Archive for August, 2008

National Office Week…Gorgeous Marketing

National Office Week ran from 12th-16th May 2008 for the first time – a real integrated campaign that set a new standard for the industry.

Initiated by Debi Arnold from Tomorrow’s Business, publishers of Unlimited magazine, National Office Week proved that marketing is more than a week-long campaign by building an engagement programme centring around the week in May but generating year-round conversation about brands in the office products market. This is not to mention the 23 million opportunities to see the campaign messages, hear about the promotions, learn about the brands and engage with the on-line tools during the focal period of the programme in 2008.

The effective use of online activity and social media tools such as a blog for PA’s and Office Managers to share tips and experiences in their lunch hour, has delivered the on-going engagement of the target audience as National Office Week morphs into the ongoing ‘Gorgeous Office’ guise. This allows for the programme to continue throughout the year, developing a real community feel and peaking during the campaign week in May.

However, to prove that traditional media is still alive and kicking, the online and social media activity has driven up subscriptions to the printed magazine.

A success all round for offices, stationery purchasers, the brands associated with the campaign – and proof that there is a growing role for social media tools in the stationery industry.

So congratulations to all involved and let’s look forward to offices continuing to engage with gorgeous stationery brands!

August 29, 2008 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment

Environmental clarity in the stationery industry

The selection of office stationery products is frequently done on the basis of environmental credentials.

But how can we get good quality information and consistency across sources?

Have you noticed how many stationery catalogues put a ‘100% Recycled’ logo next to a product, and yet the symbol refers only to the paper content, and not the whole product? Or worse still, an icon signifying that the product is ‘green’ with no information as to why it is ‘greener’ than any other.

What about claims such as energy saved through use of recycled paper? Is the information correct? Often it isn’t, as data is sourced from the UK paper industry that produces newsprint from mechanical pulp. However fine papers contain chemical (wood free) pulp, and the production of this does not consume energy, it actually generates it. So replacing this element with recycled fibre actually increases the energy demand and carbon emissions.  

From a marketing perspective both suppliers and distributors need to review the communication to ensure that the information supplied is accurate so that people are able to make an informed decision on the products that they purchase.

It is no longer acceptable to have a symbol indicating that items are ‘green products’. The industry needs to work together to deliver more effective and consistent labelling.

August 28, 2008 at 11:00 pm 1 comment

A testing time for brands

Remember the Test Card? It’s hard to believe how things would progress from the days when TV was only on for a number of hours a day with the Test Card showing outside those hours, to today’s always on society of blogging, twitters, and other opportunities to connect and share content around the clock.

But what impact has this development in communication channels had on brands? People used to buy brands. The 30 second slot on TV, the bill boards, magazine and newspaper ads all encourage people to go out and buy a brand. But now, we’re much more about ‘community’. Communities discuss brands, they create buzz around a brand, they engage and promote great brands or discredit a brand who doesn’t engage with them or deliver the value they expect.

In the stationery industry there are both ‘product brands’ and ‘corporate brands’. All have ways in which they can add value to their audience via the supply of information, education or simplification of tasks. This may be through the product, the service or a combination of the two. All can engender loyalty and engage and develop a community, be they PA’s and office managers, office products dealers or high street shoppers.

Building a brand is now about engaging people in a conversation. Many companies rely on press releases…just get one out every few weeks and hope for some coverage and be seen to be doing something. This is not engaging, involving and engendering loyalty. This is only part of the armoury of the marketing person or communicator.

Yes, it is a testing time for brands but getting the engagement of the audience, having conversations and being aware of and interacting with these conversations will help to drive real brand advocacy.

August 19, 2008 at 9:01 am Leave a comment

Marketing to women

Why is it that so much emphasis is put on ‘Marketing to Women’ as opposed to effective and well targetted marketing?

In the stationery industry, the majority of purchasers in offices are female. This is a fact. But why should the marketing be tailored ‘to women’?

If a manufacturer of lawnmowers or vacuum cleaners, both of which (hopefully) are used by both men and women, produced a lighter weight version, how would I promote it? In many instances the automatic assumption is that they are ideal products for a woman. But wouldn’t the company be missing a trick? Lightweight products such as these are ideal for those with back or joint problems, maybe the lawnmower could be more appropriate for those with a small garden, limited storage space, etc and the vacuum cleaner for people with a lot of stairs, and so on. 

In the office products market, there are many ‘pink’ products with associations with one of the breast cancer charities. These have a female focus but are certainly not exclusively designed for women. The benefits may be functional, design, corporate social responsibility or a personal feel-good benefit…after all pink shirts are a popular choice with the dark suit for the business man.

