Leveraging Exceptional Remote Leadership Amid Extraordinary Times

It’s early morning and you’re arguing with the coffee machine ahead of the team meeting. Finally —caffeine in hand— you go over talking points in your mind as you rush to the conference room. Only, the “conference” room is your living room, and the meeting is taking place entirely online.

You’ve had nightmares in the past about showing up to meetings, pants off. Now, you do a double take. After fighting with your laptop over updates, you finally login but find the meeting room empty. Everyone’s out of sorts, but you take a deep breath. Now’s not the time to stumble, it’s a moment to prove your mettle.

Many of us haven’t seen our teams in-person for weeks. Even those venturing into offices and warehouses are keeping their social distance, hidden behind masks and gloves. Business and personal challenges pile up by the day, and the risk of falling ill is ever present.

With great leadership, the challenges and settings change, but the underlying keys to success often remain constant. As thought leader John Eades says in his timely article How Great Managers Successfully Lead Remote Teams:

“Our businesses and their financial stability are on the line during this critical economic period. The best way for them to continue to thrive is for people to work hard in the face of adversity. Each person is now responsible for their results more than ever, and the mindset of working remotely versus a passive mindset is paramount.”

So how can packaging experts maintain momentum in the face of adversity? Let’s find out, together.

The Foundations for Exemplary Remote Leadership

Whether Work-From-Home (WFM) is a temporary solution or a direction your company moves in permanently, the key to success rests on sound foundational principles. Remote leadership guru Kevin Eikenberry defines this foundation as the Three O’s. Speaking to Deanna deBara at Trello, a leading project management software provider, Eikenberry notes:

“As leaders, there are three O’s that everything about the role revolves around; Outcomes, Others, and Ourselves.”

In his cornerstone book, The Long Distance Leader, Eikenberry dives deeper, noting:

“To lead at your best, you must think of the Outcomes and Others components first. Although the Ourselves component sits in the center of our model, this doesn’t imply that you are the center of leadership, nor the purpose for it. You are at the core, not the center. Leadership doesn’t revolve around you; rather, you bring who you are and how you lead to bear on creating better outcomes for others.”

In another well-regarded book, From Bud to Boss: Secrets to a Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership, Eikenberry says:

“Recognizing and accepting both the responsibilities and the opportunities leadership offers you is a significant step in your development as a leader.”

Remote work and a pandemic-defined world forces leaders to step up and shoulder more responsibility, while also remembering that others and outcomes are vital. Yet leadership is more difficult now because you can’t simply walk down to someone’s workspace to check in. Effective communication is necessary for you to connect with others.

With communications strained, it’s important to establish regular, effective check-ins with your workers. Clear communication keeps employees on task. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Barbara Z. Larson , Susan R. Vroman and Erin E. Makarius say:

“The important feature is that the calls are regular and predictable, and that they are a forum in which employees know that they can consult with you, and that their concerns and questions will be heard.”

Speaking of concerns, remember that just as your business is facing down many challenges, your employees, or “others,” are facing a myriad of challenges. As a leader, you need to provide relief whenever possible.

If you’re looking for more guidance on remote management as a leader, check out this article from Recamov.

Championing Your Employees During a Crisis

A single illness is a tragedy, but a million cases is a statistic. It’s easy to lose our grounding given how so many people are facing their own personal crises. As a leader, you must keep the needs and challenges of your employees front and center.

Remote work may have seemed a blessing at first, but offices provide many benefits. A well set up and managed workspace cuts down on distractions. Home provides benefits, including comfort, but also produces drawbacks. Barbara Z. Larson , Susan R. Vroman and Erin E. Makarius note:

“Typically, we encourage employers to ensure that their remote workers have both dedicated workspace and adequate childcare before allowing them to work remotely.”

Space is a tough to tackle challenge, especially overnight. Childcare, however, is a more pressing issue for many employees. Moms and dads aren’t just remote workers amid this pandemic, they’re teachers too. On Linkedin, remote leadership guru John Eades reflects:

“When my seven-year-old son found out two weeks of school were canceled yesterday, he beamed with excitement. He didn’t realize he would be doing his schoolwork from home, not taking an extended break.”

Parents are shouldering some burdens of teaching. We should applaud those efforts, but leaders need to keep these difficulties in mind. Your employees are often wearing two or more hats, packaging superstar and home-schooling teacher extraordinaire. So don’t be surprised if your employees are frazzled.

