Tag Archives: Sari McConnell

Jon Stewart Goes Bananas on Packaging

Del Monte's Single-Serve Banana in Plastic



Did anybody catch Jon Stewart’s latest inductee to the Pantry of Shame on “The Daily Show” last night?

The Del Monte  Single-Serve Banana, an individual banana (wait for it…) wrapped in plastic.

As you know, we’re big fans of “right packaging,” not overpackaging.  And the banana is Mother Nature’s best example of right packaging: biodegradable, durable, conforms to fit contents perfectly.

“So what function,” as Jon Stewart nails it home, “does the bag serve that the peel does not currently serve?  A product for people who love bananas but hate their biodegradability?”

Jon Stewart challenges us to think differently about the status quo in politics and media coverage five days a week.  Our hats are off to Mr. Stewart today for challenging America to think differently about its packaging choices, too.

Click here to see Jon Stewart go bananas over packaging.

And we’ve got a few ideas of our own.  See our 6 Tips to Avoid Overpackaging.

Sari McConnell at smcconnell@conformerinc.com

‘Fringe’ Highlights Conformer’s New Product Launch

Book sent to Agent Dunham in Conformer Mailer

This morning, my colleague asked me if “Fringe” planned on using Conformer mailers to ship alien body parts in future episodes.  It’s been a fun week.  (Read: Conformer on FRINGE)

Sci-fi humor aside, last week Agent Olivia Dunham opened a Conformer mailer and pulled out a hardcover book titled If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him! on “Fringe.”  You may have noticed that the bubble sack wrapping the small book inside was total overkill (no pun intended), but we forgive the television producers.  The Conformer paperboard mailer works beautifully without the bubble wrap because it conforms to the contents and eliminates shifting, while creating a 360 degree periphery of protection.

Nevertheless, “Fringe” has let our secret out of the bag, compelling us to share our plans to launch the new Conformer corrugate mailer very soon.  This new product is designed for heavier items, this new product creates the perfect package for items that might otherwise ship in a corrugate box.  So what’s the advantage?  The Conformer corrugate mailer conforms to its contents, eliminating the cost of shipping dead space and the cost of excess packaging fill.  Plus, no box assembly is required, which dramatically reduces fulfillment costs.

Bubble wrap is so often misused and overused that we don’t even recognize it as a fixable problem anymore.  A hardcover book is not fragile, and several more cost-effective and eco-friendly options can prevent damage from shifting inside an oversized box.   It is indeed a fixable situation.

So now that you’re on the inside track, stay tuned for the official launch of the Conformer heavy-duty corrugate mailer!

Sari McConnell at smcconnell@conformerinc.com

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FAQs: What is FSC- or SFI-Certified Paper?

Since Conformer encourages all of our customers to use environmentally sustainable paper stocks, this question comes up a lot.  What does FSC-certified mean?  Is that the same thing as SFI-certified?  What’s the difference?

FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council.  This is a non-profit organization that provides a third-party certification service to the paper industry to “promote management of the world’s forests.” It ensures that your paper is coming from sustainably harvested forests, meaning that it comes from a renewable source.  According to the FSC website, “plantations must contribute to reduce the pressures on and promote the restoration and conservation of natural forests.”   How does it do this?  The Forest Stewardship Council has developed a Chain of Custody process — effectively, an inventory management system —  that enables you to trace your paper stock back to the tree it was harvested from, thereby ensuring it came from a sustainably managed forest.

If the manufacturer is FSC-certified as an organization, that gives them the right to placed the FSC logo on products it manufacturers.  Alternatively, if the manufacturer is not FSC-certified but simply sources FSC-certified paper stock, your sustainably harvested paper is still exactly that but cannot have the FSC-certified logo printed on it.  Both are viable and “good” options.

SFI stands for Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and it is also an independent auditor of good forestry practices.  It is simply an alternative to FSC-certification and is just as good an indicator of sustainably harvested paper stock. 

These two organizations can be greatly credited for ensuring that trees get planted on this planet by the very industry that depends on them.  There’s some unconventional wisdom at play here, but I can’t think of another industry more committed to planting trees than the paper industry.  And that’s good news for our planet.

Sari McConnell at smcconnell@conformerinc.com

FAQs: Can I Afford to Buy Eco-Friendly Products?

