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How might Sherwin-Williams drive increased spec' with design professionals?



Driving Spec' with Design Pros



Through contextual research with architects and interior designers, the team mapped the pain specification journey and identified key moments to engage as a partner in the process, not just a vendor of pigments. The final report included not only directives on how to create a compelling product, but also reveal a new opportunity to reclaim lost revenue through disintermediation of paint sample distribution. 

Key Insights

At the onset of the project, we thought we should focus on color accuracy to drive spec'. However, we learned that there is a bigger opportunity to drive spec' through tools that streamline the non creative parts of design and provide more control over how color is used throughout the design process.
In order to do this correctly we need to follow these guiding principles:

1. Sync color options to design stages: The desired level of color specificity evolves throughout Design Development, but current tools do not. Early in paint selection, Design Pros find too many options overwhelming, but towards the end, a wide variety is empowering.

2. Integrate with existing tools and processes: Paint is not a significant enough challenge for Design Pros to completely replace their current approach. But innovation is welcome if it streamlines their work and integrates with existing tools and processes.

3. Differentiate through partnership: Design Pros say that any company can make a paint color that meers their functional needs. They're excited to spec' materials that align with the underlying concept driving their project and their broader organizational values.

Project Process

Validation and Needs-Based Research

Project Reframe

Narrative Development

Concepting and Final Share Out

The original ask from the client was to validate that there was a significant opportunity to sell highly calibrated Sherwin Williams displays to architecture offices to open up a new revenue stream and simultaneously drive spec’ preference. To achieve this goal, it was my responsibility to design a research protocol that surfaced current pain points and point towards early solutions worth exploring and ones that should be abandoned. I develop three research stimuli: a journey map, trade-off exercise, and sacrificial concepts that helped guide conversations, but stayed flexible enough to allow participants to show us how they work, not just tell us.

However, through research we found that this audience doesn’t see the need for this–they care more about controlling color specificity along the design journey. Instead, to drive spec’, a tool needs to streamline non-creative tasks and increase control over paint color specificity at key moments. This reframe was vital to move the project forward and outline the true opportunity for key stakeholders at Sherwin-Williams.

Instead of just telling the client, 'No, your highly calibrated screen will not work...', it was vital to develop a compelling narrative that demonstrated the bigger opportunity identified in the research with design pros. This opportunity was to create free tools that address the biggest challenges design pros actually face in order to drive spec and reclaim control over physical sample distribution. Through the narrative, we proved that this opportunity was both desirable to the target audience and viable for Sherwin-Williams.

To gain Sherwin-William's trust in the new opportunity and understand how to activate it, the team created a journey map that outlined the entire presentation and illustrated where to focus their efforts. This journey map was an actionable framework that also identified potential concepts that laddered back up into the guiding principles outlined in the narrative.

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