Hunter Douglas: Shedding Light on the Power of a Targeted Awards Program


Awards won…and counting

“Most Innovative Product”

by TIME Magazine.


Earned Media Stories.


How do you describe a product that will literally define a new category? How do you use words to illustrate the power of a product that delivers an experience unlike anything ever invented? This was the task for Caster as they collaborated with Hunter Douglas on an extensive awards and PR program for their latest Aura Illuminated Shade collection.

Since 2019, Caster has led the charge in helping Hunter Douglas grow awareness around its automated shade solutions. While the brand’s PR program complimented the budding shade category’s growth, Hunter Douglas had more on its radar than the traditional shading solution. In 2022, Hunter Douglas previewed Aura Illuminated Shades as part of its presence at CEDIA Expo. A tightly held secret project that had been developing in-house for more than five years, Aura defied expectations for the smart shading category with its proprietary three-in-one design: a textured front shade, a room-darkening liner, and built-in illumination. Aura’s small, custom integrator-focused preview soon turned into the buzz of the show. Just one small hitch: the product was not officially launched.  

Knowing that the in-person preview generated intense anticipation, Hunter Douglas needed to capitalize on some serious storytelling to communicate the caliber of the product for its actual launch – a task that is much harder to do without a trade show booth to show the awe-inspiring functionality of the first-of-its-kind product.  


After experiencing Aura Illuminated Shades in person, the Caster Team began to strategize on the launch plan for the official rollout in late 2023; the extended runway of time provided a great opportunity to refine the messaging. Given the unique and innovative nature of Aura Illuminated Shades, the Caster team knew it would be a competitive product across some notable awards programs. Awards, when part of a comprehensive PR strategy, can serve as an important pillar in a PR program – offering third-party validation and credibility. The team analyzed all of the potential award competitions, vetting categories, and past winners to determine the programs that would best align with Aura Illuminated Shades and provide a PR lift that would time well with the official product launch. 

The award entries would prompt Caster to develop a critical messaging foundation for Aura Illuminated Shades. Even before the product launch, the drafts would need to capture the competitively innovative nature of the product that, until the next launch events, would only be demonstrated with these descriptions and a handful of photos. The initial drafts, which largely guided the storytelling strategy of submissions to the Fast Company Innovation by Design Awards and the TIME Best Inventions Awards, went through several rounds of drafting and edits, beginning with Caster team members who had seen the product in action during the preview and then moving to the team members who hadn’t seen it. These rounds of edits helped the team fill in holes through different perspectives and provide vivid descriptions that would help paint a picture of the product. From there, Caster had an ironclad and thorough foundation of messaging that lent itself to many award drafts throughout the year, evolving based on the requirements of the award entries, the audience, and the timeline. The first awards entry clocked in at nearly 1,000 words, all vetted by the Hunter Douglas product team to ensure the entry did Aura justice. 

After the initial submission, Caster continued to evolve the messaging around Aura for the various award programs and audiences who would benefit from hearing about it, and by the official launch, had submitted nine award entries for the category-defining product. The press releases, which drew from the powerful storylines and features Caster had nurtured for months prior, conveyed the immense value of Aura for a range of audiences and use cases.   


From preview and debut, the comprehensive awards program executed by Caster earned Aura Illuminated Shades seven accolades, including a highly coveted spot on the TIME “Best Inventions Award of 2023” list and a Finalist rank in the Fast Company Innovation by Design Awards. The official rollout of Aura at CEDIA Expo 2023 was complimented by four custom integration industry awards: The CE Pro Best Award, the Residential Systems Best of Show Award, The Technology Designer Performance Home Award, and an Editor’s Picks honor for the Connected Design & Architecture in Smart Home Awards. Aura also received a bronze award from the Residential PRODUCTS Most Valuable Product Award in the connected home category.  

These awards served as a proof point for custom integration, home design, and consumer technology publications alike. Since its launch, Caster’s media relations activities around Aura have earned 53 unique earned media stories with nearly 52.4M unique viewers per month and over $484,000 total advertising value equivalent.  

Now in the fifth year of partnership, Hunter Douglas and Caster continue to collaborate in elevating Aura’s story, with award-winning projects and updates on the horizon.