Challenger to Watch 2019: Clare Paint
For making painting ‘Brilliant’ again
Successful challengers are often led by a charismatic or visionary founder who comes into an industry with no extensive prior experience and asks an ‘intelligently naïve’ question like “Why does this industry operate this way?” and then interrogates the established conventions and rules that are usually perpetuated by and beneficial to the market leader(s). In today’s digital, online e-commerce age, we are seeing an explosion of challengers in a variety of industries taking this approach.
First there was Jeff Bezos who left Wall Street to start Amazon.com to sell books online and eventually create the most valuable company in the world realizing a vision of a single e-commerce destination to buy anything online. Then there was Tony Hsieh who left the world of internet advertising to start Zappos.com with a vision to deliver happiness and extraordinary customer service and satisfaction selling shoes and apparel without needing a physical store or sales person. More recently we have seen four MBA students launch Warby Parker to make buying prescription eyewear easier, more affordable and stylish as well as a group of designers conceive and launch Casper to challenge the old-fashioned (and creepy) mattress retail industry by designing and delivering a better and more affordable product, distribution and consumer sleep experience.
So it was only a matter of time before an ‘outsider’ would set their eyes upon the paint industry and category and interrogate why it has become so complicated, frustrating and out-of-date, especially for a younger generation.
Enter Nicole Gibbons — an interior designer and Emmy Award winning television personality — who created Clare to challenge the status quo of paint. Driven by a core belief that a fresh coat of paint has the power to transform a room and home into a more enjoyable living space, she couldn’t understand why the paint buying experience had become such a ‘headache.’
So why does every brand look and sound the same as the rest of the competition? Why is every product sold in the same packaging and in the same complicated retail experience? What’s the difference between ‘matte,’ ‘satin,’ ‘flat,’ ‘gloss’ and ‘semi-gloss’ finishes? Why are there a nearly infinite number of colors to choose from that seem to change in name every year? Why does every brand lay claim to the ‘color of the year’?
It’s because the paint industry has been dominated for decades by a handful of brands like Sherwin-Williams, Benjamin Moore and Behr, many of whom are produced and distributed by a dominant oligopoly of companies like PPG, Sherwin-Williams, Azko-Nobel, BASF and Valspar, and who operate with a retail store distribution model through their own stores, hardware stores or ‘big box’ home improvement retailers like Home Depot, Lowes and Walmart. The industry has deteriorated into a complex ‘sea of sameness,’ with every brand imitating one another and emphasizing their countless and custom variety of color selection, their superior paint quality and durability and the self-proclaimed trust that comes from being a centuries-old brand.
But Nicole and her colleagues had a different vision and mission — to eliminate the need to ever visit a [hardware] store for paint again and transform the industry and experience making it more convenient, accessible and a ‘joy, not a hassle.’ They set out to create a better way, an “expertly curated color palette, the highest quality paint, no-mess, no-fuss color sampling, and the best painting supplies all delivered to your door. Plus, guidance to get you going and keep you inspired along the way.”
Clare offers only 4 types of paint — Primer, Trim, Wall and Ceiling — available in a “perfectly curated palette of [only] 55 timeless colors” with youthful designer inspired names, because it proclaims “Who needs 50+ shades of beige anyway?” To help its customers make the right selection, it starts with “Clare Color Genius: an interior design-based color consultation paired with a high-tech algorithm that will recommend the perfect color for your space…so you’ll never have to sort through an endless sea of paint chips again.”
And speaking of paint chips, instead of imagining what your space will look like from a small 2”x2” square paint chip (usually presented along with 3-5 similar shades of the same color), Clare sends out much larger peel-and-stick to your wall swatches that can be reused all around your home — a perfect example of a ‘why didn’t I think of that’ idea that comes from seeing the category through a fresh set of eyes.
Clare also offers a simple assortment of essential painting supplies that come shipped with your order to make it a one-stop, turnkey shopping experience. It proclaims their paint and supplies are environmentally friendly (“Greenguard Gold Certified”) and come with a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee.
Even the brand name was chosen with an intention to sound more feminine than the masculine established brands, and its meaning is derived from the Latin word for “Brilliant” — exactly how they want to reinvent the paint experience.
It’s still early days, but given how little the paint industry has changed over the past 150 years, it’s likely this startup challenger will be taking a sizeable slice of this $155Bn category, which is why it’s one of our Challengers to Watch in 2019.