Another issue great leaders need to watch for is isolation. Many people are avoiding not just the office, but their family, friends, and more. Coworkers used to socializing with their fellows may now be entirely on their own, which will tax mental health.

Speaking to News@Northeastern, professor Barbara Larson notes:

“…Working from home also creates a social challenge. It separates people from their coworkers (for companies trying to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, this is the goal)—a shift that can create a sense of isolation for some people.”

Larson further points out:

“For a lot of people, it can be emotionally taxing because you’re not getting the interaction with coworkers that you normally do. Although, for people who are more introverted, this can be a dream.”

How can you combat isolation? Larson notes that some companies are holding virtual pizza lunches and other social events. As a leader, consider hosting your own social (distancing) events. Also, make sure you check in with your employees and if there’s anything you can do to help.

We’re all climbing our own mountains, trying to overcome personal struggles. As a packaging leader, you must help your team members confront today’s difficulties while also preparing your company for tomorrow’s opportunities.


What does this have to do with recruiting ? EVERYTHING! The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing many packaging companies to radically reorganize operations. We have had to do the same at Chase. Being there for our clients, our team, the industry as a whole is central to our values. Change is never easy but with dedication, we will make it to other side – together.

Chase & Associates 
We Have Your Back


A Time For Reflection

There are times in life when you just need to pull into a rest stop and grab your breath. As an industry, as human beings, we have a lot on our minds. We need time to ponder and process. We need a break from the noise that is social media. 

In respect to this need, the pressing issues our world is working through, Chase will not publish a blog post this month (June 2020), nor will we be on social media with marketing posts. Our regular publishing schedule will resume on July 7th. 

Best wishes to you and your loved ones during this time of contemplation, 

Chase & Associates

Surviving and Thriving as the Packaging Industry Is Turned Upside Down by COVID-19

All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.

—Walt Disney

No one wants to get kicked in the teeth. Yet over the last few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has hammered many businesses and leaders. Multibillion-dollar industries have ground to a halt as supply chains have shut down, Disney World is a ghost town, and localized outbreaks have closed essential food processing plants.

Despite a global effort to shut down society and arrest the spread of the deadly coronavirus, many continue to contract the disease. Unfortunately, some will perish. It’s hard to find silver linings in a hurricane of pain and suffering.

Someday, you might look back on the actions you took amid the outbreak and realize that they made your company stronger and helped you grow personally. Humanity proves its mettle in the face of adversity. Yet right now, many skilled business leaders are struggling just to keep their heads above water.

The COVID-19 outbreak is having a dramatic impact on how companies operate day to day. And the crisis may permanently reshape the packaging industry. Decision-makers need to react to short-term disruptions, such as switching to remote work, while also preparing for long-term structural changes.

Let’s take a look at what the experts have to say about the industry and leadership amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seismic Change Reverberates Through the Packaging Industry

Every day is a fresh challenge. Just a few months ago, stock markets were at all-time highs and the unemployment rate was historically low. Many businesses thrived.

Now, decision-makers are trying to coordinate staff working from home while keeping necessary facilities open. Some packaging companies have been classified as essential businesses on the frontline. It’s not only your firm but society that’s depending on you.

Writing for McKinsey, David Feber, Oskar Lingqvist, and Daniel Nordigården note:

“As the coronavirus outbreak has spread and its humanitarian impact has grown, industries that help provide for essential needs, such as getting food and required supplies safely to consumers, are increasingly affected.”

The outbreak has also pushed some serious concerns, like sustainability, into the background. To reduce the mountains of trash piling up in landfills, many experts have been shifting to minimalist packaging.

Yet now, hygiene and protecting products, including food, from contamination have moved to the forefront of concerns. Extensive packaging is back in style. Speaking to Ink World, Dr. Manfred Tacker argues:

“…where the retail sector had been eliminating packaging, it is now being reintroduced in order to protect food from contamination, make its safe transportation possible and guarantee optimum product shelf lives.”

Dr. Tacker acknowledges that the trend towards sustainability will continue, even if the pandemic slows progress. Fundamental, lasting change in the industry is possible. Dr. Tacker notes:

“Governments and businesses will increasingly look at how supply chains can be made more resilient to crises. Who could have imagined closed borders across the European Union just a few weeks ago? This speaks in favor of local production and regional partnerships.”

