How the Biggest Maker of Office Supplies Sells Staplers With Social

How the Biggest Maker of Office Supplies Sells Staplers With Social

Ted Fay, VP of Digital Marketing at ACCO Brands, joins the Social Pros Podcast to discuss how a century-old brand builds a social presence in 2018.

In This Episode:

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Full Episode Details

Ted Fay

It’s All About the Story

Is a social presence really that important, even if you work for a business that already has a long, established history? Spoiler alert: The answer is yes, and Ted Fay from ACCO Brands has a lot of insight into how engaging through social channels can improve a business that has been around for over a hundred years.

Traditional marketing is still effective at notifying and reminding customers about your products. However, as businesses are becoming more and more aware, consumers care far more about things like story, values, and even the personality of brands. Whether through blogs, videos, or photos, social media is an invaluable tool for storytelling and connecting with your audience.

According to Ted Fay, this is ACCO Brand’s whole approach to having a social presence. The goal is not direct sales, or even to convince their audience to buy a product. Simply engaging, telling stories about their product, and allowing their customers to tell their own stories has helped them evolve and continue to be relevant in today’s market.

In This Episode

  • How to build loyalty for multiple brands under the same company.
  • The key to building a social presence as a historic brand.
  • How to gauge “return on influence.”
  • How social can augment other forms of direct marketing.

Quotes From This Episode

“Our digital strategy is to be able to reach out to consumers and articulate what our brand stands for—why they should care about the brand.” — Ted Fay

“As the world has shifted to an online environment, the opportunity to drive the retail shelf or the salesperson as your primary consumer experience has started to disappear.” — Ted Fay

“If we can drive our categories well, and drive growth with our channel partners, it’s a win-win situation for everybody.” — Ted Fay


See you next week!

Get a Behind-the-Scenes Tour of the Social Media Operations at Sam's Club

In this 5-episode social media Deep Dive, you'll learn how the busy team at Sam's Club operates their social media strategy. Meet 5 different team members and find out how Sam's Club uses social across their entire business. All 5 episodes are available now, so get ready to binge! Listen to episode 1 of the Sam’s Club Deep Dive now.

