Legacy Paint Brand Upgrades Tech, Setting the Bar for Their Competitors

“Best in class” is what Crown Paints aims to be and with new color management systems in place, they’re leading the pack.

How does a centuries-old paint company maintain its status as an industry leader? Their tagline might provide a clue: “It’s not just paint, it’s personal.”

Crown Paints opened in the UK in 1777. Today, the company has 130 Crown Decorating Centres and counting throughout the UK and Ireland in addition to a local manufacturing site. They’ve built such a stellar reputation for quality that Crown’s professional finishes are specified for some of the most prestigious buildings in the British Isles. In addition, Crown has also held the Royal Warrant since 1949, which was granted for supplying paint to King George VI and then renewed by Queen Elizabeth II.

While technology has certainly changed dramatically over the years, some things have not: Crown’s customers expect employees to be experts in color. Mixing Systems Managers Steve Lightfoot and Darren Mcilroy and their colleagues at Crown Paints are more than happy to rise to the occasion.

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An Acquisition Brings a New Approach to Color

Lightfoot manages a team of 15 people and is responsible for 1000 pieces of equipment throughout the UK, as well as some international customers. Together, they make sure the different dispensers and shakers in all of Crown Paint’s locations are maintained and solve any issues that may arise.

That’s a critical job when things are business as usual, let alone when you need to rethink your company’s approach to color.

Forming A Partnership – And a Plan

Steve and his team first approached Datacolor after the company was acquired by Danish paint company Hempel in 2011. Crown was previously owned by Akzo Nobel. Two big undertakings were on their to-do list:

  1. Replace Crown’s Akzo Nobel point of sale software
  2. Replace an outdated colorant system with weak colorants

“When you change a mixing machine, it’s not only the machine you change,” says Lightfoot. “You have to change the dispensers, the shakers, update the software and spectrophotometers, etc. Those are very time consuming and expensive projects.”

The effort required was well worth the return.

The changes would result in a better color space, better opacity and new colors to meet the needs of their clients. Beyond that, the number of base paints needed would be reduced, making the system much cleaner and more modern.

Lightfoot saw a clear opportunity to further grow Crown’s recognition as a color matching leader. Now, he and his team just needed to find the right point of sale software supplier.

Crown Paint ColorReader With Colorful inspirations

“The Datacolor team immediately understood what we were looking for. The software is easy to use and Datacolor offers an excellent support system. There are a lot of suppliers out there and lots of dispenser manufacturers, but we needed somebody who was an expert in color. There are only a few names we can really trust when it comes to that, Datacolor being one of them.”

Steve Lightfoot, Mixing Systems Manager | Crown Paints
Paint dispenser close up

Better Support, More Features and a Dedication to Accuracy.

When the search began, Crown’s top priority was clear: Partnering with a company that shared their longstanding dedication to consistently accurate color matching.

After carefully considering point of sale software from Datacolor, X-Rite and Largo, Datacolor’s solution stood out the most.

The decision was about more than software, though. Datacolor Paint came equipped with more features than Crown’s previous Mix2Win software, so Crown Paint needed a partner that would prioritize training the team so they could in turn make sure customers got the most out of Paint.

Together, Datacolor and Crown decided to prioritize eight stores per week to roll out the whole colorant system and new point of sale software by 2021.

“The color matching is superior to what we had before,” says Lightfoot. “For our customers and stores that have a spectrophotometer, this is one of the biggest advantages. It’s also easy to use and there are multiple ways to look up a paint color in the system.”

Talk to a Color Expert

A Solution for Every Paint Need

With the rollout of new POS systems launched, Crown looked to use Datacolor systems in their lab environment as well. “It’s a really good testament to how comfortable we are in trusting Datacolor solutions,” says Lightfoot.

The Crown Paints team didn’t stop there. Today, they continue to invest in color technology from Datacolor with a keen eye on serving the specific needs of customers.

That’s where Crown COLOURKEY® – Crown’s branded version of the Datacolor ColorReader Spectro® – comes into play. The ColorReader Spectro is designed for portable color inspiration identification far beyond the walls of a paint store.

“COLOURKEY® really fits into our brand portfolio because it’s a real personal tool,” says Darren Mcilroy, who focuses on brand and product management, point of purchase and digital marketing for Crown’s Irish Brand Portfolio. “It’s small, it’s handy. You take it with you so you can use it on-site. If you’re a trade guy, you can use it in store. Whether you’re a stylist, an influencer, an interior designer, it’s got all sorts of aspects there as well. So it ticks a lot of boxes on the marketing side for us.”

So far the feedback has been very positive. Contractors and the sales team (who are responsible for selling units) love the accuracy and color range available on the COLOURKEY®, says Mcilroy.

How does the team at Crown Paints determine which color solutions they need—and when?

“Sometimes it’s driven by the technical team and other times it’s driven by marketing,” says Lightfoot. “But ultimately, it’s a relationship between technical and marketing to come up with something that we can agree on and will work in our market.”

“We need bench tools for some, mobile tools for others,” says Mcilroy. “It’s a case of Datacolor being the best for us because you’ve got a bit of everything.”

Crown Paint's ColourKey
crown paints uses color matching software on cell phone

New and Necessary: ColorReader Spectro

Lightfoot explained that Crown customers generally fall into three different bands: low-volume, mid-volume and high-volume. The Datacolor 200 spectrophotometer fit their needs for high-volume customers and the ColorReader worked well for low-volume customers.

However, mid-range customers couldn’t justify the cost of a higher-end unit, but still needed more capabilities than a ColorReader, which is designed for on-the-go color lookup and inspiration.

“That’s where the ColorReader Spectro really fit that niche market,” says Lightfoot. “We’ve got a lot of customers where it’s just a perfect unit for them. We’ve got a solution now that we’re really happy with.”

The Power of Local Support

The team at Datacolor is proud of our ability to offer a global presence and global support. Crown Paints has taken full advantage of this throughout our partnership, from their instruments and paint software, to support in the lab and training. “If we do need a quick response [the Datacolor support team] is happy to pop in the lab and work with us,” says Lightfoot.

“No matter how well you prepare, you’re going to get bumps in the road. And no matter how many bumps in the road we’ve had, we’ve always had somebody to help us through.”

A Color-First and Customer-First Mindset

“Where we have an advantage over our main competitors is with color matching,” says Lightfoot. “And we want to set as high a bar as possible.

He reflected on a project Crown competed on and won a few years back. It was Datacolor’s custom-matching capabilities that set Crown apart from others. “That’s a big market in the UK because we can’t have each other’s colors on our systems,” says Lightfoot. “From a technical aspect, I see Crown setting the benchmark on color matching.”

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Advice for Other Paint Companies

Lightfoot says it’s easy to underestimate the importance of a close relationship with your suppliers. When you buy things off the shelf, you don’t get any support and are left to your own devices.

For marketing teams specifically, Mcilroy says, “There’s only one piece of advice I’d give to absolutely everyone and it’s the most obvious thing: Understand your customer. Because the last thing you want to do is find a piece of technology that you like and try to push it at them. It just doesn’t work. We just have to step back and go, ‘You know what? We’re here to facilitate the customer.’”

When it specifically comes to finding the right point of sale solutions, Lightfoot says it’s critical to evaluate your options.

“We looked at most of the solutions that were available to us and chose a solution that gave us the best chance of success,” he says. “Change is difficult, so why make it any harder on yourself? Pick something that will work.”

It’s clear that Crown will never stop innovating when it comes to color.

“I think Steve’s used the phrase ‘best in class’ a lot,” says Mcilroy. “And that’s exactly what we aim to be.”

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