Feber, Lingqvist, and Nordigården echo this sentiment, stating that:

“…border closures are leading to challenges for companies with extended supply chains and those that rely on teams to be able to move internationally to overhaul equipment.”

China has emerged as a vital supplier for numerous industries and the world in general. But should the world be so reliant on one country? The ongoing pandemic is forcing leaders to ask tough questions. Some companies and nations may look to diversify supply lines in the future.

Globalization has been a major force over the past few decades.

Yet the epidemic may encourage firms to diversify their supply chains or bring production closer to home. American companies may look to expand production in the U.S. or Mexico, for example.

No one can predict the future, but it’s a safe bet that the packaging industry and the global economy will undergo permanent, lasting change after the crisis abates. For now, decision-makers need to make sound leadership a predictable constant.

Steady Leadership In The Face of Adversity

Every leader is being tested. And no b-school or on-the-job training could fully prepare you for a once in a century calamity of this magnitude. The first step for navigating this pandemic is honesty, both with yourself and your staff. Writing for the Harvard Business Review, Professor Amy Edmondson notes:

“Few problems improve with age, and public health crises are no exception. Transparency is “job one” for leaders in a crisis. Be clear what you know, what you don’t know, and what you’re doing to learn more. You can’t manage a secret, as the old saying goes.”

In a moment of adversity, you may feel overwhelmed or believe that you lack the skills to succeed. Self-doubt is natural, but remember, many people are struggling right now. You’re not alone.

There’s always a temptation to deflect bad news. Why not wait until you get your feet under you before sharing anything negative? Unfortunately, that doesn’t work in a fast-moving crisis. Edmondson further elaborates:

“Taking the reputational hit today from the release of bad news is likely to earn — for leaders, organizations, and nations alike — dividends in the form of future reputational gain, bringing the benefits that come when internal and external constituents trust what you say and have confidence in your commitment to solving the problems that lie ahead.”

Most companies have reduced or eliminated face-to-face time. Many managers and employees are learning to work remotely, which involves high levels of trust. Transparent communication may help you keep far-flung teams on track for success.

Remember that your coworkers will face personal challenges. That’s why career expert Roberta Matuson argues in Forbes that leaders must be flexible:

“The workers you’re sending home have lives that may not be conducive to working remotely. They might have kids who’ve been sent home from daycare or school, or a spouse who works remotely. Be less concerned about the hours they work and more concerned about the results.”

And as always, lead by example and let your strength shine through. Matuson offers further wisdom for these trying times:

“Right now, it feels like the sky is falling, but this too shall pass. Your employees are counting on you to stay strong. Feeding into their anxiety will only make matters worse. Allow employees to express what’s on their mind and acknowledge their feelings. Then try to shift the conversation to something they can control, like the quality of their work.”

Mother nature, government policies, and random luck can all have a huge impact on our lives and businesses. What should we do? Rise to the occasion. For years, packaging experts have overcome countless challenges, using innovative products to increase safety, protect health, reduce pollution, and more. COVID-19 is yet another challenge, but one we will conquer.


What does this have to do with executive recruiting? EVERYTHING! How can we find the best innovators unless we know what they look like? It’s also how we built Chase. Authenticity. A strong company culture. Innovation.

Chase & Associates

We Have Your Back

Packaging Superheroes & Market Share: Recruit Your Way To Dominance


COVID-19 | This blog post was written prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s a scary time for all of us. While the future is uncertain, our industry will survive these challenging times. It is in that spirit that we have chosen to publish the original version of this blog post. Our prayers go out to the readers of our blog posts, their families, our industry – we’re right there with you, taking this one step at time.


The sun has gone down and you’re unwinding at home. You’re in the living room, sipping on a glass of scotch or cup of chamomile tea. A fire is roasting in the fireplace, your favorite pet is curled up at your feet, and you’re trying to relax while the latest superhero movie plays on the TV.

Only, you can’t. Another team member retired, riding off into that golden sunset, taking their skills with them and leaving yet another hole to fill. That means yet another talent search, sifting through resumes and conducting who knows how many interviews.

Suddenly, Captain Marvel blasts across the screen as Thor drops the hammer and Spider-Man tangles the latest baddie up in his webs. Everything goes according to script with each superhero contributing his or her skills to take down the seemingly unstoppable villains.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could build a team of packaging superheroes? Fiction, right? The real world is messier than the latest silver screen doomsday. Yet with a team of packaging superheroes you could save the world secure market dominance.

