High-Style Meets High-Tech
BY Kate Bertrand Connolly
Breakthrough packaging technology delivers aesthetics.
When Gary Keider isn’t working or spending time with his family, and the weather is fair, he’s likely to be found on the golf course. With 20 years in marketing at Kimberly-Clark Corp. and a lifetime on the links, he says he sees “an interesting parallel” between his work and his favorite game.
“Technology has improved golf equipment in such a way that the average player can play better,” Keider says. In the same way, he says, brand marketers can use packaging technology to drive brand growth.
Keider certainly has put that insight into practice at Kimberly-Clark. Before moving into his current role as vice president of marketing for the company’s North American Baby and Child Care businesses last year, Keider worked for a dozen years on the Kleenex brand—as marketing director for 10 of those years.
His technology push for Kleenex began in the late 1990s, when he worked with his team to move from four-color to six-color process printing for packaging. The result was much better representation of the color spectrum and improved color vibrancy. Experimentation with stochastic printing, a high-definition technique that provides greater depth and clarity, came next.
Package graphics have always played a more important role for facial tissue than for other categories, says Keider, because consumers prominently display the package: “The Kleenex box is something people can accessorize their house with. They put it out for everyone to see. You don’t do that with a frozen dinner.”
To be sure, improvements in print quality supported that emphasis. But Keider took the approach a step further with a strategy that centered on bold design as a brand differentiator.
The first fruit of this strategy was the Multi-Lens upright Kleenex carton, launched in 2000 at a suggested retail price of $3, which, at the time, was three times the price of a standard Kleenex upright carton. The Multi-Lens substrate is a prismatic material that reflects light, providing the appearance of depth.
In recent years, Kimberly-Clark’s substrate innovations have been even more stimulating, with holiday packaging incorporating materials such as metallic holographic film and reflective Fresnel-lens film, layered in patented combinations.
“Our research shows that, for about two-thirds of consumers, design is somewhat to very important,” Keider says. “We were moving from using least-common-denominator, popular designs on Kleenex packaging to developing artistic graphics across a range of styles—designs that would appeal to those more aesthetically conscious consumers.”
Keider then added structure into the mix, launching the Ornaments on Parade 2005 holiday Kleenex line, which featured an oval-shaped carton that heralded “a whole new” packaging dynamic. “It had tremendous consumer impact both graphically and from the standpoint of shape and form,” he says.
The success of that line led Keider to give the oval carton a permanent place in the Kleenex portfolio, launching the Kleenex Expressions Oval line last fall.
“In winning consumers, what’s important is the ‘wow’ factor,” he says. “The package needs to jump off the shelf and capture their attention. The oval carton did that, on steroids.”
Not surprisingly, such groundbreaking work on Kleenex packaging has generated ripples throughout Kimberly-Clark. Other brand teams are realizing that “there are opportunities to drive or enhance margin through creative, innovative packaging,” Keider says.
He points to the high-tech holiday packaging as an example: “We are able to command a significantly higher price on these more impactful packages, and that drives margin.”
Going forward, Keider says the challenge is to come up with packaging that’s even more splendid than the last execution. “How the heck do we top what we just did? That’s what keeps us going each year,” he says. “It’s a great motivator.”
VICE PRESIDENT OF MARKETING, NORTH AMERICAN BABY AND CHILD CARE, KIMBERLY-CLARK
Name: Gary Keider
Title: Vice president of marketing for the North American Baby and Child Care businesses
Years in current job: Six months
Ultimate branded package: The Coke brand is a classic.
What’s on your nightstand: A New Brand World, by Scott Bedbury.