Pulp and Paper Canada

The Market for Emotions:

December 1, 2000  By Pulp & Paper Canada

Consumer attitudes are changing. Consumers are cash rich/time poor, demanding, value seeking, socially aware and empowered. Above all, they are consuming “experiences” over products. This trend has co…

Consumer attitudes are changing. Consumers are cash rich/time poor, demanding, value seeking, socially aware and empowered. Above all, they are consuming “experiences” over products. This trend has contributed to a growth in “Triple Bottom Line Reporting” for major corporations — i.e, the dollars, the environment, and the planet. For consumers, there is a growing need for “emotional fulfillment” from most

goods and services consumed, including paper.


This emotion market is satisfied by “Stories” associated with the product and its manufacturer. Other sectors have shown the way to developing the needed story attributes; the paper and forest products sector needs to follow their example.

Due to rising incomes and lower cost products, the basic needs in Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy are progressively more easily satisfied. This is particularly so in the developed world, where a growing segment of income is allocated for the higher-level needs related to security, socialization, acknowledgement and self-realization. These higher-level needs are emotion-based and are fed by stories associated with the good or service.

A look around at the goods and services that we all consume will reveal that most have an associated “story” or branding. For example: FedEx — the story of promises kept; Disney — the story of happiness; Roots — the story of Canadian wilderness and adventure; Ralph Lauren — the story of class and stature; and, closer to home, Greenpeace — the story of convictions. The paper industry has a rather weak story, if you can find one. In the recent past, it has centred around a “forests forever” theme or a technology branding such as Xerox. These have not been convincing for many consumers: paper is just paper! However, this issue should not be so quickly dismissed; the right story can become a valued attribute that will encourage consumers and customers to choose paper as a medium or a particular manufacturer over another.

A story-vacuum in an Emotion Market can also get filled with an unwanted story from special interest groups or media competitors — as has happened.

A story for the forest products sector should appeal to the heart, be resilient and adaptable, and above all must involve the consumer. There are six emotion market segments, some possibilities for which are shown in the figure. These are only offered as suggestions or starting points.

Historically, the forest industry has promoted its stories in the Adventure Market category: logging, chainsaws, big “techno-impressive” machinery. These stories today have limited consumer/customer appeal. The Care Market offers more convincing stories that consumers can relate to when they make purchasing decisions. Many companies support education and community, but it has not been raised to the level of a mainstream story branding. There are opportunities here.

The Conviction Market also has possibilities and this is where the certified fibre and ethics stories have their place. By influencing large consumer outlets, the NGOs are driving this story with the consumer, particularly so in Europe. Some companies have even branded a “tree-less paper grade” such as Domtar Weeds, which is manufactured out of hemp, straw and other non-wood fibre sources. Consumers pay more for free-range eggs because they are buying the story of “happy chickens.” McDonald’s in the US have also recently been forced by chicken rights advocates to only buy its chickens and eggs from certified suppliers meeting certain “chicken care” standards. There are clear parallels with forest products in its drive to meet changing consumer attitudes.

Lastly, there are opportunities for story branding for paper products. For example, newspapers are not about news; for many, they are a leisure and learning product. Copy paper is about the feeling of control and security.

Why is this important?

The paper and forest products industry will be under growing threats from substitution products, some of which have yet to be invented, as new players look to capture pieces of the huge media, packaging and building products markets. Paper and wood products have tradition and emotional appeal; story attributes can become a company’s biggest asset. A quote from one of the most successful story branders, Richard Branson, Virgin: “The brands that will be big in the future will be those that tap into the social changes that are taking place.”

Alan R. Procter can be reached at a.r._procter@telus.net for more information, visit www.futureviews.net

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