If you want to gain market share you need to be surrounded by high-performing employees. Writing for McKinsey, Scott Keller and Mary Meaney point out that:

“A recent study of more than 600,000 researchers, entertainers, politicians, and athletes found that high performers are 400 percent more productive than average ones.”

You can build your own super team. Packaging superheroes are already out there but you need to unmask them. By attracting and identifying the best talent, you’ll be in a prime position to take on the biggest challenges and dominate the market.

Attracting Packaging Superheroes

Writing back in 1998, Pat Reynolds made this astute observation:

“Today’s tight labor market has launched a talent war. Winning in this war means attracting and retaining enough skilled people at all levels to keep a packaging department humming. Losing means stagnation.”

More than two decades later, this sage insight remains every bit as true. The labor market is tight and talent is still the key to success. Over the years, tactics and opportunities have changed but the challenge remains the same: there’s not enough talent to go around.

Transformational change gurus Scott Keller and Mary Meaney note that:

“Failure to attract and retain top talent” was the number-one issue in the Conference Board’s 2016 survey of global CEOs—before economic growth and competitive intensity.”

If you want to attract the best talent, you need to be authentic. In another post, Scott Keller and Bill Schaninger argue that companies should:

“Create a strong and distinctive employee value proposition that authentically represents workplace reality. Creating false expectations can lead to negative reviews on JobAdvisor and Glassdoor.”

Attracting top talent also means making your company a more attractive place to work. The best employees want to work for companies that put employees first and provide a great work environment. Jim Molis points out:

“Today’s workers want to feel valued, too. Show your appreciation for them through employee-recognition programs, performance bonuses and comfortable work environments.”

You need to make your company easier to work for as well. In years past, work was 9-to-5, while the boss commanded without question. Now, employees want more flexibility and input. This is especially true if you want to attract younger workers. Speaking to Packaging World, Jeff Mansfield, Senior Vice President of Proactive Worldwide, urged companies to:

“…Think about the types of policies in place that cater to a more adaptive workforce—such as work at home options, flexible work schedules, incentive programs and providing a way for millennials to engage with leadership through monthly town halls or lunch and learn gatherings.”

Never overlook women either. While Superman might dominate the big screen, finding your own “Superwoman” is a great way to beef up talent and diversity. Women remain underrepresented in the packaging and manufacturing industries yet are a prime pool of talent. Attracting highly qualified women, however, requires a different approach. Stephanie Neil writes in Automation World that:

“Manufacturing companies need a different approach to recruiting, retaining, and advancing women in the workplace. And, that directly translates to a company’s culture as well as the industry as whole.”

Finding Super-Powered Packaging Talent Should be Reviewed

Have you built a world-class company that attracts talent from across the industry? As applications come in, you’ll face the next challenge: How do you identify the best talent in a pool of applicants? Start with your own needs. In the Harvard Business Review, Peter Cappelli advises companies to:

“Whittle down the list of attributes you want to those that you are willing to pay for, whether with money or with intangibles.”

Focus on the skills, talents, and other attributes that your company needs right now. You might need a talented leader. Maybe you require a materials science expert or data whiz. Either way, your first step is prioritizing the attributes your company needs.

Still, you might think that finding the right employee is like reading tea leaves. In the Harvard Business Review, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic , Seymour Adler, and Robert B. Kaiser argue that three key traits define high-performance recruits: ability, social skills, and drive. Find recruits with these skills and you’re off to a good start. As the authors point out:

“Not many employees are highly able, socially skilled, and driven — but if you bet on those who are, which involves evaluating these qualities as accurately as you can, you will end up with a higher proportion of future stars who will contribute disproportionately to the organization.”

When evaluating packaging executives for leadership positions, however, dig deeper. Seymour Adler urges companies to uncover “engaging leaders,” who have intangibles outside of strategic thinking and the like. While monitoring leaders at the New York City Port Authority, Adler found:

“…the employees who went on to be great leaders a decade later had all learned the value of hope in the face of adversity, persistence in the face of obstacles, humility even when achieving great things, and forging caring, supportive, and authentic relationships.”

Keep in mind that you don’t need to find packaging experts that already have all the skills. Instead, find heroes that you can cultivate into performers. As Jeff Mansfield put it:

“It’s not about recruiting talent that knows all of the information. The new mindset is to target people who you can train to do the job.”

