As Sherwin-Williams’ 150th anniversary approached, the company faced challenges on two fronts. The wellknown company knew it needed to reinforce its unique history and culture among its employees, customers and communities as it continued to rapidly grow, so that it could continue to inspire its people and retain its position as an industry leader in an increasingly global marketplace. Simultaneously, the company was preparing for a leadership transition: their COO would take over the role of CEO upon the retirement of the company’s eighth CEO in its 150 years. Sherwin-Williams turned to The History Factory to help define and authenticate its core storylines, authenticate its anniversary messaging, and galvanize its 37,000-strong workforce through an integrated anniversary campaign. Sherwin-Williams already had a long tradition of product innovation, a keen focus on high-quality customer service, and an unwavering dedication to employees’ development.
The goal for Celebration 150 was to inspire a future built upon the company’s founding DNA and the company’s demonstrated ability to change without losing its character. This required a campaign designed to celebrate Sherwin-Williams’ guiding values; highlight its 150 years of accomplishments and the innovative people who made them happen; inspire employees to carry on the legacy of founders Henry Sherwin and Edward Williams; strengthen relationships with key customers; reinforce the company’s role as an industry leader; and actively engage employees throughout the 15-month campaign.
In 2014, Sherwin-Williams engaged The History Factory. Working collaboratively with Sherwin-William’s Team 150 task force, The History Factory developed a master plan that outlined a vision for an integrated anniversary campaign that engaged all business segments and global locations of the company and included clear metrics for success. This master plan also defined the campaign’s target audiences, established programming that would build excitement before the kickoff and throughout the anniversary year, and included frameworks for implementation.
The History Factory proceeded to craft an anniversary brand identity as well as key storylines and messaging that reflected the character of Sherwin-Williams and would consistently inform anniversary programming, with the Henry Sherwin-inspired theme “What Is Worth Doing Is Worth Doing Well.” To ensure consistency across programming, including the work of SherwinWilliams’ many departments and agencies, The History Factory developed a bank of historical content that aligned with the anniversary storylines and messaging. This content served as the foundation for all anniversary tactics, which included an anniversary toolkit, a 150th anniversary web portal, employee engagement events and initiatives, videos, social media campaigns, and a definitive publication chronicling the company’s 150-year history.
In tandem with the development of this campaign, Sherwin-Williams turned over its archives to The History Factory. Archivists cataloged and digitized more than 600 linear feet of archival materials, including documents, artwork, photography, historical paint cans, toys, clothing and flags. These assets were instrumental in weaving together a thorough and richly illustrated accounting of Sherwin-Williams’ unique heritage.
The anniversary celebration officially kicked off in Orlando, Florida, with Sherwin-Williams’ annual Sales Meeting in January 2016, the largest gathering of employees in the company’s history. It was at this gathering that a Henry Sherwin character, in the guise of a time traveler, gave a rousing keynote address that reinforced the vision and values that have driven the company’s success. Similar events followed in South America, Europe, Asia and the Cleveland headquarters.
Following the kickoffs around the world, employees were invited to visit a website devoted to Celebration 150, rich with historical stories, imagery, trivia and quizzes. Visitors were invited to share their own experiences at Sherwin-Williams—which were subsequently published in a commemorative booklet—and to “Hang with Henry” by posing for a photo with a cutout of Henry Sherwin and sharing it via social media using the hashtag #hangwithhenry
The culmination of the anniversary celebration was the November 2016 publication of the definitive history of Sherwin-Williams, a 230-page book that tells the story of the company’s accomplishments and rich heritage, boldly illustrated with a design inspired by the most popular paint colors throughout its history.
More than 12,000 employees attended the Orlando Sales Meeting and were inspired to carry home a message of pride in Sherwin-Williams’ history of superior quality, innovation and customer service. Employees charged with promoting the anniversary made ample use of the anniversary toolkit: Hundreds of registered communicators in North and South America, Europe and Asia downloaded templates, stories and visual assets for use during the anniversary year.
Starting with the anniversary countdown 150 days before the launch, the anniversary website – an employee-facing site – has had nearly 15,000 unique users and more than 200,000 page views. Moreover, dozens of visitors shared their stories of success at Sherwin-Williams. Employee engagement and community service activities took place all over the world, organized and executed locally but with the shared mission of giving back to the communities in which Sherwin-Williams operates.
In late 2016, more than 33,000 copies of the definitive history of Sherwin-Williams were printed and distributed around the globe, and an e-book version was produced and translated into Spanish and Portuguese.
By pursuing an integrated campaign grounded strongly in both the company’s rich history and its business goals, Sherwin-Williams built a substantial and far-reaching anniversary campaign, with help from The History Factory, that engaged tens of thousands of people worldwide and reinforced the culture and values that have distinguished the company for more than 150 years and will continue to do so for the next 150.