Archive for September, 2008

‘Work/life balance’ or just ‘life’?

What is the truth about work life balance?                     

I have just spent an interesting three days at The Marketing Forum, during which time I experienced a conference session entitled ‘The Heck with Work/Life Balance’ run by Jez Cartwright from Performance Consultants. Whilst Jez motivated the audience he still focused on the fact that if you work ‘too much’, it’s bad. How do you define ‘too much’?

A matter of weeks ago, as a manufacturer of diaries, I was asked to put my name to an article written by a life coach on time management. I couldn’t do it. I fundamentally disagreed that work life balance is a 9 to 5 job.


I also disagreed with the perception that work is bad and life is good. Your ‘life’ and how you manage that life to meet your needs is often very different to the next person.  If you love the work you do, and are both challenged and motivated, work is merely part of who you are, part of life.

September 27, 2008 at 9:24 pm 3 comments

Campaigns versus relationships

The ability for brands and companies to engage in on-line communities is driving a shift from the traditional marketing campaign to building ongoing and sustainable relationships with consumers.

In an article in Marketing Week (11.09.08) entitled ‘Why online consumers are the building blocks of modern branding’,  Lego’s Marketing Manager, Helene Venge was quoted as saying that “companies would always need to use campaigns for new product launches, but constant communication with customers via interactive media would be vital to deepen the brand’s relationships with those customers.”

But what benefit can be achieved from a short-term campaign that is not possible through long-term engagement and community building?

I would question whether the unsustained fireworks of an all-singing-all-dancing campaign that fizzles to nothing achieves more in the crowded media space than a potentially slower-burning but accurately targetted relationship-building new media programme that gets people engaging and talking about the brand.

A key benefits of the new media programme is the measurability and the ability to deliver the opportunity to improve the relationship with those people engaging with your brand.

So new media generally:

  • is a lower cost route to market
  • offers greater measurability and monitoring
  • enables conversation
  • delivers opportunities for improved customer services 

So what are the real benefits of a traditional media campaign?

September 19, 2008 at 9:39 pm Leave a comment

For Immediate Release Interview

Thanks to Shel Holtz, Neville Hobson and David Phillips from FIR for giving me the opportunity to take part in an FIR interview about the use of new media in the UK stationery industry. The interview can be found at the For Immediate Release blog.

The interview covers some of the activities undertaken by Hamelin Paperbrands in the new media space that can be found at the Surviving Meetings and Envelope World Records websites, along with a discussion about team development and training in social media.

Let us know your views and how new media is being embraced in your company by leaving a comment below.

September 17, 2008 at 7:26 pm Leave a comment

The only constant is change

“The only constant is change”. I heard this phrase recently on a podcast…unfortunately I can’t remember which one…but it made me think.

‘Change Management’ is a strange term if change is a part of daily life. Is it not just ‘Management’?

Change is difficult to avoid in the stationery industry as with other markets. The need to manage this change is apparent every time you open the trade press, attend an exhibition, talk to a colleague or business partner or even read a daily newspaper and realise the impact that these changes will have on every aspect of your business.

Businesses are consolidating (for example Corporate Express and Staples, United and Advantia), the relative strength or weakness of currencies impact purchase prices and hit the bottom line of companies importing or exporting product, the increasing price of utilities weight heavy on the manufacturers, paper prices increase, there is a growing demand for environmentally responsible products and a need to lower the carbon footprint of the business and particularly the supply chain, etc, etc. All these are creating a situation of flux and a need to manage their immediate and potentially long term impact.

Not all situations are equal and some may require additional expertise beyond that available in the organisation but is ‘change management’ in general not the role of management? Managers must be experts in ‘change management’. Change is a constant…therefore change management is the managers job, not one for teams of consultants.

September 14, 2008 at 10:17 pm 1 comment

How can we support the consumer with accurate environmental information?

In a previous post I asked for greater environmental clarity in the stationery industry. But what can be done to achieve this and who should take the lead?

I’m not talking about the credentials of products at this stage, but about how these credentials are communicated. One of the most obvious and frequently mis-represented credential is that of recycled paper.

Is the paper recycled, or is it the whole product? Is the paper 100% recycled? Is the product recyclable or just the paper? …etc

Every office products catalogue attempts to communicate environmental credentials…some to a much better standard than others.

One of the best examples that I have seen of delivery of environmental information within a catalogue that enables customers to make an educated purchase decision is from the Dealer Group XPD (Officepoint, OfficeStar and Simply Office). Their ‘Go Green’ Book stands out as being one of the best at delivering this information in an educative, detailed and yet easy to understand format. The use of symbols is detailed and well explained and the catalogue engages the reader with its ‘magazine style’ editorial features.

There should be a drive for this quality communication to become industry standard. No more ‘tree logos’ symbolising that product ‘A’ is slightly more green than product ‘B’. This means nothing to the consumer.

As the industry body, the BOSS Federation would be best positioned to deliver a clear and well defined labelling scheme throughout the industry through a consultative process with the parties concerned. These would include key representatives from the manufacturers, office products wholesalers, dealer groups, dealer community and contract stationers. The policy should define a labelling scheme that works across categories and ensure compliance in Office Products Catalogues.

In addition, a communication plan is required to support the education of the consumer/purchaser. The involvement of the Trade and PA/Office Manager/Procurement Press would enable this to reach
the relevant people and engage them in the benefits to be gained from making more environmentally responsible purchase decisions. It would specify how the new labelling system could aid their product selection.

The ever-increasing impact people are having on the environment is something we need to engage in, but it is an education process. Currently there is little but confusion. We need:

  • A standard labelling policy
  • Buy-in from the manufacturers and resellers of office products
  • A clear and consistent co-funded communication and education programme through the channel from manufacturer to end user
  • Agreed product or brand specific communication tools that can be utilised by the manufacturers wherever they promote the credentials of their brands outside the Office Products Catalogues

The inclusion of a new media stream to support the communication programme should be considered as an environmentally responsible method of engaging and educating the consumer, building conversation and engagement in the mission to encourage better informed purchase decisions.

Will the BOSS Federation take up the challenge, or is someone else better positioned to accomplish this task?

September 6, 2008 at 9:29 pm Leave a comment


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