Trip to PPittsburGh

By Jerry Rabushka,

  Filed under: Feature

More Than a T-Shirt

This is where I get a trip to Pittsburgh for a PPG Media Day and you don’t even get the t-shirt, but we did. In fact, we got two to commemorate the Penguins’ fifth Stanley Cup victory. But there has to be a takeaway for dealers in Nashville and all the other 28 hockey cities, not to mention for the retailers out there who don’t know (or care) a puck from a football.

The day started with bagels and coffee, and after getting sufficiently tanked up, we went on a tour of the PPG Harmar Research and Development Labs, on Guys Run Road in the Pittsburgh metro. We didn’t see any guys running on the road, but we did get a good look at how products are tested and developed. One of the most interesting and telling displays was posed as a “trick question.” One of the technicians showed us all-knowing media folks a sample wall of several rollouts and asked us which one we thought was the best quality paint.

Most of us agreed on a couple of the eight or ten samples, wherein the technician smiled and said, “it’s all the same paint, it were just applied with different rollers.” Ohhh! There’s a light bulb! And it goes to show that the applicator does make a difference, even with great paint. It’s a great game to play with customers who don’t want to spend the extra few dollars on a better applicator.

Much of the tour showed us what goes in to R&D in both paint and also in the company’s Liquid Nails line, and what kind of testing a product goes through before it comes to market. The adhesive needs to adhere, the sealant needs to seal, and product performance is analyzed to see how it can be improved from where it is currently.

Plus, they said, there’s some built in margin for error. Our error, in that if a customer doesn’t follow directions exactly, will the product still perform? That can depend on the degree of variance, but as many folks just open and apply and skip that direction-reading part, they told us, they do their best to cover our mistakes!



Speaking in Color

You’ve read many articles here featuring Dee Schlotter, PPG’s senior color marketing manager. We’ve been consulting Dee for a long time, so it was nice to finally meet an industry celebrity! When Dee talks color, she means it. People there say that she “speaks in color” and that’s as accurate as a good tint machine. All those fancy descriptions you read in our articles spring to life when she talks about them live, and you fully understand about the emotions and feelings that color evokes.

She had to bring her descriptive powers to the forefront because the lightbulb in the overhead projector popped out just when she was ready for her presentation, but she was up to the task. While we couldn’t see the colors, we could imagine them, as Schlotter explained how they played on human emotions and why certain colors trend in certain times. How will this help you? Try to read “colorspeak” in a different way. It has some serious meaning, and the more you learn that language, the better you can sell color and question your customers about how it influences them.

Schlotter spoke about Black Flame, PPG’s 2018 color of the year, pictured above. It might be an odd choice; even some folks at PPG were curious as to how it got top honors. Upon further introspection, most everyone agrees this is the right call.

“Black Flame acts like a black curtain, allowing your other décor elements to take center stage,” Schlotter describes. “It’s a fantastic blend of black and indigo, two classic hues. Black creates the silence we crave in an information-heavy world, while the indigo offers possibility and a deep hopefulness. The blend of two colors makes it incredibly versatile—use it on a statement wall, with a matte finish on a ceiling, with high gloss on a naturally-lit staircase, on cabinets, interior and exterior doors, and in many more places. The versatile hue can also provide strength and a modern luxe vibe to spaces with a lot of whites, blush pinks and soft pastels.”

She paused for questions, and when nobody said anything I spoke up. “Why is the Color of the Year coming out earlier and earlier?” One reason is to help folks like you, along with color experts and designers, who want to know as soon as possible, she explained, so you can get a head start in marketing and display.


Trotting out Trottier

Speaking of Stanley Cups, after the lab visit we went on a tour of the PPG Paints Arena. PPG is the official paint supplier of the Penguins as well as the official paint of the National Hockey League. A surprise guest was NHL star Bryan Trottier, who won four Cups with the New York Islanders and two with the Penguins. He passed around four of his six Stanley Cup rings and spoke in the most humble fashion about his experiences growing up and as a six time champion. It was exciting to hear him talk about being part of something that many of us followed so closely in the ’80s and ’90s.

He’s got nothing to prove—he proved it six times over—so is there a takeaway? Perhaps it’s “let your accomplishments speak for themselves.” There might be a fine line between acknowledging accomplishments and bragging about them, and every supplier and paint retailer has walked it at one time or other. Trottier gave a perfect example, and for a few moments we got to share in the experience of what it felt like to win a national championship.

Just like talking in color.