Georgia-Pacific Goes From Product-centered To Providing Better Experience

Facing an unwieldy portfolio of over 100 B2B brands, Georgia-Pacific has embraced a “less is more” strategy to accommodate the digital customer journey. Now the focus is on about a dozen brands the company can invest with deeper meaning that cuts across multiple product categories. And part of that new customer journey is acknowledging that all buyers, including B2B purchase managers, have been impacted by the B2C experience. We explore how the company is applying an “Amazon Lens” to all of its content and ecommerce.

The Challenge

Five years ago, Georgia-Pacific was facing increasing restless discontent because every day, its B2B buyer was acting more B2C like. Before contacting the company, they were doing their own research, using online tools for comparison, looking at peer-to-peer reviews. Some didn’t even want to contact any sales rep at all. Georgia-Pacific asked itself how well was it serving that customer that is taking consumer behavior that they use after work and applying it to work.

“The first thing we did was look at the marketplace we service,” said John Strom, SVP for marketing, at MediaPost’s Brand Marketers Insiders Summit in August 2018. “This portfolio [of products] ends up in all these locations against all these verticals and that’s a gift. But if you don’t get purposeful and you don’t consider where the likelihood of the next available sale can be, you probably sub- optimize your opportunity.” They looked at the industries they serve and found the end-use application was similar but, depending on whether they’re highly structured or decentralized, they end up looking very different. 

Rather than take a buckshot approach, the company looked at the possibility of stratifying, of taking its best opportunities and putting a disproportionate amount of resources behind them, asking whether it could be a better steward of its brands and its resources. As a heritage company of four or five different manufacturers, it never considered what the mix of brands in its portfolio looked like. “We said, ‘What are the odds that a B2B buyer gets online and tries to navigate through all that to figure out which of these solves their unmet need? What are the odds that happens unaided?’  and we came up with the technical term, ‘Not so much.’”

With 112 brands, Georgia-Pacific decided it needed to do a little bit of what Strom called “marketing Darwinism.” 

The Execution

Just looking at its dispensers category, the team found they all looked good individually but there was no consistency, no cohesiveness. Assets and marketing materials had none, either. They looked to the company’s master brand and thought there was an opportunity there.

With the world going increasingly online, they began with establishing a brand foundation. “We took those 112 brands, and we built a good/better/best framework. This was emotional because for these categories, these brands are their children. And we were saying, look, some of your kids aren’t going to make the cut.”

And, indeed, many did not as they reduced the brands down to about a dozen that span new categories. Dixie, for example, was a cup brand and, now, there are Dixie napkins. Brands like that, which had an identity that meant something to its customers, were given a strategy in a good/better/best journey that customers could figure out more simply. Reducing the number of cooks helped, too, as decision rights were taken away from the categories and pulled into marketing so Strom has the final say on which product gets assigned to which brand.

With this new framework, there is now a visual brand guide, an aesthetic that makes buying products in combination more compelling than buying them independently. “If you buy a towel and a tissue and not the corresponding soap, you feel like something’s missing in your life. That wasn’t the case before. Now it’s a suite.” This also works for the company’s marketing assets, whether brochures and banners or all the different literature. Georgia-Pacific adheres to brand guidelines to create a more consistent look and feel.

Next up was a look at the level of content in its marketing. Amazon Lens is a small player for now but that will grow over time because Amazon set the standard for what content in an online catalog ought to look like. “We had to reinvent our content” to include things like putting the measurement of a dispenser on the image itself so a buyer wouldn’t have to scroll through the page to figure that out. People want to see an image of everything they’re getting. There are also now online reviews because B2B buyers want the same thing as B2C buyers. They also want videos so the company has spent time getting caught up there as well.

Finally, it was moving away from traditionally being too dependent on features and benefits and not dependent enough on the experience. “Give a customer a solution that reduces their consumption, give them a better hygienic solution and help solve for labor. There’s no better trifecta.”

The Results

While researching its towel category, the company learned how difficult are the cleaning teams’ jobs as well as the jobs of those who employ them, mainly because of a very high turnover rate. As they looked into the problem, they found there were practically no recognition programs for these companies.

So Georgia-Pacific created an off-the-shelf recognition program to help with retention. “It’s been a terrific success,” Strom says, with press attention following, which allows the company to talk about its innovations such as a user interface in its dispensers that doesn’t require language in the mix and allows dispensers to open up all the way so that accessibility matters less. 

Key Takeaways

  • Start with overall executive alignment
  • Optimize what you have
  • Focus on the experience
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