If you’re searching for a way to differentiate your company or product, it might be time to look at the problem from a different angle to see if what you’re missing could be right in front of you. Rethink your approach by watching how your customers use your products or interact with your company. You might find some interesting insights that have been eluding you. That’s exactly what Dutch Boy did, and the rewards were enormous. 

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, painting can be a bit of a hassle. Step #1: pick your paint—which means sorting through at least four different brands, each offering at least 200 colors. Then, you’ve got to mess with brushes, buckets and drop cloths and then clean everything up.

H-A-S-S-L-E.

Most paint manufacturers try to differentiate themselves using traditional means.

The thinking goes like this; (1) give people more color options, or (2) leverage a famous personality like Martha Stewart or Ralph Lauren. If none of that stuff works, we can always (3) pay retailers slotting fees for prime shelf space.

All good ideas, but they all missed something big. Something that was right in front of them.

Dutch Boy wasn’t knocking it out of the park. In fact, even though they had a long history of making paint, their luster had worn off long ago, relegating them to also-ran status. Customer perception pegged them as a marginal, stale product that pretty much looked like everyone else.

Not to mention the brand name certainly wasn’t helping the situation. Martha Stewart was on TV reaching millions of DIY-ers (that is, when she wasn’t in the big house) and Ralph Lauren was hanging out with models looking stylish. If you’re like most people, top of mind for a famous “boy” was the Pillsbury Dough Boy and that association was definitely not going to help move more product.

Then, someone at Dutch Boy got a really great idea. Instead of focusing only on their product, they spent a lot of time thinking about their customer’s experience.

They realized that traditional paint cans were a big hassle to deal with. To open them, you needed a screwdriver. When you poured the paint, it dripped down the side of the can. What a pain to clean up.

Again, H-A-S-S-L-E.

Dutch Boy reexamined their customer experience and came up with an entirely new package: one that opened and closed as easily as a jar of peanut butter and poured like a carafe of coffee.

The next time someone went looking for paint and tried to choose between 800 colors, they might have noticed that one of the paint containers looked much easier to work with, and it happened to be in the right color. Dutch Boy sales took off. (If only they could have patented the new container to prevent everyone else from copying it!)

When was the last time you went through the process that your customers go through every day? You might be surprised at what you find. Walk through each step, reexamine every interaction and make it better.