NEW YORK, March 29, 2010 (RISI) -Two worlds collided at Paper2010 in the historic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, the events industry and the paper industry. Both have suffered heavily through the teeth of the recession and many stalwart names may have vanished forever. The lucky survivors are famished, some only shells of their former selves, while others have merged to form new ventures. In both industries, everyone is now turning toward what the future holds.
From the events side, Paper2010 was founded out of a merger between the American Forest & Paper Association's (AF&PA) Paper Week and the NPTA Alliance's annual convention. With still precariously thin travel budgets, every event must find new ways to maximize participation. The approach to combining efforts may be on a step in the right direction. Over 400 senior executives attended the three-day event, a significant increase from previous years, and attendees spanned the entire supply chain, from forest to mill to end user.
Coordinating efforts to gain attendance wasn't the only benefit organizers hoped to gain. By bringing together a critical mass of industry leaders, all the ingredients for finding the answers would be in the same place at the same time. "By combining forces and bringing together our major annual events, AF&PA and the NPTA have created a single new convention that allows paper industry leaders to gather more intelligence, make more connections, and generate more business than ever before," said Carlton Carroll, AF&PA.
From this meeting of the minds, the consensus was abundantly clear: communication is the key to any future success for paper. Not just a simple call for communicating between partners, but a concerted effort to increase communication across a number of various fronts. First, a continued increase in communication across all segments of the supply chain, which may have been expected given that nearly all were represented at the event. Second, effective communication to help shape policy and debate on substantial issues that affect the industry. Finally, a campaign to communicate the benefits of paper and the industry to the public.
A collective roar for paper?
It was, for perhaps the first time for the US industry, a collective roar to develop a comprehensive marketing campaign aimed at promoting the strengths of paper. Building such a campaign is not new for other industries; many have generated successful marketing efforts and achieved astounding results. The plastics industry was frequently an example: a petroleum-based, non-renewable product that is generally viewed as more environmentally friendly than paper, almost exclusively based on successful marketing and communication. The paper industry, on the other hand, has so far lagged far behind.
This kind of synchronized communication may also hold the seeds to the future for the industry, as more than one panelist or attendee were quick to point out. Print is no longer king, and maybe that's a good thing for the industry. Beginning to look at print as one part of the many channels available for information might help show where paper can be seen as vital and important as consumers make choices. Understanding consumer behavior and enhancing the customer experience should also illuminate new avenues for print and paper in the near- and long-term future.
Most significantly, while the future may not be bright, there was a refreshing look at what might be possible throughout the entire event. "We are in a period of rapid change," said Mark Gardner, President & CEO, Sappi Fine Paper North America. "Our ability to innovate and be nimble is imperative."