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Executive Interview

Executive Interview with Mike Watson, Global Managing Director, Valspar

In his current role, Watson has led the restructuring and re-launch of the PlastiKote automotive brand. PlastiKote has a long, rich heritage in the automotive marketplace and over time had seeped into other non-automotive categories. Under Watson’s guidance, the new PlastiKote has returned to its roots through reinvestment in such areas as new product formulations, brand identity and customer support programs. In this week’s exclusive Executive Interview, Watson gives us an update on the Plastikote re-launch and also gives us a sneak peek of new products the company will introduce next month at AAPEX.

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Amy Antenora has been reporting on the automotive aftermarket since 2002.

Mike Watson serves as global managing director for Valspar. After many years with Valspar’s European division, Watson moved to the company’s U.S. operation, based in Chicago, Ill., in 2006 to oversee the regeneration of Valspar’s aerosol and enamel business on a global basis. Since that time, the company has dedicated significant resources, made substantial capital investments and renewed its focus to gain global channel and market share. In his current role, Watson has led the restructuring and re-launch of the PlastiKote automotive brand. PlastiKote has a long, rich heritage in the automotive marketplace and over time had seeped into other non-automotive categories. Under Watson’s guidance, the new PlastiKote has returned to its roots through reinvestment in such areas as new product formulations, brand identity and customer support programs. Watson has spent most of his career working for blue chip companies in the consumer goods industry including the do-it-yourself, automotive and grocery channels. A graduate of Leeds University in the United Kingdom with a degree in marketing, Watson resides in the Chicago area with his wife, two sons, daughter and two dogs.

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In this week’s exclusive Executive Interview, Watson gives us an update on the Plastikote re-launch and also gives us a sneak peek of new products the company will introduce next month at AAPEX.

Last year, Valspar announced the re-launch of the PlastiKote brand – a name that has been around since 1923. What precipitated this and why did the time seem right to bring back this brand?

It’s true that the PlastiKote brand has a long and successful history in the automotive channel. Research told us that our customers were generally very satisfied with the quality and basic functionality of PlastiKote products. It was also very evident within the research that the core strength of the brand lay with professional and semi-professional users. The quality of the product was the key benefit; however there were few, if any, competitive differentiators for the users at the point of purchase. While the brand had been around a long time, there was confusion about what it stood for and how it differentiated itself from competitors. This felt like a great platform to develop the new PlastiKote.

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What changes were made to the brand and its positioning for the re-launch?

The research process identified clearly that we must align the PlastiKote brand with its premium product offering and then visualize these brand attributes and values through a strong new brand identity. We positively repositioned the new PlastiKote, changing all aspects of the brand to communicate not just the “professional,” but the “accessibly professional,” nature of the line. With new and improved formulations; a sleek, bold look; and a commitment to providing first-class customer service, the new PlastiKote is positioned to provide clarity and confidence to our customers.
 
Were any changes made to the PlastiKote product offering for the re-launch?

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The bottom line is that we changed everything – product formulations, packaging, cans, labels, a new proprietary cap and so on – nothing was left undone including the manufacturing process itself. We repositioned the pricing structure for our distribution customers and improved presentation, functionality and shopability. Packaging was redesigned to aid merchandising and simplify the shopping experience and product formulations were reevaluated to ensure the new PlastiKote delivered its brand promise.

How has the reception been so far out in the marketplace for the “new” PlastiKote?

In one word: fantastic. We have received tremendously positive feedback and, in reality, we are not all that surprised by the market reaction. The PlastiKote team did their homework, listened to our customers and sought feedback. The brand now clearly reflects the views of the key stakeholders. It would have been a surprise and disappointment had we had anything but a fantastic response to the new PlastiKote.
 
What are you doing (from a marketing standpoint) to make consumers and commercial customers aware of this revitalized brand?

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We are conducting a multi-faceted communications program to convey the attributes of the new PlastiKote to key audiences including users and, most importantly, commercial customers. We are dedicated to the success of our distribution and retail customers, and our goal is to make the PlastiKote experience as logical as possible for them. The entire program is designed to be easy to merchandise, navigate and communicate. Whether it’s providing top-notch sales service or successful marketing and promotional programs, we aim to exceed our customers’ expectations and help them grow their businesses.

Have you made any changes to the brand or made any further introductions to the product portfolio since the re-launch?

We have. We view new product development as an evolutionary process that requires us to thoroughly research customer needs, determine product requirements, create superior formulations and align with the brand portfolio. In the past 12 months, we have made logical extensions to the new PlastiKote product line, including truck bed liner and undercoating products with a new easy-to-use trigger that allows for simple application, accurate delivery and easy clean-up. These products have created real value in traditionally commoditized categories.

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Are there any plans for more new products from Valspar and PlastiKote in the near future?

As part of Valspar, the new PlastiKote brand benefits from the global footprint and research and development capabilities of one of the world’s leading coatings manufacturers. We are always working to develop new products and improve upon existing ones. We look forward to the upcoming AAPEX show where we will introduce our new line of individual scratch pens in the top 24 colors. This new product offering is a direct response to customer feedback. They asked and we answered, providing our commercial customers a way to sell more volume in a low-cost format.

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Tell us about the exciting new changes to the aerosol actuator that you are planning to make in 2012.

Our new, proprietary actuator is the most exciting innovation in spray paint in the last 20 years. We have spent nearly three years developing it and own the intellectual property rights. This revolutionary actuator will be showcased at our booth at the AAPEX show and we very much look forward to introducing it throughout our business, including the automotive channel, in 2012.

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