Peeling Back the Curtain on Tape
by Josh Bohm
If you look in any painter’s work box, there are a few things you’re going to likely find in all of them—some abrasives, some brushes, obviously some paint, but I’d venture to guess one of those definites would be tape. Now there are as many different kinds of tape as there are types of jobs and painters, but they do all have one thing in common: they have to earn their place in that box!
If it can’t do the job, it’ll be thrown out in favor of something that will perform, because when it comes down to getting the best work done to reduce callbacks and to get referrals, it’s serious competition. This leads to it being important for the independent retailer because if it’s serious for the paint pros, it should be just as serious for you! We talked to Brandon Paas, consumer marketing manager at Intertape; Don Applegate, national sales manager, Paint and Hardware Group at Vibac; and Jeff Malmer, advanced technical service specialist in 3M’s Construction & Home Improvements Markets Division about the newest developments in tape and what you need to do to sell more.
All Tapes are Not Created Equal
I can assume that if you’ve been reading TPD for a long time you know that we really love our tape, but there’s so many kinds it’s hard to keep straight (I guess that’s why it’s rolled up!). I asked our friends about the differences between them to help make some sense of it.
3M opened up the discussion. “Our tapes are designed with different adhesion levels so you can choose the right tape for the job or surface,” Malmer told us, “In addition to adhesion levels, we use different adhesives as well as backings. These will contribute to removal times as well as performance on different surfaces.”
Brandon Paas mentioned the importance of having tapes to fit every job. “We focus on small niche products as much as mass masking products because we understand that our customers are the lifeblood of our organization and we need to have solutions for all of them,” he said. That’s really telling of how much variation there is out there.
Vibac, however, has a different idea than the rest, preferring to stick to a concise line of five (photos, page 19). Don Applegate explains: “The paint dealer doesn’t need more than that,” he said, describing his company’s short line. “Our DaVinci Contractor 220 is an everyday general-purpose masking tape for many paint contractors and DIY alike. DaVinci Green 226 is a great price-point masking tape that will give you five days with excellent sharp edge tape lines. DaVinci Premium 312 combines excellent sharp edge paint lines, with higher adhesion and UV/moisture resistance to deliver a product that performs better than general purpose masking tapes.”
He’s got two more from here: “DaVinci Blue 314 will surprise you! It provides premium blue performance at an everyday blue price. Finally, if faux finishing and delicate surfaces are part of your projects, DaVinci Gold 319 will give you great performance. Its truly incredible sharp-edge tape lines will please the most discriminating painter. We feel that this line up really satisfies the needs of most any project that a paint contractor or DIY customer will have.”
There are perhaps as many options as stars in the sky, so it’s really beneficial as a retailer to understand the different products and applications so you can make the best recommendations to your customers, pro and DIY alike.
In addition to the current wide range of products, the technological advances since the first blue tapes are just as intense. We asked about some of the new advances that make the tape of today rolls apart from that of yesteryear.
Vibac didn’t hold vi-back and was quick to offer its system of R&D. Applegate noted that the company had three key questions to answer:
• What part of masking tape causes and or contributes to paint bleed?
• Can we solve those problems?
• Can we solve those problems without making it cost prohibitive for the paint contractor?
“Ultimately we found out that yes, we can solve all of those problems. Better paper, better adhesive, better performance, sharp-edge paint lines—that is exciting!” he trumpets, “Especially when it is at a price point that makes sense to paint contractors.”
Not to be outdone, 3M offered its perspective and its latest triumph, “Our most recent innovation, ScotchBlue™ Platinum Interior Painter’s tape, is made with a conformable poly-material that removes easily in one long pull without slivering or tearing for faster prep and removal (compared to 3M paper-backed masking tapes),” said Malmer. “It provides ultra-sharp paint lines on baseboards, trim, glass and metal for professional results.”
Intertape thought of a different concept when asked about this, putting an emphasis on marketing. “The changing landscape on how to communicate to the customer is very intriguing and exciting,” said Paas. “You can see a clear shift in new packaging designs and advertisements intended to target the new generation of contractors and consumers alike.”
Because this is an adhesives article, I asked him about tapes themselves as well. “Advancements in technology continue to be a focus for new product development,” Brandon continued. “It’s not just advances in tape technology—new and improved processes in other fields across multiple industries are demanding new and different tape products.” For example, in paint/hardware, the advent and popularity of low-VOC paints has caused a shift in surface prep as the ‘old’ tape doesn’t perform as well with the new paints, giving birth to a new tape formulation to cope. Just like anything else in our industry, it is constantly evolving—so don’t be stuck behind!
Don’t Get Stuck Without Profit!
All of this is great, but as in all of my articles, it wouldn’t be complete unless I asked our roundtable experts about their thoughts on marketing and merchandising. Brandon from Intertape suggests that the main medium is the message. “Marketing tapes requires a clear and concise message that quickly and easily helps the consumer or contractor identify differences in similar products,” he said. “This can be a challenge, as most tape companies, for instance, have multiple blue painter’s tapes in their line or multiple tan contractor packs on the shelf.”
Therefore, you need a way to let people in on it. “Communicating on packaging, shelf-talkers, hang tags, etc. is key to helping the customer make the right choice,” said Paas. “This includes information explaining a 21-day vs a 14-day tape, fine crepe, adhesive type, size, UV resistance, etc. All are factors critical to steering the purchaser in the right direction for his or her needs.”
3M’s suggestions were based around its product. “Carry a wide assortment of tapes that will provide optimal results for any project a painter may encounter,” Malmer suggests. “The product assortment should offer tapes that can be applied on delicate surfaces, rough surfaces, and every surface in between. Masking tape is a tool that will enable a painter to achieve the best possible results and satisfied clients.”
Don Applegate at Vibac had some ideas based on his own experiences, “Having worked behind the counter in a paint store, I saw that masking tape is one of those products that should be put in multiple areas of your store. We’ve all been in a store with a mental list of things that we need, and invariably forget something,” he remembered. “Having a small visual reminder is a great way of helping customers get what they need, and maybe to help increase your store sales and profits along the way.”
He gave us a primer on how his line can help jog your customers’ memories so they don’t have to make a return trip just when they are ready to paint. “If you have an exterior stain section, display some DaVinci Blue 314 nearby; painters will often need it to protect the house trim. In a faux finish section, display DaVinci Gold 319. And of course at the checkout counter have DaVinci Contractor 220 and DaVinci Blue 314 for one last reminder to the customer to not forget a roll of tape. The more visible it is the more likely you are to sell it.”
So the takeaways—or in this case the tape-aways—are to have a variety of tape that “covers” most tasks, and also to merchandise it in a way that your consumers won’t forget that they need it. Just like at the guitar shop I work at during the day, sundries and accessories like this are where you make a lot of your profit. It’s just waiting there for you to grab it!