Either way, by focusing on the key attributes your company needs right now and indicators of high performers, you can identify great future employees at every level. As you make your company more attractive to work for, you’ll be able to poach more talent as well. And the team of packaging superheroes you assemble will be in the prime position to dominate the market.


What does this have to do with executive recruiting? EVERYTHING! Superhero employees don’t appear out of thin air. You need to know what to look for before a person becomes a superhero and that is what we do best!

Chase & Associates 
We Have Your Back


(10) Key Insights From 2019 That Every Packaging Executive Must Know

Your heart is beating a bit faster. It’s your first team meeting of the new year, 2020 has arrived. Thoughts are racing through your head and across the whiteboard. A new year brings new opportunities, but also new challenges.

The packaging industry is evolving. Around the office you’ll hear artificial intelligence, polymeric nanofibers, machine learning, and more tossed around. Next, dollop on big concepts like global warming, the circular economy, and sustainability.

Suddenly, the packaging industry -long a steady ship- could be tossed into a sea of change.

Yet where challenges exist, opportunities exist. How do you turn disruption into opportunity? Don’t worry, we have assembled thoughts from the packaging industry’s best and brightest.

Prepare For the Next Wave of Disruptive Technology

The ancient Greek Philosopher Heraclitus argued that “change is the only constant.” That’s true in the packaging industry with disruptive technologies set to spur innovation. Investment guru Tim Smith says:

“A disruptive technology sweeps away the systems or habits it replaces because it has attributes that are recognizably superior.”

From: Disruptive Technology

Already, artificial intelligence is enabling faster, better, and more reliable automation. A new AI-empowered automated inspection system for packaging hints at the future. In Packaging Digest, Rick Lingle notes:

“AI enables the CapQ system to ignore water droplets and plastic fragment shedding that can skew measurement results, leading to false rejects. This software advancement and the easy-to-use operator touch screen interface make the CapQ system a pioneering quality inspection device.”

From: Artificial intelligence in packaging: CapQ vision inspection

Another technology with immense disruption potential is digital printing. Writing for LEAD Innovation Management, Angela Hengsberger argues:

“Digital printing will therefore no longer be used only for limited editions and individual products, but will also increasingly focus on the economic and speed-to-market advantages for the design of mainstream packaging.”

From: 5 market influencing trends in the packaging industry

Even less bleeding edge technologies will continue to disrupt the market. Speaking to Packaging Insights, Tetra Pak Marketing Services Director Alexandre Carvalho claims:

“Thanks to smart packaging technology, every package sold can now carry a unique digital identifier, creating the opportunity for direct one-to-one conversations with consumers, as well as helping drive efficiencies across the entire supply chain.”

Makes you wonder if we will soon talk about “genius” packaging instead of smart packaging.

From: AI in Packaging: How artificial intelligence is driving the packaging industry forward

Soren Kaplan sums up the coming tech disruptions nicely:

“Opportunities for packaging innovation will only grow as new technologies like blockchain, intelligent inks and printable circuits and sensors evolve… These technology and design innovations will fuel new “data-as-a-service” business models tied to traceability across the supply chain, consumer product usage, and overall market insight.”

From: The Packaging Industry is Massive, and It’s About to Be Disrupted

These technological disruptions are arriving as society itself experiences immense change. Sustainability is now one of the biggest challenges -and opportunities- for the packaging industry.

Sustainability Can Be a Threat or Competitive Advantage

Sustainability is no longer an option, it’s inevitable. Consumers will force the packaging industry’s hands. As Alex Jordan puts it:

“More people are readily refusing to use plastic straws and single-use bags in favor of reusable items – owning their social responsibility for seeking out greener products. Therefore, it’s essential for retailers and manufacturers to keep up with public opinion…”

From: The Future of Packaging: Where the Industry is Headed in 2020 and Beyond

So are you the greener product that gets found or the fossil-fueled dinosaur destined for extinction? Not that plastic has no future in packaging, but that future must be sustainable. Trina Matta argues:

“A plastic bottle made of recycled content is an example of sustainable sourcing of plastic. Would it really be better to shift this particular package to aluminum or glass? Most likely not.”

For Matta, creating sustainable packaging means:

“…considering questions of sourcing, efficiency, recovery, health and safety—all key pieces of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s definition of sustainable packaging.”