There are benefits to be had from focusing on the potential needs of the user and the benefits you offer to the purchaser, regardless of their sex. In the office it mustn’t be ignored that purchaser and user are likely to be different. Segmentation has moved on in recent years and the risk of assuming all women will respond to your offering in the same way is a risk that is not worth taking.

August 13, 2008 at 6:10 pm Leave a comment

The power of communities

What benefits could there be for developing communities within the stationery industry?

There are few real communities within the stationery industry, and yet many disparate groups who could benefit from greater association, non-competitive knowledge-sharing and support.

Let’s think about the potential communities…

  • Companies – be they suppliers or resellers (internal staff communities)
  • The Dealer Community
  • Exhibitions eg attendees of Paperworld or SOPX for example – trade and suppliers
  • etc

How does community development differ from other marketing tools?

The nature of a community is that it works together for joint benefit – a member of a community buys into this. A user of a product or service, on the other hand, implies that they take…and don’t give. We should be generating engagement and buy-in, building advocates who support the brand or service and spread the word.

The terminology is important. A community is not developed at a campaign level. A campaign is short-lived. A community, however, will grow and develop. You spend money on a campaign, whereas communities are an investment as it is about building long term value which will grow as the community develops.

The best marketing is about creating connections and engagement – communities achieve this, they give a sense of belonging and a resonance with a brand, company or industry or any other ‘group’ where value can be gained by participation.

With a community, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

August 10, 2008 at 9:45 pm Leave a comment

Is print media dying?

The stationery industry year is ruled by the catalogue. Each year catalogues are issued in January by wholesalers, dealers and contract stationers, containing upwards of 10,000 products and often nearly twice this amount.

These catalogues are vast, sometimes difficult to navigate and often not offering support to the end purchaser to help them make a decision. And to top it all, the environmental impact can be vast…and that’s for another post in the near future.

In a recent edition of the superb podcast ‘For Immediate Release’  with Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz, Ricardo from Costa Rica left a comment about the uncertain future for print media. I responded in Issue 367 saying that there was an element of nervousness about the potential death of the printed catalogue. But how long has it been since we were warned of ‘the paperless office’! 

But what about the on-line tools that are available? Are these able to replace the catalogue yet?

Amazon and other web-based retailers manage a vast inventory of products on-line. Many stationery resellers offer e-commerce solutions but most are supported by a paper-based catalogue. Few actually to have the confidence to fully embrace the benefits of the web:

  • easily updatable
  • capability to add new lines during the year
  • cost effective
  • no mailing costs
  • lower production costs
  • more environmentally responsible
  • accessible to more people in the office (who don’t have a physical copy of the catalogue)
  • easy ordering direct from the site
  • capability to easily see alternative or complementary products to ensure customers are not lost if a specific line is out of stock
  • …the list goes on.

So, in answer to the question ‘Is print media dying?’, I would say ‘not yet’…but the arguments for its long term viability as a communication tool in this market are getting weaker by the day.

I’d be interested to hear the views of others who work with print based communications…comments and feedback welcome!

August 9, 2008 at 9:28 pm Leave a comment

Social Media and the Stationery Industry

It’s a fact that consumers are starting to take the control away from the brands. And not everyone in marketing has caught on to this. Marketing is becoming more of a conversation. Brands act in a way the consumer doesn’t like and it is no longer the next door neighbour that hears about it…it’s the world. Blogs, review sites, social networks, podcasts, Twitter, amateur videos on You Tube, the list goes on.

What tools should marketers be using to keep up?

  • RSS Feeds: subscribe to RSS feeds to key marketing, media, technology and PR blogs. Only one of the Stationery Industry journals currently offers an RSS feed for their news so subscribe to the OPI feed. Hopefully the other key titles such as Channel Info and Dealer Support will follow suit soon
  • Google Reader: agregate all your RSS feeds into one place to enable easy scanning of all your favourite blogs
  • iTunes: subscribe to relevant podcasts via iTunes. Most of them are absolutely free and will quickly bring you up to speed in what’s happening in new media
  • Google Alerts and Monittor: Keep a track on your brands and what people are saying about them on the web by setting up your own alerts and track micro-blogging sites such as Twitter via tools such as Monittor

New media is constantly evolving and will shape future communications. Marketers who are not engaging need to take these first few steps. If you’re not monitoring your brands, you are missing the opportunity to engage with your customers, quickly address any issues or negative feedback and add value to the relationship.

Start today!

August 8, 2008 at 10:34 pm 1 comment

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