Marcal Repositions its Brand in $30 Million Campaign

By Apr 29, 2009

Marcal, the oldest recycled paper maker in the country, emerged from bankruptcy last year and began the journey to reinvigorate its brand.

Senior vice president of marketing MJ Jolda was brought on last May to help breathe new life into the ailing company. Since then, she has built a new marketing team from the ground up and has maintained a conversation with consumers about the brand’s green heritage to understand more about its points of differentiation among competitors.

Jolda is the leader behind a new $30 million campaign, called Small Steps, aimed at spreading the message that the company has reformulated its 100% recycled line of paper towels, bath and facial tissue and napkins.

A kick-off educational event held earlier this month in New York’s Time’s Square was timed around Earth Day. Thousands of people visited the exhibit where they saw a two-ton roll of tissue paper, representing a family of four’s annual consumption of paper and the death of 34 trees.

Jolda spoke with Promo about the company’s work to refresh the brand.

PROMO: How did you come up with the new name for the product line, Small Steps?
JOLDA: It’s the whole idea that people are not going to make dramatic steps in anything they do. Even if you want to go green, it’s small steps. We needed to figure out how to position the brand first and from there we had this insight that people do want to do something good for the environment.

PROMO: What does the repositioning focus on?
JOLDA: We’re not new to the green bandwagon. We repositioned it to focus on our green heritage. More than 98% of the [paper products] category is still made by cutting down trees and we’re looking to raise awareness that Marcal is made with recycled paper. It’s a very important time to restage the products. From our consumer insights, we realized that consumers want to do something good to help out the environment.

PROMO: Did you introduce any new products?
JOLDA: We did restage and added a few new items, additional sizes and counts to fill in the overall portfolio. For example, we needed an additional bath size so it was an additional 2 ply bath in a

PROMO: Why did you reformulate the brand?
JOLDA: Historically, when green brands first starting coming to the marketplace, they didn’t perform as well. Now a lot of those products have been improved. We looked to improve the product overall because performance is important. Consumers are willing to try a new product as long as they perform.

PROMO: Reformulating a product can be a change that may not be obvious to consumers. How are you getting that message across?
JOLDA: We brought to the forefront the communication that we’re made from recycled paper. You can see it on the front of our packaging. The old packaging was much more value positioned (big bold letters, bright red, blue letters) and that was what you would take away from the brand. Now we have brought forth the whole messaging that you could be saving trees and that’s communicated on our packaging and throughout our advertising, Web site, PR and promotions.

PROMO: Who is your target consumer?
JOLDA: We’re going after the light green consumers. Dark green consumers know all about all of the benefits of being green. Light green consumers want to buy green but don’t know what to buy.

PROMO: What was the purpose of the Times Square event?
JOLDA: It was to help educate, to enlighten and get the word out and to reach the masses by handing out coupons and rolls of bath tissue and to bring awareness about how many trees an average family of four kills if they don’t use recycled paper products.

PROMO: Have you adjusted the pricing?
JOLDA: Yes. But, compared to our competitors, we are still very much a value brand. We’re usually at a 10% discount to the mainstream brands, and a 30% discount or higher to premium brands.

PROMO: Where are the products distributed?
JOLDA: Our strength is in the Northeast and we’re looking to continue to grow nationally. We’ve had good acceptance at retail so it’s continuing to go well with existing and new retailers.

PROMO: How much weight is being placed on this campaign to help move the company forward?
JOLDA: It’s one of the many steps that we’re taking in order to turn the company around.

PROMO: What are the plans going forward?
JOLDA: We are continuing our efforts to drive awareness and trial. You will see continued FSIs, as well as outreach to the consumer. And the TV and print campaigns run through the end of the year.

PROMO: What ever happened to that two-ton roll of paper from the Time’s Square event?
JOLDA: It has been taken back to the plant and it will be used in Marcal’s paper products.