New campaign encourages consumers to pick paper packaging

Lisa McTigue Pierce, Executive Editor

July 16, 2015

The new multimillion dollar “How Life Unfolds” consumer campaign from the Paper and Packaging Board uses an emotional, storytelling approach to boost consumer affinity and demand for paper and paper-based packaging.

Remember “Got milk?” or “Pork. The other white meat.”? Those catch phrases of successful check-off programs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture helped promote the dairy and meat industries, respectively.

On July 8, the Paper and Packaging Board (P+PB), which was established as check-off program in 2014, launched “How Life Unfolds.” The goals of this $20 million consumer campaign are to slow, stop or reverse the decline in paper usage and to boost affinity and demand for paper-based packaging in the United States. (Paper comes from trees, which are technically agriculture and fall under the purview of the USDA.)

“The campaign highlights relatable moments that connect consumers to paper and packaging products in meaningful, emotionally relevant ways,” says Mary Anne Hansan, P+PB’s executive director.

One of the three TV advertising spots that were created by Cramer-Krasselt in Milwaukee is shown above. View all three of them here.

Three of the four paper industry sectors financing this campaign are packaging-related: Kraft packaging paper; containerboard; and paperboard. The fourth is non-packaging-paper for printing and writing. Together, paper and packaging represents a $132 billion industry.

The Paper and Packaging Board is led and supported by industry leaders. John Williams, president/CEO of Domtar, is the chairman. Steven Voorhees, CEO of WestRock,serves as vice-chair.

In the press release announcing the campaign’s launch, Williams said, “It’s important that people know we have hi-tech jobs, sustainable practices and lead in manufacturing innovation—but the best way to talk directly to consumers about the unique attributes of products we make is to connect with them about the role these products play in their lives.”

In this exclusive Packaging Digest interview, Williams (left), Voorhees (center) and Hansan (right) tell us more about the campaign, its goals and how success will be measured.


Why does the paper packaging industry need a multimillion-dollar consumer campaign?

Williams: A number of reasons. Some kinds of paper have been in pretty steep decline. Uncolored free sheet has been declining at about 3% to 5% a year.

Also, when we looked at how consumers were feeling about these products, quite a number of them—although they could see the utility of the product—were feeling, “Well, should I be really using this? Is it sustainable? Should I feel bad about using it?” As an industry, we felt the opportunity to get our message out in a holistic fashion across all grades really was too good to miss.

Through leadership within the industry, we've been able to get ourselves organized. When you see the messaging, you'll see pretty clearly it's holistic across a number of grades. So that's both the reason we needed it and how we came together to drive this forward.

It is a seven-year program. So we're committed to make certain that we get our message across in a sustainable basis over a pretty long period of time.

What do you hope to accomplish with this campaign?

Hansan: If we do our job well, not only will we slow the decline in the use of certain papers and boost demand for paper in packaging but we really hope that even our employees are going to feel so much better that we are out there telling our story as an industry. They are very proud, but it's great when you see these ads that confirm what a terrific product we. It can help with recruiting. So these campaigns can have a lot of different impacts.

But the main one, because we are a program that the government oversees, is a demand, or consumption-building program.

For those who don’t know, tell us a bit about check-off programs.

Williams: There are now, I think, 23 check-off programs under the auspices of the USDA. That means industry for those particular businesses would have paid a fee on a usage basis—in our case, it is a per ton basis—to contribute toward a fund that will be used for advertising and research and promotion of those products. The “incredible, edible egg,” for example, would be a classic line from a check-off program. And “Beef. It's what's for dinner.”

Typically, they're committed to a seven-year period. The industry then votes again, at some point in that seven-year period, on whether they wish to continue if they've considered it to be successful or not. And, if they are successful, they sort of run almost indefinitely as the industry sees value in them.

How are you going to measure the success of the program?

Hansan: We have a number of ways that we are going to be looking at what kind of impact the campaign had. The first thing we'll do is what we call attitude and usage: look at how do consumers feel today prior to the start of the campaign as a benchmark and how those attitudes—and potentially behaviors—change over the course of the campaign. We'll probably be measuring about every six months.

We'll be looking at social media to see how people are responding, as well as traffic to the website.

We also have a lot of metrics that look at how people feel about the industry as a whole. Is this an industry I’d like to work in? Is this an industry I'd like to invest in?