Listen to Episode 1 of the Sam's Club Deep Dive Now

Episode Transcript

Jay Baer:Hey, everybody, it's Jay Baer, founder of Convince and Convert, and this is the Social Pros Podcast. I'm joined as always by my special Texas friend. He is the executive strategist of Sales Force Marketing Cloud. He is Adam Brown.
Adam Brown:Jay, this was a fun show. Now, when we talk about the corporate entity of that employs the guests of today's show, ACCO Brands, people go what's ACCO Brands? But then when you talk about Swingline staplers, i.e. The Office, you talk about Mead, you talk about DAY-TIMERS, which I'm a personal fan of, but most importantly, Trapper Keepers. At least for some of our older listeners [crosstalk 00:00:37]
Jay Baer:Bringing a Trapper Keeper to school in grade school, absolutely. Also ACCO Brands makes Kensington, so you may have a Kensington mouse or a Kensington lock on your computer. They make a lot of stuff, but here's the crazy thing about this week's episode, Adam. These brands started in 1903 as a paperclip company. A paperclip company. Now they've got dozens of brands selling all kinds of different stuff. Essentially, everything that goes in your office that doesn't plug in, they make.
Adam Brown:It's almost like the Office Depot or Staples. It's everything in the middle.
Jay Baer:Yes, everything in the middle aisles.
Adam Brown:It's not the heavy chairs on the right or the reams of paper on the left, but it's everything else.
Jay Baer:It's so true. But what's amazing about this is you've got this collection of brands. Historic brands. Heritage brands. But yet still modern, you can go buy one right now. Have never done any social until recently. Have never done any social until recently. Any social.
So on this week's episode of the Social Pros Podcast, we talked to Ted Fay, who's the vice president of digital marketing for all of the ACCO Brands, about how, why, where, and what they are launching a social media program from scratch, and how they look at ROI in [inaudible 00:01:46] it is a fascinating conversation. It's pretty rare, Adam, we get a chance these days to talk to a major collection of brands that just hasn't done social yet and are kind of getting a start here in 2018. Amazing, amazing show.
Adam Brown:It's the social origins story.
Jay Baer:It really is. Also, friends, Ted, who you're gonna hear from in just a second, made a fantastic offer. As we said, they sell all this stuff, stuff you might need on your own desk or for your kids or back to school in the fall. If you go to,, use the promo code SOCIALPROS. You get 20% off all the stuff that ACCO sells. How great is that? You're making money on this week's episode.
Adam Brown:That's a bonus.
Jay Baer:You can't afford to not listen to this week's episode of Social Pros Podcast, is the truth. So without further ado, let's hear from Ted Fay, VP at ACCO Brands.
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Ted Fay, vice president of digital marketing from ACCO Brands joins us this week on the Social Pros Podcast. Ted, thanks so much for being here.
Ted Fay:Glad to be here.
Jay Baer:Tell us a little bit about ACCO Brands. It's a fascinating company because you have a lot of brands, primarily in the office supplies and organizational category, but you guys own a bunch of different stuff. It's a really interesting company history as well. Could you take a minute or two and just let Social Pros listeners know kind of how ACCO Brands came to be in the scope and scale of your operation, please?
Ted Fay:Sure, not a problem. So ACCO Brands, ACCO stands for the American Clip Company. So it actually started out, gosh, over a hundred years ago in Chicago, manufacturing wire paperclips. And since that time, we've grown, starting in the office environment, expanding there into retail and eCommerce. Essentially focused on selling all of the products that you use around your home, school, or work desk that don't plug in. Broadly speaking. So it's everything from paper planners to notepads to filing products to whiteboards, which our Quartet whiteboards brand is a massively growing marketplace. Everyone uses whiteboards [inaudible 00:05:16] to binding equipment to laminating equipment, supplies. Really, it's all the non-technological products in most offices.
We've grown through both acquisition as we've acquired different brands. We've also grown through organic growth [inaudible 00:05:34] marketplaces. One of the technical brands we also purchased, many of your users are familiar with, is our Kensington brand, which is our folks that designed the Kensington locks, mice, and computer accessories products. That's another one of our brands that fits really in that non-computer, non-office furniture category that we strive to be a leader.
In most of our markets, we're a pretty sizable market share.
Jay Baer:It's remarkable to me that it's true, you actually make everything that doesn't plug in in your office. I'm just sort of looking around my desk, I'm like yep, they make that, they make that, and they make that. You make the very famous Swingline stapler, which is the star of the movie Office Space, among other things. It's gotta be really fun.
One of the questions, and we'll talk about this from a digital standpoint more so than a social, at least to start off with, is because you have so many brands, do you, Ted, have fully separate digital strategies, website, email, social, etc., for each of those brands? Or do you lump them together by common type? So you've got multiple sort of paper planner brands, do you sort of run those as a cooperative, or do they each have their own fully separate digital program?
