Painting the town millennial: What emerging paint brands tell us about the desire to be different

May 5, 2023 |2 min read

As a new flat owner about to embark on some of my first ventures into interior design, I am bombarded by adverts for new paint brands: the bright young things on the market who are fighting to be the brand of choice for the millennial generation. With many of us owning our first homes later in life than our parents did, by the time we finally get to paint a plain white wall a colour of our choosing, the decision can be pretty overwhelming.

This is the prime target audience for fresh new brands like Coat, Lick and YesColours, which position themselves firmly and intentionally against the grain of the heritage brands like Farrow & Ball and Dulux. Let’s take a look at some of the stories these brands tell:


What do they have in common?

They simultaneously tell a story that makes them stand out, whilst also criticising the perceived failures of their competitors. By talking about other paint as environmentally damaging, less vibrant, and more complex, they position themselves as bold, new and exciting. With trend-led colour palettes, they assure millennials they are making a cool choice with colour, as well as promising to make the process simple – something that’s crucial when it’s your first time picking up a paint roller.

Strong colours are at the heart of these brands, particularly YesColours whose positioning is bold and bright, rather than gentle and neutral. Perhaps they speak to the desire to make a bold statement of ownership: it’s my wall, I’ll paint it bright pink if I want to. They also tap into the maximalism trend that celebrates joy and vibrancy after a rather miserable few pandemic years; YesColours organise their offering by colour shade, of course, but also by feeling. Want to feel joyful, fresh or passionate? No problem, there’s a paint for that.


Building brand trust

But there is a challenge for these brands to overcome, and that’s building brand trust. Given their lack of experience in decorating, millennials do need the process to be as simple as possible. And for many, this means turning to their parents for help. This is a generation who are likely to have a much clearer idea of paint brands they already know and trust, and might think disapprovingly of the ‘new kids on the block’, having never tried them. Plus, with paint brands, there is always the danger of potential buyers colour matching a cheaper competitor to their carefully researched colours – a millennial might choose a fresh new Coat colour, just to have their parent suggest colour mixing it with Dulux, for example.

All this means that the new brands have a job to do in building their brand trust and reputation for quality, not just great colours and environmental credentials. They need to be bold in their proof that their products are just as high coverage and resistant to scuffs. Messaging could include direct comparisons to leading brands, as well as reviews, especially from trade professionals who work with paint every day.

In addition, these brands can also play a role in supporting the new generation, living further from home and without mum or dad to call on for help, with content to give them the confidence to paint brilliantly. Many of them are already doing this, with Coat’s initial sign-up process walking you through the steps of choosing a colour, prepping your surfaces, all the way through to that first roller on the wall. It’s a special moment for a generation for whom home ownership has been a greater challenge – and supporting them through it can help brands build strong relationships to keep millennials buying their paint, even when they’re not millennials anymore.