“Paint is a dinosaur in decorative products,” says Joakim Cimmerbeck, owner of the eco-friendly UK and Hong Kong-based paint company Eicó. Cimmerbeck tells me there are some cool things happening in the world of paint research and development; there is, or will be, paint that contains light fittings, paint that conducts electricity, carbon dioxide eating, insulating and colour changing paint, among other nifty variations.
He even says that on top of the 12 products Eicó produces, they have about 25 formulas. “We can make paint stronger than the building it’s painted on!” he explains. As excited as Cimmberbeck is about the possibilities of paint innovation, the Eicó team is primarily devoted to supporting a sustainable, healthy, eco-friendly product and is razor focused on igniting the care factor in consumers over the wow factor.
Paint hasn’t always been Cimmerbeck’s passion. Before falling out of love with finance and pursuing adventure, he spent 30 years as an investment banker, moving between, Sweden, Hong Kong and London. Using Hong Kong as a base, he dabbled in learning Mandarin and had the intention of traveling through the mainland but then found himself investing in a paint company back in the UK. Before long, Cimmerbeck saw an opportunity in bringing eco-friendly paint options to the east and so began the Hong Kong operations of Eicó. He now owns both Eicó businesses, but admits they are very different.
In the European residential market for example, the brand appeals to consumers who likely own the property in which
they live, whereas in Hong Kong where vast numbers of residents rent, the brand is looking to connect with another segment – the landlords. “Our biggest challenge is to understand what makes landlords tick,” he tells me. “Why should they choose Eicó? What do they gain?” Cimmerbeck continues, “[A] no smell, washable paint, [that’s] lasting, not fading, extremely environmentally friendly [and] healthy.” He knows this, because he has ran independent tests on his paint himself and is so confident in the durability and quality of the product, he has created his own system of accountability. Eicó now certifies every flat, house and commercial installation in which the paint is used which can later be checked by a potential tenant or buyer if they wish.
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Cimmerbeck’s challenges don’t stop there. When it comes to price over time, he considers the brand extremely competitive in comparison with ordinary paint, which he says will have to be repainted at least twice in the lifecycle of Eicó paint. However, when considering price at the point of purchase, Eicó is probably 30 to 40% more expensive in comparison to paint he describes as, “stinky, won’t last very long and is making a bigger impact on the environment than ours.”
Despite the hurdles, Cimmerbeck is determined to keep pushing Eicó forward, not just to make it succeed as a business but to address the wider issue of consumer awareness. “Most of our everyday products, we question. What do I eat? Where is it from? Where’s the furniture from? No one asks about the thing which immerses you, which is paint product. You can avoid a sofa, but you can’t avoid paint!” He wants consumers to care, to research, and to ask questions, not just of Eicó, but of any brand.
Of course, Cimmerbeck wants to sell paint, but he also emphasises that the company unwaveringly stands behind sustainability, to the point where they won’t partner with companies who don’t assume their standards. He is voicing his mission of consumer awareness through marketing too; his venture into making beer is a marketing ploy that puts the spotlight on water sustainability. Eicó factories are located in Iceland and Sweden where there is an abundance of water so pure, they use it in both Eicó beer and Eicó paint.
Filled with furniture saved from skips around Hong Kong and revamped, even Cimmerbeck’s office is a statement of sustainability. Some of which he also uses as a canvas for street art and will encourage artists he supports to do the same.
It would appear that between promoting health, protecting the environment and encouraging better consumer standards, for Cimmerbeck, through paint, many things are possible.
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