To many people in Pittsburgh, PPG may still be thought of as a glass producer, which is how the company was founded in 1883. But over the past 10 years, the company has undergone a major transformation, divesting much of its glass and chemicals operations and going on an acquisitions spree across the paint industry. The company last year generated 93 percent of its sales from paint and coatings, up from 55 percent in 2005.

“The brand has not kept pace” with the changes at the company, Iams said.

Sales growth also has been sluggish in recent years and increasing organic growth is a priority for CEO Michael McGarry, who was promoted to chief executive in September.

Along with paints for the consumer market, PPG is also the largest supplier of coatings to the aerospace and automotive industries, a fact that the company is hoping will influence homeowners when they shop for a new color for their living room or bedroom. Knowing that PPG's products are good enough to coat a commercial airliner or the car in their driveway could create a “halo effect” around the PPG name that sways shoppers to select Glidden or Olympic, Iams said.

“It's that halo effect that we wanted to create and maximize,” he said.

The company is planning to convey that message through a series of ads for television, print and online highlighting PPG's position as a coatings supplier to a variety of industries.

PPG also launched last week a TV spot that ran during sporting events on cable that seeks to humanize the company and its products by showing families painting their homes and schools and hospitals being painted. The ad includes the company's new tagline: “We protect and beautify the world.”

Iams declined to say how much PPG was spending on the rebranding and advertising campaign, which will include ads in the United Kingdom, Mexico, Germany, France, China and Brazil.

In addition to targeting PPG's consumer paint business, the company also is changing branding targeting commercial customers. The company will begin putting PPG in front of all its individual product names that are sold to other businesses, such as PPG Andaro, an aerospace paint; PPG Powercron, an automotive epoxy primer; and PPG Amershield, a marine coating.

Iams said the company found that customers in those industries had a stronger connection to PPG and its reputation for technical expertise than they did to any specific brand owned by the company. The change is known as a “master brand” strategy and is used by General Electric Co., which puts the GE name in front of the names of all its business units and products.

Business customers “choose us because they trust PPG,” Iams said.

Alex Nixon is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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