Located in Bennington, N.H., Monadnock Paper Mills is a family-owned manufacturer of specialty papers for the technical, packaging and printing markets. Monadnock has a rich history – it is the oldest continuously operating paper mill in the United States - but like many smaller companies, it also faces new challenges every day in marketing and branding its products. We asked Lisa Berghaus, manager of Marketing Communications, how Monadnock is meeting these challenges.
We hear that many manufacturers don’t pay as much attention to brand as perhaps they should because they deal primarily in a B2B environment. Do you think that is the case?
In the case of Monadnock, we manufacture a diverse range of products for a broad range of markets. One of the company’s largest assets over the years has been its ability to shift to satisfy needs in a highly dynamic business climate.
Historically, the technical/specialty segment of our business has developed custom products to solve problems for individual customers in discreet markets. We have not “branded” these specialty products nor marketed these capabilities in the past. However, recently we recognized the importance of developing awareness of these capabilities and embarked on a comprehensive public relations campaign to gain bandwidth in this space. Monadnock is the brand and the brand value is to be defined for the specialty/technical division.
We do have a branded line of premium printing, packaging papers, signage and wall graphics targeted at commercial brands and that is where most of our marketing efforts have been focused for the past 20 years.
In my experience, it seems to be the case that many business-to-business SMEs (small to medium size enterprises), particularly manufacturers, are behind the curve when it comes to cross-media communications strategies. It takes resources and a knowledge base that many companies don’t have at their disposal.
How do you think about your brand? What does it represent?
Monadnock, a family-owned and –operated company, has been making paper for almost 200 years. Our corporate brand represents craftsmanship and sustainability. For those who know us, our name is synonymous with papers of consistent high quality, high performance and responsible manufacturing practices.
What are some important steps that you take to improve/enhance your brand?
Listening to our customers and partners and understanding their future needs is tantamount to our success.We try to engage the appropriate resources to help us look forward – to assess our current capabilities, what the market demands, and what changes we need to make to remain relevant not just next week, but over the next five years. It also is important that our brand is aligned with global performance and environmental standards.
How can manufacturers take advantage of the Web and other technologies to promote their brand?
An interactive website and social networks are critical tools to increase engagement. Because many people receive much of their information through online channels, leveraging these tools to communicate a brand promise is a necessity – even for a paper company. In order to be successful, content must be relevant, engaging and consistent so that customers have a reason to come back for more.
Can you provide an example of a branding initiative at Monadnock that has been particularly successful?
Seven years ago, in response to market demand, Monadnock launched a new line of renewable, fiber based “plastic-replacement” products for retail and hospitality. We engaged a public relations firm and a creative team well versed in this area to develop a comprehensive communications strategy.
Today, this product line now represents 33% of our business. The line continues to grow as we find more products and applications where the current substrate is over-engineered for its intended use or where markets are in need of a more sustainable alternative to petroleum-based raw materials.
What branding challenges have you had?
Some of our recent product developments represent disruptive technology and require a paradigm shift for down-stream converters. Despite our efforts to create products that require no compromises in aesthetics, performance or economics, and also benefit the environment, it has been difficult to gain early adopters, and many companies are not willing to make a change unless it is driven by their customers.
Further, each market we participate in has a unique value chain – often extensive and complex. As such, we invest a great deal of time in understanding the intricacies of these markets so that we can provide the most targeted offering possible.
What branding initiatives do you have planned for 2015?
Monadnock has invested in a new website that will go live in the next month.
We are ramping up our efforts in the fine printing paper space. We’ve engaged a marketing strategist to help us create a comprehensive cross-media communications campaign to engage marketers, designers and printers in the fine art of print communications. This campaign, Design+Print=Impact, involves media relations, tradeshow dress, print promotion, weblog conversation and face-to-face meet-ups.