Be collaborative, creative and cost-effective, and you won't need to send unsolicited emails - With AkzoNobel UK & Ireland Marketing Director Nuno Pena | #BehindTheBrand

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Heading the marketing division of an established brand such as AkzoNobel, Nuno Pena receives dozens of unsolicited emails every week – and they simply don't work.

Across all of its brand portfolio, AkzoNobel's success is founded on creativity and collaboration. Brands such as Dulux are incredibly unique, and any agency looking to work with AkzoNobel will have to demonstrate their expertise in the scene, as well as be prepared to move through a competitive pitching process.

But once you get through to Nuno and the rest of the team, once you are able to impress them, it's easy to stay in their hearts; simplicity, cost-effective creativity, collaboration and the ability to push boundaries are all key qualities that AkzoNobel will be looking for in a creative agency. And that beats any unsolicited email by far.

What is the story of AkzoNobel, and what are its founding values? Today we are getting Behind the Brand to discover AkzoNobel with Nuno Pena, UK & Ireland Marketing Director.


What is it like to work for AkzoNobel?

Working for AkzoNobel is great! Not only I am able to work on some of the most iconic British brands in the decorative paints category, but also work alongside some of the most talented, creative and engaged people I have known throughout my long career. It is really a caring, fun and driven bunch that makes every day a delight.

This is the reason why we have received the recognition of a Great Place to Work for 5 years in a row.

What are the unique aspects of your brand?

We have a couple of Brands at AkzoNobel, but for simplicity I will focus on Dulux which is one of the British iconic brands, having recently been recognized as the 46th most valuable brand in Britain in the prestigious Kantar Brand Z. 

Dulux is unique because for the last 90 years it combines quality, colour expertise and support throughout our audience’s decorative journey and it is underpinned by our Dulux Promise that guarantees the perfect colour, a uniform finish and the stated coverage. We are the only brand who has such a Promise and we are very proud.

And we have of course the Dulux Dog (Old English Sheep dog) who is synonymous with the brand and a unique brand asset. 


Can you describe your brand’s personality in one sentence?

Dulux’s brand purpose is “adding colour to people’s lives” and everything we do, both literally through our helping people have better and more colourful living spaces to more figuratively through improving their mood and ultimately their lives, connects to that north star.

We are all about unleashing possibilities and empowering people to flourish through colour.

What makes your brand successful?

2021 marks the 90 years of Dulux and we would not be able to celebrate such a milestone if our journey would not have been a successful one. We have been privileged to be a staple in British homes throughout 9 decades.

However, past success does not guarantee future success so to continue to be relevant we focus on superior quality of our products at the heart of everything we do, coupled with a passion for colour expertise both with classic evergreens as well as future trends like Colour of the Year and the relentless pursuit of innovation to bring the latest technologies, services and tools to the market. On top we continue to improve our sustainability credentials both from a product impact as well as social contribution to the community.

What opportunities exist for your brand in the near future?

This year we have launched a few innovations like Dulux Simply Refresh which is a one coat paint that makes decorating easier and quicker supported by an integrated creative campaign. We have also launched Heritage by Dulux which is a premium aesthetic range with a unique Velvet Matt finish for an everyday luxury. Add to this a new Dulux Trade Scuffshield that protects high traffic areas from scuffs and marks and we have in less than a year 3 important innovations in the decorative paints market.

This year we have also co-produced the return of Changing Rooms in partnership with Channel 4 which has been a success from our point of view and reminds people of the importance of being creative with colour in our homes.

These examples show that we have many opportunities for Dulux in the future and while I am not able to disclose any future launches or activities we always thrive to bring the best solutions to our audiences, working hard to engage people with our category and making it easier to transform living spaces and improve lives.


How important is creativity to your brand’s success?

Creativity is critical to Dulux’s success. We have had some iconic communication over the 9 decades of brand existence and we continue to strive for creative excellence and impact in our campaigns and assets.

Being the only decorative paint brand with a consistent above the line presence we continue to drive awareness and engagement with the category so creativity is key to keep our messages fresh, current and relevant for our audiences.

Do you work with an in-house creative team, an agency or both?

We do not work with an in-house creative team. We have an in-house Creative Director who is Marianne Shillingford. She is our expert when it comes to colour, decoration and future trends. Marianne is our passionate colour expert and our voice to the world in many touchpoints.

What do you look for in a creative agency?

There are 3 factors to consider in a creative agency: 1 – creative depth and breadth, meaning can they go beyond the surface and are they able to demonstrate measurable success, sales impact and traction with the audience; 2 – account management that not only challenges us, but works collaboratively and in partnership to deliver on the brief: 3 – cost conscious as I believe creativity is not measured by big budgets. Often the best ideas have a simple execution.

Does your brand run pitches for creative agencies? How?

We do run pitches for creativity agencies. Depending on the type of agency we might run a local pitch like the current one we are running on PR and Social Media or we are a part of a global pitch that involves a few lead countries and global coordination to find the best suitable agency for our brands and business.

When we run pitches we are normally support by specialized pitch agencies that help run the process and facilitate the decision.

What tips would you give to an agency looking to land you as a client?

First stop cold calling or sending unsolicited emails. I receive many of these everyday and let me break it to you – it does not work!

We would consider agencies through a pitching process so this is the right moment to engage. Then the best tip I can give is to think about the criteria I have shared before – creativity, account management and cost consciousness.

Do you have any websites, books or resources you would recommend?

I am a big fan of Byron Sharp so would highly recommend his books – especially How Brands Grow. 


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