Sign of the times: Why is it all about the economy?
What we are seeing right now with NPE2009 is a direct reminder of the crossroads of change we are at in [the plastics] industry. If companies can avoid being shortsighted and see the full potential during these times of change and understand how to adapt we could be telling a much better story.
While the industry has become smaller with acquisitions, mergers and closures, we still have become a commodity in our business models. Is being bigger really what customers wanted?
We know how to talk press capacity and cutting steel, but do we understand how to sell value to the end product?
What do I mean? NPE this year includes an international product design competition. There is a glimpse into the change I am talking about.
As an industry, we need to understand the end product, working with brand owners, and understanding how your service or capability brings value to that product and the end user. It's a connection that is long overdue.
Don't believe me? Read magazines that design houses, brand owners and even consumers read. While we talk about costs, design houses are using marketing, advertising, public relations and creating brands for themselves.
Where do we fit in? Why aren't we promoting our true value differentiators and using the limited marketing tools we have to their fullest to promote ourselves? Or is it that we're OK as an industry to be seen as nothing more than processors [and] equipment suppliers selling the same old messages?
Trade shows like NPE, Pack Expo, the K show and many, many others should be one part, and only one part, of our marketing mix. On that topic: When we do shows, what do we do to measure what they do for our brand equity? If you don't know, how can you make a decision to be part of, or pull away from, a show?
Shows, public relations, advertising: It's all about creating brand equity.
Now more than ever, we can look at these crossroads of change, and we should see that besides the grim truth that we face in the economy, [there are] great opportunities if we have long-term vision and understand that marketing and branding need to be part of our business models. Cutting back marketing now is probably the worst thing you can do for your brand.
At my company, R&D/Leverage, we are striving to tell the industry that we have changed: We are not selling the same price-driven commodity; we are selling services and capabilities that bring value to the end product for which our customer strives.
It's either that or ignore marketing, look at it as a number on a spreadsheet, and cut it without any measurement of what you just did to your brand.
Don't get me wrong: There are some real decisions being made, I am sure, based on costs and the economy. But I can't help but wonder if the companies that made those decisions changed their marketing to adapt to a changing marketplace, or did they let the changing marketplace and their lack of adaptation direct their changes?
I can't wait to see all the companies that appreciate marketing, and continue to grow and be competitive. And through all these economic challenges, I can't wait to see what opportunities arise on the upswing, because we want to be there. I wonder what companies will be there with us?
I guarantee you the ones that will be there got away from the spreadsheets now driving our industry and had a great marketing plan as part of their strategic business model. See you at the shows.
The failure in many of today's companies is not all because of the economy, yet in most cases the economy has become the vehicle to show which companies have been poorly managed.
Marketing can not be run by accountants just the same, you don't want me to do your accounting. Both have to be equal in importance to a well-managed company.
Robert Schiavone is global marketing director for R&D Integrated Solutions in Plastics, a tooling and design firm in Lee's Summit, Mo.