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Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly

Episode 136: VC hype vs. Wall Street

Oct 22, 2019

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Marketplace Tech

When paint companies merge, do they blend their colors together?

Tony Wagner Mar 21, 2016
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A selection of Valspar colors.
Courtesy: Valspar/GIF by Tony Wagner

This week brought the news that paint company Sherman-Williams will buy Valspar for about $9 billion. That got us wondering about each brand’s main product: the paint. Sherwin-Williams’ website says they have “over 1,500” colors, Valspar’s site lists 1,764. Here are some of the reds from both companies:

There’s a lot of similar colors there! Of course, what might look the same to the untrained eye might not, maddeningly, look exactly the same side-by-side:


 

So what happens to all these maybe-but-not-quite-exactly the same colors? And what about all those licensed colors? Sherwin-Williams has HGTV- and West Elm-branded paints. Can you still get Majolica Green? Turns out, you always could, said Ivan Marcuse, vice president and chemicals analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets.

If you preferred the quality of Valspar Reserve paint, but wanted a HGTV color, you can ask paint stores to mimic the color even though the color isn’t from the same brand of paint.

“Ninety-five percent of the time they’re going to say yes,” Marcuse said.

Both companies can match colors so easily that their palettes aren’t a large part of the sale, he said, adding that the shade of the colors are more marketing than anything else. Instead, Sherwin-Williams is buying Valspar to get a piece of their industrial coating business — think: the stuff lining soda cans — and other manufacturing benefits. They’re also buying the brand. So if you have strong feelings about, say, Very Black versus Caviar, don’t worry — you’ll still be able to get both.

“It’s not really that you’re taking the paint chips and slapping them together,” Marcuse said. “That might be a tiny part of it, but it’s more the branding.” 


 

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