And sometimes, the best answer to those concerns is plastic.

From: Non-plastic packaging isn’t the only sustainable solution

Materials are changing with the times. Biodegradable biopolymers are more sustainable than traditional plastics and could be a hot growth industry.

“According to a new report from Smithers Pira, bioplastics for packaging currently represent a very small share of the global plastic packaging market value. But, it estimates, the bioplastic market will more than double in value from 2017 to 2022, growing at an average rate of 17% per year, to a market value of $7.2 billion.”

From: Biopolymer Materials and Technologies Flourish

Many companies are reducing the amount of packaging material used. Can you do that without cutting corners? Sophie Kieselbach and Flora D’Souza suggest:

“Keep working to reduce packaging material within the limits allowed by its purpose. And if, as with some initiatives, you start a new product line with reduced packaging and therefore reduced product shelf-life, loudly communicate it to customers and continue to help them understand the reasoning behind the changes to make sure that the net benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Life cycle thinking, as always, helps.”

From: The Top 9 Sustainable Packaging Trends in 2019

Better yet, less can be more. Global procurement powerhouse GEP argues in their company blog that:

“Focusing only on the essential parts during packaging enables designers to multiply the impact of the visual story they are trying to narrate for the brand. Simplified packaging designs also help brands to pay attention to small details and can improve overall quality.”

From: Less is More with Minimalist Packaging

 If we’re to preserve this planet, the packaging industry and other industries will have to pivot to become sustainable. In an open letter from the Governor of Bank of England Mark Carney, Governor of Banque de France François Villeroy de Galhau and Chair of the Network for Greening the Financial Services Frank Elderson argued:

“If some companies and industries fail to adjust to this new world, they will fail to exist.”

So how about you? Are you going to adjust and not only exist, but excel? Or are you going to fall to the wayside?


What does this have to do with executive recruiting? EVERYTHING! Equipping our clients and candidates with everything they need to achieve success is how we do business. Anything less, and we’re just another recruiting firm. Thought leadership plays a pivotal role in the value we provide to the packaging industry.

Chase & Associates 
We Have Your Back


The Real Christmas Special: How Star Wars Changed the Packaging Industry

It’s Christmas, snow is falling outside, hot cocoa is steaming, and the kids are bubbling with excitement. Johnny pulls the wrapping off a box and is greeted by the Millennium Falcon racing across the stars. His grin explodes. Carefully, he undoes the box and inside, he finds an IOU!

Out of this universe experience? Back in 1977, toy company Kenner was so overwhelmed by the demand for Star Wars toys that they had to send out empty boxes with IOUs.

Kids strong with the Force ended up gifted with lumps of coal. Yoda wasn’t happy.

It’s hard to overestimate how much Star Wars has changed film, toys, and yes, the packaging industry. By examining how Star Wars made a huge impact, we can learn valuable lessons for packaging.

Star Wars is now one of the most valuable franchises in the world and netted George Lucas 4.5 billion dollars when he sold to Disney. Yet back in the 1970s, most industry experts figured Star Wars movies and toys would flop.

While negotiating with 20th Century Fox to produce Star Wars: A New Hope, George Lucas reportedly made Fox a deal they couldn’t refuse: he was willing to cut his director’s fee by $500,000 in exchange for retaining merchandising rights.

For Fox executives already looking at an expensive, technically complicated production, the deal must have seemed like a no-brainer. Movie merchandise at the time was an after thought.

Lucas turned around and sold the merchandising rights to the toy company Kenner, then a division of General Mills. While Kenner paid $100,000 for the exclusive rights to produce Star Wars toys, film merchandising was seen as a small seasonal affair.

Toys would move while the film was still in the theater, but once the theater run was done, Kenner expected demand to drop off. Instead, as Star Wars blasted off the charts, demand for toys surged well beyond Kenner’s capabilities.

This would have a profound impact on the toy and packaging industries. As Neil Archer, a lecturer at Keele University notes in his blog post:

“Since 1977, the StarWars films have been the benchmark – if not the catalyst – for modern Hollywood’s “synergy-driven strategies” – linking big-screen outings with“ancillary products” in the form of action figures and other commercial tie-ins.”

How The Film Business Has Changed The Packaging Industry

Once an after thought, merchandising is now a vital source of profits and revenues for film companies. Indeed, some movies are essentially gigantic ads for toys.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is perhaps the best-positioned franchise to challenge Star Wars’ merchandising throne. Yet MCU is, in many ways, Star Wars’ padawan (trainee Jedi). When Marvel Studios embarked on its adventure to bring the MCU to life, they decided to seek out some sage advice… from children.