And then we'll be looking at whether or not the program really changed the trajectory of the sales decline on the paper side, for example. Did we slow that rate of decline? And that's done through an econometric model, which is actually a requirement, by USDA by year five into the program.

We will be looking at metrics through Nielson. They have some really amazing research out there now where you can look at the next day, a recall of your campaign within 24 hours. It's really almost unheard of now how quickly you can get feedback on what you are doing.

A number of paper-based and paper-packaging-based companies are involved in this campaign, right?

Voorhees: This is a broad-based campaign. There are about 60 companies contributing. It is an investment by the industry for the good of the entire industry. I'm pretty excited about it.

You're going to see the storytelling aspect. It's going to be meaningful to just about everybody who is involved in the industry. I think there will be great conversations going on about the industry and I'm hopeful it will snowball and build upon itself and have a great impact on the engagement of people who work at our companies and customers of companies. I think we'll get some great energy about feeling good about using the product and coming up with new ways to use the product.

Hansan: USDA does not let industries enter into these programs lightly. There has to be demonstrated support across a significant part of the industry.

Just to give you a sense of how strong that support was for this program: We had 95% of the eligible volume product out there voting in support of this. So it's almost a mandate. There are some smaller companies that don't participate and they'll get the value of this campaign. But many of those small ones don't meet the threshold either. We have 95% of the people, of the volume out there, that could vote and did support this.

Williams: It is manufacturers within the U.S. and some of the major importers who are contributing. That's an appropriate piece of geography given where the contributions are coming from.

How much does the consumers’ interest today in sustainability play into the launch of the campaign? Why or why not?

Hansan: I've worked on a number of industry campaigns like this. Advertising is a wonderful medium to tell that story about your product and benefits. You've got sight, sound, emotion.

Our website is going to be the best place to house information on sustainability. We've a wonderful section called Resource Stewardship. What we really want to focus on is this target audience for the campaign, which is both a demographic and a psychographic. It's a very accomplishment-, achievement-oriented person who is very much an opinion leader and influence leader among his or her friends. Information about how to be more sustainable—whether it's recycling more or whether it's reusing boxes—is the kind of information that this audience wants to know so that they can be part of the solution, if you will, and make sure that paper and packaging get used and reused often.

We've made a deliberate decision to put that information on the website initially. Then we'll have some public relations initiatives around it most likely in the spring, particularly when people are thinking about Earth Day and other environmental things that tend to happen that time of year.

We won't be ignoring sustainability but it isn't going to be in our advertising. It's going to be information that's based on that section of our website.

How will this campaign reach the “expressives” and why target them?

Hansan: We did a large amount of research before we even started on creating television and print ads. We found that there were groups that were less interested in our products and what we were doing. And then there are some who are kind of in the middle and when you've got the size budget that we do, and while it's a healthy budget, you still have to be very smart and target it with how you spend it.

The “expressives” were a group that we knew. They had that inner paper and packaging love—they see that those products play an important role in their life and how they get things done. It's about 28% of that 18 to 49 population—but that represents 38 million consumers. So it is quite a large group.

And we know that, while they use our products a lot, there has been a decline in usage. So we want to reignite their paper love by reacquainting them with all of those benefits that they really love and believe in but maybe they're just not using it as much. There's a big “reminder” aspect to what we're doing.

There are a number of paper-packaging-related associations out there. Why create another organization, the Paper and Packaging Board?

Williams: This is something very different. Most of the other organizations are either trade associations that perhaps exist for some kind of single issue that people want to gather around.

P+PB is across a broad industry spectrum. It's specifically a USDA-driven check-off program, which is a very specific entity. The industry is now talking to its consumers with one voice that is much more powerful than any individual company.

Voorhees: The industry has not had anything like this in the past. It is essential that we go about promoting our product. The check-off programs are specifically designed to promote the use of the product and the industry is getting behind it. John has done an incredible job of coalescing the board on getting unified around the message.

I'm excited about the campaign. I think it will make your job more fun because hopefully you'll have people talking to you about paper-based packaging and then more conversations we have about it.

We'll go a long way with the investment we're making in the industry.

About the Author(s)

Lisa McTigue Pierce

Executive Editor, Packaging Digest

Lisa McTigue Pierce is Executive Editor of Packaging Digest. She’s been a packaging media journalist since 1982 and tracks emerging trends, new technologies, and best practices across a spectrum of markets for the publication’s global community. Reach her at [email protected] or 630-272-1774.

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