Sherwin Williams: Splashing Into the Low VOC Paint Market (pdf abstract)

Purchase the full report on Global Lens (Case study # 1‐428‐993) – published 05/2010, 16 pages
By: Andy Hoffman, Arie Jongejan, Erb ’10, Michael Buday, Erb ’11, Franklyn Cater, Sarah Foulkes, Nagapooja Seeba Om Prakash, Dan Wilson.
Description: In late 1996, Sherwin-Williams CEO John Breen sat at his desk, preparing for another meeting with his board of directors. The room was dark except for a small stream of light that escaped the curtains hung heavily over the windows. Outside, rain was falling onto the company’s corporate headquarters and on the streets of Cleveland. Breen stared at the portraits of company founders Henry Sherwin and Edward Williams that loomed above him on the wall. What would they think about the company’s direction under his watch? Both had invested their life savings to create Sherwin-Williams in 1870. More than 125 years later, a market shift was taking place. Some paint companies were experimenting with new formulations—using different materials to make paint that would send fewer toxins into the air. Would the founders agree with the decisions Breen had made as he guided the company into this new era?
Teaching Note: Available to Registered Educators. Please login to view it.
Teaching Points: After discussing this case study, students will be able to

  • describe whether HealthSpec had the right attributes to succeed in this new and rapidly changing market,
  • analyze whether HealthSpec’s performance demonstrated the viability of environmentally friendly paints,
  • Discuss whether the company needed to invest more heavily in this area before it would see results,
  • compare ways in which the company could improve its reputation,
  • analyze factors relateing to whether Sherwin-Williams should compete in this market,
  • discuss rebranding issues.

Key Topics:

  • Consumer Products
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Government & Policy
  • Innovation
  • Manufacturing
  • Marketing & Sales
  • Strategic Management