Ted Fay:They don't each have a fully separate digital program, but we do treat each brand as a distinct entity. We know that the value is within the brand, what that brand's engagement with the consumer is, what the consumer expects from it, how it gets delivered, what its product line represents. So within some categories, for instance paper planning, we actually have four or five different brands from daytime or at a glance to Mead planning products to Five Star planning products, to some sub-brands like Day Runner. For any one market, we don't think it's our position to hold them all together and to try and be an office superstore. Some of our best customers already do that for us. Amazon does it for us, Walmart does it for us, Staples, Office Depot, those are the customers that pull together all of our products along with other products to offer the customer a full suite of digital items, of office products.
What we see our digital strategy, we're really in the midst of [inaudible 00:07:51] our digital strategy is to be able to reach out to those customers and those consumers and articulate what our brand stands for, tell them why they should care about the brand, the category, and the products. And then offer them the opportunity to buy from us directly, or more often than not, they're gonna buy it from their retailer or their commerce channel of choice. We need to create that web presence and that online presence as a digital hub to tell people why they should care about the Swingline stapler, why a product that their great-grandfather had on his desk is one that they should probably have on their desk today. And people are proud to have it on their desk today.
Adam Brown:And Ted, I would guess, especially with your printed DAY-TIMERS, and again I call it DAY-TIMER because I always use the DAY-TIMER brand, it's a ubiquitous one, but brands like DAY-TIMERS and AT-A-GLANCE, a big key part of what you're doing is really trying to build loyalty so that, around November or December of one year, you're trying to get me to go back into my Staples or my Office Depot or going to and buying the next year's edition of that.
Curious how you kind of build that loyalty, and also, you're in a situation where you have products that are almost competing with each other in terms of the printed day parts. Are you pretty laissez faire with brands in terms of how you allow their messaging to go, or, again, the loyalty kind of serves its purpose and drives all the brands simultaneously?
Ted Fay:So I'll start, I'll start at the loyalty part. The loyalty is a key component, and there's a few ways that we address that. First of all, it starts with the product and the consumer experience, right? So, is the product what they're expecting from us year in and year out? People that buy paper planners, especially those that come back year after year, have pretty high expectations for everything from how it gets delivered to their home, to the paper quality, to the cover quality, to what do we do if, you know, and it occasionally happens, a page is printed incorrectly? Well, we focus on those things, because there's nothing worse than writing in a notebook or a planner and having it bleed through, right? So we focus on the paper quality, and how it interacts with the ink and how it presents itself to the end user. In our years of experience with users and getting the direct feedback from them allows us to apply that kind of product experience.
It then moves up from there, everything from packaging to how we represent the products online, really kind of cements that consumer experience, including if they're buying it from us directly, how we fulfill that order. How quickly we get it out to them and how we make it available to them. It's interesting when you talk about, you know, if they're coming back every November/December, if you're coming back in November/December, you're probably late. For us. [crosstalk 00:10:35]
Adam Brown:I've learned that.
Ted Fay:We actually have customers we could sell planners for 2020 today if we printed them.
Jay Baer:Wow!
Ted Fay:Our customers are so loyal.
Jay Baer:They're optimistic.
Ted Fay:They're optimistic, but they're planners. I mean [crosstalk 00:10:49]
Jay Baer:That's right, it's in the name. They're obviously planners. They're buying a planner.
Ted Fay:That's what they want to do.
Adam Brown:I think it's just about kind of the idea of competitiveness. Now, I think as you articulated it, Ted, you're very loyal to a particular brand. I mean, you know that DAY-TIMER green, and you know how it handles the nine to five and the hours after that, and you get very loyal to how you sketch that out.
But being a company like yours, and like many, when I was at Coca-Cola, we had over 300 brands all competing for, you know, to hydrate you. But I was interested in how you market or not market against each other. Or, again, as you said, allow the retailers to do that.
Ted Fay:Well, it's a little bit of segmentation, and it's also product positioning. It's also what the product delivers. So DAY-TIMER has a very specific functions in the world. It's actually what we call an organizer, but it's targeted a very specific kind of user who's a very detailed person getting involved in their planning activities. They want to track their activities very closely. They want to retain the information for a long time. There's long time storage of information that goes there. So we segment a lot of the marketing and the activities around that particular type of user. AT-A-GLANCE is a little bit more broad of a use. And then as you go down, Five Star is more targeted at students and the early graduate, and Mead is kind of the everyday, all-purpose brand.
