Fifty2, The MPB Project: Ace Hardware – Clarke & Kensington

FIFTY2 - Ace Clarke & Kensington front“Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project,” will present a carefully curated look at the best Private Brands in the U.S. across all retail channels. The weekly series looks at each great Private Brand with insight, analysis and original photography. Fifty2 The MPB Project LogoIn early 2014, these will be published as my first book along with several new chapters that focus on strategy, packaging and design learnings from the included brands.

I am looking for retailer-owned private labels that are BRANDS – brands that bring their positioning and business purpose to life through great design, purpose, expertise, confidence, emotion, lifestyle and innovation.

Clarke + Kensington
In 2011, Chicago-based Ace Hardware launched their new Private Brand of premium paint, Clarke + Kensington. The line debuted with a premium line of paint and primer in one that is 100% acrylic, low-VOC paint. The name Clark+Kensington commemorates Ace’s first retail location on Chicago’s Clark Street and the site of their corporate headquarters.

Ace is impresively committed to maintaining the quality of the paint and the integrity of the brand by manufacturing the paint and primer in its two manufacturing facilities in the south Chicago suburbs of Matteson and Chicago Heights as opposed to outsourcing it overseas.

“The Clark+Kensington paint and primer in one truly reinforces our core brand message of helping people maintain their homes while saving them time,” said Mary Rice, President/General Manager of Ace’s paint division, in a press release at the brand launch. “The new Clark+Kensington brand will deliver everything consumers want from their paint: fashion, style, inspiration and sophisticated colors that create inviting spaces.” She went on to say “This is an exciting moment for Ace Paint, a legacy brand in and of itself that will continue to innovate and deliver the highest-quality products to consumers looking for ways to maintain their homes quickly and easily,” said Rice. “The name Clark+Kensington is a nod to our heritage, our present and our future.”

In early 2012, Clarke+Kensington starred in the retailer’s first-ever fully integrated campaign dedicated entirely to paint. Taking a page from national brand strategy, Ace leveraged extensive consumer research to discover most consumers want and need validation and guidance in the color selection process and that they have come to believe that “do it yourself” means “do it alone.” They recognized the color selection journey is a very personal process, an expression of a customers’ own unique style.

And so out of consumer insights, a creative and highly successful television campaign, “Find Your Soul Paint” was born. In the commercial, viewers meet a woman who comes to Ace with a color in mind. As she tries to explain the color she wants, she has difficulty articulating her vision for the color: “I’m looking for a purple, but not like my favorite dress in college kind of purple… it was just a little too purple. I’m looking more for puuuuur-ple, kind of like it’s raining, only it’s raining way way, way, way, over there purple. Know what I mean?” To which the store associate responds: “Yeah. You want the color but you don’t want to be smothered by it. Something you can live with for a long time.” The camera pans in on the perfect color brought to life in a group of handsome men in various shades of purple, this\he is the color she has described and there is love-at-first-sight.

The “Find Your Soul Paint” concept was then brought to life with a fully integrated strategic marketing campaign including: national television and print advertising, in store, targeted online, social media and radio spots, as well as a complete lineup of online videos that bring the campaign’s story to life.

In 2013, the hard work and commitment to the Clarke+Kensington brand was rewarded when Consumer Reports named it the winner for best interior paint beating out home improvement rivals Valspar from Lowe’s and Behr from Home Depot. The magazine noted the paint was “superb at hiding, leaving a smooth finish that resisted stains and scrubbing.”

In Clarke+Kensington, Ace has created a memorable brand that evokes their heritage and backed it up with a consistent and reliable quality product customers can trust.

Brand: Clarke+Kensington
Brand Focus:
Premium Paint
Retailer:
Ace Hardware
Headquarters:
Chicago, Illinois
2013 Stores: 4,700

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Christopher Durham

Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan).

Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s.
Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago.

Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.