Teresa Schell, President and Owner of Vive, LLC, a marketing consulting company for manufacturers exclusively in the plastics industry has been in the plastics marketing field for more than 20 years. Recently, she graciously shared her knowledge and expertise on marketing in the plastics industry during an interview with Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the automotive industry.
Schell began with a basic concept of marketing – your “brand.” “Many people misconstrue that a logo is the overall branding of a business or product. Although a logo is the most recognizable element used to communicate to a target audience, a brand is really the sum of all touch-points that come into contact with customers, prospects and employees.” She explained that all of a company’s marketing materials – logo, website, brochures, social media connections, and even how a company’s employees interface with its customers – are included in a company’s brand.”
Schell added, “Branding is also HOW we talk to customers, not just WHAT we’re talking about. Branding is not about the company saying ‘I’m a good injection molder’; it’s your customer or prospect saying ‘I’ve heard you’re a good injection molder.’”
“When I first began marketing for plastics, it was all about a website – and that was the singular focus. There was no attention given to messaging which highlights a company’s unique differentiator – what separates you from the competition. There was no effort to create a meaningful experience with an audience through the use of multiple media channels. Currently, I’ve seen a shift in urgency. The plastics industry has been a bit behind in realizing that they need a marketing platform to gain a foothold on how a company promotes its brand. It’s a fierce world in plastics. Those companies that are investing in feeding the media channels with a consistent voice are feeling the outcomes of brand equity.”
Schell then shared her perspective on changing a company’s brand. Although some people believe that a company should never change its brand, Schell believes that updating your brand is similar to having a personal makeover. “When you get a new haircut or new wardrobe, you feel fresh and confident about your new identity. From my vantage point, rebranding with an updated logo identity represents a responsible approach to remaining progressive in today’s fast paced world.”
She added that if a company doesn’t want to completely redo its brand, it could give it a “vibrant, captivating upgrade” by making two minor transformations:
1. Keep the logo, but change the look - perhaps with a design tweak of an existing element.
2. Update the color or add a tagline - perhaps the colors used in the palette are too traditional and do not represent the multiple color spectrums of today’s color wheel.
The end goal of a company’s brand is to create new opportunities, sales, and. ultimately, profits. Schell said to achieve this goal, a company’s marketing needs to be strategic – “a well thought-out plan for how to approach the marketplace with a message and consistent imagery which will promote a capability or unique difference in multiple media channels.” She said that she quivers when a company calls a new website its marketing plan for the year.
What makes a company unique from its competitors? “Many injection molders are expected to deliver on price, quality and delivery. What is the fourth characteristic that is important to your audience in making a supplier selection process?” Schell suggested that asking the customer base what’s important to them, may help a company focus on a characteristic trait that its business already has, but one that the company isn’t marketing effectively.
But, marketing takes time and financial resources – something that is scarce for many small- to medium-sized plastics businesses. Schell responded, “Having a marketing budget is all about increasing your bottom line.” Think about this: “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, did it really happen? If a company is producing best-in-class plastics parts and no one is there to hear or read about it, did it really result in sales? Awareness is key and can't be ignored. Even if you're the Goliath in your industry, you still need to be out in the media making a name for yourself. Coca-Cola would probably never need to advertise again; but their brand awareness continues to thrive and grow, and their sales follow. In the long run, marketing ends up paying for itself.”
“When your marketing budget is tight -- and let's be honest, in the plastics industry it usually is -- you need to maximize the awareness and presence of your brand. With limited resources, it's best to focus on clarifying a consistent company message and boilerplate. Once you've got your jargon in line, then focus on your website. Every communication channel that is built from there should generate traffic to your website. Make sure your virtual door is an accurate representation of your core competencies and unique differentiators. “
Some of the newest opportunities for marketing are in social media, but Schell said that social media often gets brushed aside in the plastics industry. But, she added that “those who utilize it properly definitely reap the benefits. Smaller companies can make themselves appear bigger than they are (if desirable) by establishing well-oiled social media profiles on platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.”
Schell suggested that a company can best maximize its impact on social media sites by sharing the culture of the company. “This can not only give customers a better sense of the company’s teamwork and dedication, but allows prospective employees to gain better insight into what makes the company such an awesome place to work.” Social media can help “smaller businesses level the playing field with larger corporations when it comes to the retention and recruitment of top talent.”
The biggest myth in marketing in the plastics industry, according to Schell, is that “if you're in plastics, you don't need to be modern or cutting-edge with your marketing. Consider that myth busted! The most prosperous companies are the ones out there doing things differently -- doing things their way.” She added that another big myth is that sales will come without marketing. The truth is, Schell said, “marketing, if done correctly, vastly helps increase sales.”
And to do marketing correctly, a company needs to avoid these common mistakes: lack of consistency and assuming that sales will come without marketing. “Ignoring marketing is never a good idea. It's like avoiding the dentist... someday it'll come back to haunt you. It's really a chicken-and-egg scenario; however, this time we know the answer – marketing most certainly comes before the sale. And, having a cohesive and familiar message, look, feel, and personality is vital to maintaining your brand's prestige.”
Schell concluded, “Marketing in plastics can sometimes feel like dragging your feet through quicksand. The trends of mainstream media seem to always lag slightly behind in plastics -- but allowing that delay can be detrimental. The plastics industry offers so many opportunities to be different and stand out from the crowd.”