So it was targeted, not only from a price point, but also from the product's build, how it's structured, even shelf placement. There are some retailer partners that may only carry one of the brands, and others will carry all of the brands, the top-shelf being our premium brand walking all the way down the shelf to a more value-oriented or broad consumer focused brand.
Adam Brown:One of the things I was really excited about in the back-to-school season this last year was going into Staples and seeing Trapper Keepers back. And I don't know if they ever went away or not. Jay, you remember Trapper Keepers. I had a Trapper Keeper.
Ted Fay:Oh, I had a Trapper Keeper, baby.
Adam Brown:I had a Star Wars Trapper Keeper with Chewbacca on the cover. Lord knows how much that thing would be worth today in a collectibles market. But it was great to see, and [inaudible 00:12:59] my seven-year-old kind of resonated back. You've got brands like that that have been around for decades and decades and decades. [crosstalk 00:13:05]
Ted Fay:Ebb and flow.
Adam Brown:And, yeah. Did Trapper Keeper ever go away, or is it something that I just, because I wasn't in the mindset to purchase it, I didn't see when I walked down the aisle at my local office supply store?
Ted Fay:Probably when you got to high school it probably disappeared from your point of view, right? Because it's definitely targeted at a certain demographic, and as people come back to the category through their kids or their nieces and nephews, they start to experience it again.
It never really went away. Its positioning and its focus has changed a little bit. It's become more part of the larger Five Star brand, which is our brand that's really focused at the durable, all year ... our tagline for Five Star is that it's gonna last all year long. It's targeted at the customer who's looking at the products they're gonna buy for their student or students are gonna buy for themselves that will last them throughout the entire school year. So Trapper Keeper is very kind of specific set of products, but there's a larger family of things that includes backpacks to notebooks and other types of organizers that kind of fulfill that whole student experience.
Trapper Keeper is one of those that, for a whole batch of people of a certain age, they certainly have an emotional attachment back to it. When we look at the potential for social media for our brands, those are some of the types of things that we're hoping to tap into because the engagement and the storytelling and the experiences that we know that customers have had with our brands, and that they share with us about our brands, is phenomenal. And we just want to be able to go back and retell them to other people, to have that story resonate with somebody. Because we've gotta [inaudible 00:14:50] people who, as you are, they're passionate about these products and these brands.
Jay Baer:Yeah, it's funny. Half our audience is like, what is he talking about? What is a Trapper Keeper? And they're like Googling this right now, pausing the show. Send me a note.
It's great, though, Ted, you're exactly right about the nostalgia and the storytelling because it's such an integral part of your life, especially as a young student, it's one of the few things ... your backpack, your Trapper Keeper, your lunchbox are the things that you have with you every single day. That's the list. That's the entire list. And remember every lunchbox you had, every backpack you had, and every Trapper Keeper you had.
So I want you to talk to the audience here about something I find absolutely fascinating, and I know Adam does as well, this collection of historic, important brands. And here we are, halfway through 2018, and largely social media has not historically been part of the brand communication program. But now you are starting to kind of spin up social media strategies and social media programs for some of these brands, and it's interesting to sort of take a swing at that here in 2018. What does that look like and how do you even go about starting social right now?
Ted Fay:So the opportunity for us with social media really fits into a larger change in the marketplace. If you think about where most manufacturers and distributors like ACCO have been past, our efforts and our marketing efforts and our drive to connect with consumers was through a combination of working with the commercial sales people who represented our products, so they were office equipment dealers and office superstore sales teams. And then also working with retailers to getting the product on the shelf. So we didn't really participate in a lot of direct consumer engagement activities because our efforts were focused on making sure that when you walked into the store, back to school season you went to buy the product, Trapper Keeper was front and center on the shelf, you bought it, you had a great product experience with it, so that next year you would buy it again.