Marvel Studios wanted to know which characters were most likely to move toys, so they brought kids in, showed them drawings of Marvel heroes, and asked which character they’d be most likely to play with at home? The answer? Iron Man. The first MCU movie ever made? Iron Man.

As Nick Evans writes in Cinema Blend post:

“It is truly fascinating that one of the key decisions in the genesis of a multi-billion dollar franchise was made in part based on a bunch of kids in a room picking out what hero they want to play with.”

Fascinating indeed. Now, movie franchises are pillars of modern culture. And big franchises allow brands to cut across demographics. For packaging experts, this presents an opportunity.

By tying up the right products with the right fictional worlds, packaging experts can appeal to abroad audience.

As Ted Mininni argues in his packaging post:

“There are a few behemoths that own huge mind-share with many consumer groups across social strata and around the globe. Among entertainment properties, Star Wars and the pantheons of Disney princesses and Marvel superheroes are great examples of this.”

Disney owns both Marvel and Star Wars, and these fictional worlds are deeply integrated into the company’s brand. Mininni’s packaging blog post put it this way:

“The brand seamlessly leverages the “magic” of its significant entertainment properties within its theme parks, movies, television, digital media, and its retail stores with visually compelling content and rich experiences that captivate kids and adults alike.”

These worlds are so rich, so engaging, that external brands can leverage them to tell their own brand story. However, you can’t simply slap a superhero or Jedi on your products and hope it sells. Storytelling goes much deeper than that.

Packaging Is Storytelling

Star Wars yogurts, mac and cheese, juices, and other themed foods have all graced tables at some point. You can find Star Wars themed camping equipment, suitcases, toothbrushes, and more. Before Star Wars, such direct tie-ins were not a thing.Now, when a blockbuster movie rolls around, companies will fight over merchandising rights.

Laura Zielinski writes in her Packaging Strategies post:

“Brands need to know the fan base well to avoid insulting devotees by slapping licensing on simply anything. They also need to be able to share the story through great design when there is a good fit.”

In other words, there needs to be synergy between the packaging and the story itself. For the packaging industry, movies and fiction offer an opportunity to turn regular products into story-telling devices that can unlock your imagination.

In another packaging post, Zielinski argues:

“Stories are not just a buzz concept: They are one of the most strategic success drivers behind some of the most legendary brands.”

Meanwhile, packaging offers the perfect stage for stories and brands alike. At first glance, StarWars themed Mac & Cheese or Iced Tea might not seem like a natural tie in, and yet it works. Kids are a vital element of Star Wars universal target audience, kids love Mac & Cheese.

For a child with her parents in the grocery store, Mac & Cheese wrapped in Star Wars packaging is immediately recognizable and sparks the imagination. Rather than boring cheese noodles, kids can hang out with Darth Vader or Yoda during their lunchtime snack.

The synergy between mac and cheese and Yoda is obvious. Food is fun, so too are great stories. Kids love using their imagination, so why not turn lunch into an adventure? Take the right branded packaging and the right story, and you’ve crafted a heck of an experience.


What does this have to do with executive recruiting? EVERYTHING! Your packaging tells a story. That story might not be Star Wars but no matter, you need to be a good storyteller. And we get that when we’re looking for marketing professionals for your brand. 

Chase & Associates 
We Have Your Back


Psst! Did you catch the Easter Egg?

The Next Big Recession: Calamity Or Opportunity?

The coffee is cooling on your desk while the headlines scrolling across the news channel are white-hot: “Consumer Confidence Is Plummeting Amid Trade War,” “Manufacturing Industry Is Tanking,” “Business Leaders Expect A Recession Within The Next Six Months.”

The news ticker feeds the butterflies in your stomach. If the recession hits, your company could falter. Who wants to start the workday like that? Stress is never your friend.

Recessions are a natural part of the business cycle. If you haven’t worked through one yet, you will at some point. And given recent headlines, the party might get started sooner rather than later!

But a recession doesn’t automatically mean your company will suffer a slow down, or worse, a contraction. Leave those problems to the broader economy by making your business recession-resistant.

So how do you prepare your company for a recession? Let’s look at some sage advice. 

