By Louise Findlay-Wilson, MD of Energy PR
When I first worked with packaging companies some 30 years ago, I was struck by the huge focus on innovation which inevitably permeated the sector. New formats, materials, closures, printing and labelling technologies were constantly being rolled out to meet customer/retailer demands or consumer trends. Jump forward three decades and innovation is still top of agendas, not least to help us all achieve net zero.
While I can completely understand this accent on innovation, it has possibly led packaging companies to conclude that this is the only way to distinguish themselves from the competition. Yet I would argue that with customers overwhelmed by choice, your values – the ‘how’ you do things – might also be very important.
Indeed when we conducted our Brand Love study we found that business decision makers were three times more likely to recommend a brand with values they rated, and more than twice as likely to stay loyal to it even when it made mistakes. That’s potentially doubling the typical lifetime value of a customer.
In other words values are commercially valuable!
The good news is that even if your company doesn’t have values formally written down, it still has values. A commercial moral compass if you like – an accepted way of doing things, behaving, responding to situations etc. The bad news is that if you haven’t thought about what you want them to be, it could well be that the values your company is operating by have evolved randomly and aren’t the values you want!
So what values should you have? To answer this you can’t simply look at your most successful competitor’s values – on the basis that if they work for them they must be good ones to have. Values aren’t something you simply adopt because they’re trendy or work elsewhere. To be effective, they need to be authentic, true to your business. That’s because to have impact values need to truly shape and inform your behaviour.
Packaging Sector Examples
Dunfermline-headquartered, Scott Group, which among other things manufactures and supplies bespoke timber packaging has five core values which it argues help to hold its 1300+ employees all together. It says on its website ‘they ensure we are working towards the same goals.’
Some of these values might sound a little anodyne – responsible, customer focused, tenacity, family values and leadership – but their application by the business feels real. For instance its ‘responsible’ value includes thinking about the community. In this spirit the company has started working with Recycling Lives, a charity and social enterprise which aims to reduce homelessness and reoffending by supporting men and women into stable housing and employment. Scott Group has taken on two general operatives through the organisation with more to follow in coming months. Similarly ‘no one is a superstar’ and ‘being fair and even handed’ are key commitments that form its family value. Shaped by this, the company’s spotlight awards celebrate staff in every level within the group.
Kite Packaging, the employee-owned business, is another interesting example of a packaging company applying values to its operation. Its values centre around people. It expounds that ‘customer satisfaction matters so much more when you own the business.’ This is undoubtedly true, but its people focus goes beyond this. From year one, Kite has operated apprentice and graduate programmes. In addition, today is has telesales and field sales academies, and is keen to cultivate an environment of constant learning and development.
While these examples show packaging companies using values to shape HR policies, values can do much more than this. For instance, retail brand Timpson’s values-led approach is based on a culture of trust and kindness. The values are applied to the actual operation of the business. It has an upside down management model where the CEO is at the ‘bottom’ of the hierarchy and the customer is at the top. staff are called colleagues, given great training and then trusted to do things their way, rather than being nailed down by a lot of processes.
Believing in your values (and people) so wholeheartedly like this takes commercial nerve and commitment – especially if you’re employing 5,400 people. But as CEO, James Timpson once said “Our focus is not on making profit, it’s on running a kind and compassionate business. If we do this well we seem to make a bit of money at the end of the year.”
I’m not saying that every business can or should be a Timpson. As said before, for this to work your values need to be your own. But if, like Timpson, you take care to identify what your ‘how’ really is and communicate it as a clear set of values, and then truly allow them to shape and inform all your decisions, you will create a real competitive edge for your packaging business – a point of difference that delivers real customer loyalty.
So rather than spending the next board meeting discussing IT, technology or your company’s next innovation why not add ‘values’ to the agenda.