Many of our clients are surprised to hear that eco-friendly presentation and mailing materials can cost the same or less than unfriendly materials. Unfortunately, the marketplace has been trained to assume that making eco-friendly choices comes at a price.  I’ve seen businesses eliminate (needed) materials altogether in an attempt to go green because they don’t think they have budget-friendly options.

Eco-friendly can be budget-friendly by aligning with smart buying principles:

– Buying power.  If your supplier makes a major investment in buying, let’s say Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper (more on that topic here), then the cost of that material becomes very competitive against less environmentally attractive stocks.

Economies of scale.  The Conformer portfolio made of recycled milk jug poly costs the same as buying it from virgin poly (recyclable, but not made of post-consumer recycled material).  Our base materials come from a poly extruder that specializes and extrudes milk jug poly in volume.  Then it becomes an aesthetic rather than a price-based decision.  That’s ideal.

Long-term eco-commitment of your vendors. Becoming FSC-certified is an arduous process with upfront costs. But once an organization has realigned its operations to comply with the Forest Stewardship Council’s specifications, the ongoing costs of this inventory management system become operationally streamlined.  Vendors that dabble in green products don’t achieve this cost benefit.

Buying quality products.  Durability reduces the probability that your materials become insta-trash.  In other words, if it looks like junk, it gets junked. If your presentation and mailing materials can survive the journey from the printer to storage to fulfillment to more storage to possibly mail processing to your customer’s desk — and still look good doing it — your materials will more likely be reused by your customer.  (And you get bonus points if your name is all over it.)

Tell us about your experiences sourcing eco-friendly materials on a budget, and we will gladly shine the spotlight on you here on the Conformer Products blog.

Sari McConnell at smcconnell@conformerinc.com

Fresh Eyes

I try not to burden my soul too much with New Year’s resolutions. Rather, I see the new year as a way to see things with fresh eyes. It doesn’t hurt that New Year’s forces me to push back from my desk for a few days, clear my head and think fresh thoughts.

Perhaps that’s why so many of us go into organization mode in January. We view our surroundings with fresh eyes and see that things could be different, better.

January’s Fresh Eyes are a gift to inventors like us at Conformer. We are innovative 365 days of the year, but some days are easier than others.

Fresh Eyes can be a force for positive change, rather than tired New Year’s resolutions. When was the last time you took a fresh look at your sales kit, for example? Does your presentation folder limp along, or is it actually making a positive contribution to the overall impression on your customers? When you send out a package, use your fresh eyes to determine whether you are making the best eco-friendly packaging choice that, again, makes a positive contribution not only to the Earth, but also to your brand and to your customer.

And speaking of brand, I often turn to Branding Strategy Insider, brought to you by my Hallmark mentor Brad Van Auken and his smart new business partner, Derrick Daye, whenever I need some fresh-eyed inspiration.

So no resolutions for me this year… I will inspire myself to go to the gym, I swear!

Sari McConnell at smcconnell@conformerinc.com

Inconvenient Truth: When A (Visual) Story > 1000 Words

One of the best speakers I’ve heard in a long time, Nancy Duarte of Duarte Design, spoke about the power of storytelling to my beloved Watermark networking group.  Nancy is best known for creating Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth “slideshow,” so she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to telling stories.

slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations

Slide:ology:Looks Like It Tells a Good Story

At the cornerstone of her storytelling philosophy is the emotional connection.  “Rather than a name or logo, or tagline that reflects what a company thinks of itself, brand is what a company stands for in the hearts and minds of its customers; to be successful, the company must have an emotional connection with the consumer,” says Nancy Duarte in her book Slide:ology.

Duarte’s expertise revolves around Powerpoint, of course, but you can extend this exact principle in a number of directions.  Take Sunrise Packaging.  They make a compelling case for product package design to tell a story to the consumer.  Think about it… What really tells the story in most consumer packaged goods?  The junk in the bottle, or the look, feel and voice of the bottle?

And then there is my Conformer world, and I wonder why the mail packaging world gets delegated to the mail room or fulfillment house decision makers instead of being viewed as the very first opportunity to make that emotional connection with the recipient.  We know departments and agencies full of people creating sales kits, media kits, sample kits, not to mention e-commerce sites fiercely competing for loyalty, and yet the package that all that STUFF goes into looks miserable, beaten up and just sad.

Read more about a pathetic package in Hall of Shame #10: The Story You’re Telling.  It tells a very sad story,  and its sender may not realize that the story ends badly… for him.

-Sari McConnell at smcconnell@conformerinc.com