Recession = Opportunity

Many economists consider recessions a natural and unavoidable part of the business cycle. Writing for Bain, Tom Holland and Jeff Katzin note:

“It’s overdue. Predicting the onset of a recession is difficult, but a down turn likely will arrive soon, with the current economic expansion now more than ten years old, long by historical standards.”

Holland and Katzin make an even more important point:

For corporate leaders, however, the exact timing and duration of a recession matters less than being ready to seize the moment early, when they have more options.”

Bain has found that while unprepared companies must react to emerging crises, prepared companies can seize the moment and use a recession as a chance to reinvest in growth. If a recession does set in, your company should approach it as an opportunity.

Some of your competitors will be taking their foot off the gas during a recession. Many companies put off launching new products and making serious investments. Their indecision opens up space in the market for bold players.

Take food and beverage. Back in 2009, amid the “Great Recession”, food and beverage launches declined 30 percent, according to an analysis of Mintel’s Global New Product Database (GNPD). Companies willing to brave the tumultuous markets faced substantially less competition, which impacts the bottom line.

Renowned business Professors Berk Talay, Koen Pauwels, and Steven Seggie found that automobiles launched during moderate recessions enjoyed a better chance of long-term survival.

Is the prospect of a coming recession keeping you up at night? No worries! We got you covered. Here is the first big takeaway: strategy and preparation can turn a recession into an opportunity.

Play it Smart During a Recession

The labor market is the tightest it has been in years. Over at Inc.com, Wanda Thibodeaux argues that “recruiting just ain’t what it used to be.” She cites a survey suggesting that there’s a shortage of skilled labor, and competition among recruiters is fierce.

Finding the right talent can be difficult. When the business cycle does enter a downturn, the labor market should relax, and more talent should be available.

Translation? Opportunity knocks!

Another company’s layoffs could be your gain, allowing you to snatch up top talent.

Even if you have to weather some lean years, you could emerge from the recession in a stronger position, ready to execute while the competition scrambles to keep up. However, a sudden wealth of talent can make it harder to identify the right candidate.

As Carole Oldroyd writes for Pandologic:

“One job ad could garner a multitude of applicants. While that seems like a great problem to have, it can also slow time-to-hire and reduce quality-of-hire, as well. And when quality-of-hire goes down, turnover goes up and so do costs.”

Making the wrong hire during a recession is especially risky. New hires need to hit the ground running. The ROI has to be there right out of the gate.

Here is our second big takeaway: position yourself to reap the rewards of a tight job market. Let’s look at how you should approach packaging during a recession.

Add Value During a Recession

How to recession-proof your packaging company? 

As the “packaging diva” JoAnn Hines states, you first have to “learn to recognize what buying signals will motivate your customers to purchase your products.”

During recessions, consumers stretch every dollar they spend. Purchasing decisions inspire agony. While it’s always essential for companies to stand out, it’s downright vital during a recession. How so? Agony is a powerful motivator.

Our third big takeaway: added value equals added protection and more sales.

“A customer might skip a fancy dinner,” Hines says, “and pick up easy-to-prepare food at the grocery store instead. So if you’re a food company and can get your packaging right, you could snag a customer from a restaurant.”

Okay, but what about non-food items? If your company’s bread and butter items are luxury items, can you position your products as the quality alternative? Quality made goods stand the test of time. Consumers know this, quality goods last longer.

Americans love vacations, but they’re frequently among the first luxuries cut during a recession. Can you position your products to recreate a vacation at home? Perhaps a massage pad for an aching back or a fire pit for the backyard? Adding a sense of affordable luxury to your packaging could help convince buyers.

Keep in mind; shoppers will want to pay less for more, especially during a recession. If customers are tightening their belt, you need to appeal to their wallets. A potato chip company, for example, could offer 10 percent more chips at the same price.

Be “Durable” During Downturns

Recessions are a great time to hone your brand. Even if you have to struggle through some lean years, you could come out with a stronger company when the business cycle turns again, and the economy starts to expand.

Recessions inspire tough questions. How can we be smarter than our top competitors? How can we add value and improve customer service? Is there top talent looking for a new home? The more you invest in seizing the moment, the better you will perform during a recession. 


What do recessions have to do with executive recruiting in packaging? Most of the time, not much! But when a recession does hit, you want an executive recruiting firm at your side that sees downturns as opportunities. 

Chase & Associates
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