As the world shifts and your audience knows this terribly well, as the world has shifted to an online environment, the opportunity to drive the retail shelf or the sales person as your primary consumer experience has started to disappear. So the consumers are starting to first experience investigating, look for the product online, get their research, get connected with it. Maybe even discover the whole category for the first time online. So we're in the midst of a pretty fundamental change within, and many companies are going through, but within our organization, to shift our marketing focus from being just focused on driving product and market the information through our channels to actually trying to connect with our consumers directly in a digital fashion. And then, by doing that, we can educate them about the category, we can educate them about the product line, we can educate them about our brand. And then let them choose how and where they want to buy it.
Our goal is not to say hey, come and buy from us directly. Our goal is to say, if you're looking for back to school products, we've got a good story to tell you. And when you go into Staples or Office Depot or Walmart, or you go online to any of those places or Amazon [inaudible 00:18:22] anyplace else and you see our products on the shelf, you will have already experienced them online. Or buy them online, you'll certainly be able to do that either from us or through one of our retail partners.
Social has a huge part to play in that. Not just from an advertising perspective, where we want to be able to tell the relevant message to the right audience, which social certainly allows you to do, we want to be able to engage with those people. Have discussions with them. Why do you like the product, how do you use the product? We're starting to see that social really expands far beyond what most people look as the traditional social channels of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. If you go to something like Reddit and just search whiteboards, you'll get a list of just a ton of images of all the people and all the creative stuff they do on whiteboards. That's a place that we should be participating as a category leader there and communicating with those people and getting their feedback on where we should go and providing them ideas. And just learning about how people engage with our products every day.
We have product reviews that come in through our different reviewing platforms. That's another part of social. Because those people providing us one to one feedback about how they're experiencing our products, and then we have the opportunity to respond to them. And that's something that we just haven't done enough of, and that's one of the things that we're trying to do, is that one to one consumer engagement that provides not only a brand loyalty but provides us information and steers how we might market the product, how other products might build in the future.
Adam Brown:Ted, I love that strategy of using social because in many instances you have products that people, unlike other consumables, aren't buying every day or every week. In some cases, they're buying them every month. And as you said, as you transition from ... whether it's a back to school or September/October, going through your bookstore or going through your office supply store and looking at the calendars, you don't really realize the choices until you see them there on the wall when you're pushing down. That's a little bit more difficult when you go to Amazon or maybe you go to Walmart. As good as the online merchandising is, it's still not as good as actually seeing it in the flesh. Especially for a product like yours that you've go to touch and feel.
It's interesting, I think, also in understanding that you're really wanting customers to purchase through the channels and the outlets that they purchased through in the past. I know you have a couple of your own websites where you are doing commerce. How do you balance that with actually doing the transactions with your retailers?
Ted Fay:Actually, today it's pretty simple. I think a few years ago we would have experienced a certain amount of ... I'm on the East Coast, so I'll say [inaudible 00:21:07] over from our channels if we started to bring more traffic into our websites and present more of our products digitally to our consumers.
But what the smart channels, and really all the channels are starting to realize this, is that the channel has to offer their value. And [inaudible 00:21:25] already do. When they're coming to us, they're coming to us to get that manufacturer level of information, to really understand how the manufacturer positions it. But if they're a member of an online buying club, if they are going to buy a suite of products, some of them not terribly aligned with us, if they're looking for same day delivery, a provider that has same day delivery, that's not where we stick from a fulfillment perspective. Nor is it our objective. Our objective is to make sure that they understand our product and can do it, and then let them fulfill the channel of their choice.
So if you look at an Amazon Prime member that gets two, three, four, five boxes a week from Amazon Prime. If they're coming to our website, they're coming there for research, not to purchase. But then they go to Amazon, look it up, purchase it. If they're a Target shopper and they're on our website, they're gonna look at it and get all the information, but in the back of their head, they're gonna say you know, I think they have that in the stationary aisle in Target. The next time I'm in, I'm gonna pick that up. And then they're gonna do that, and that's a perfect experience for us. That's a great retail plus online experience that we know happens. We know people go to our retailer sites, look at the product, pick it up, search it online, come back to our manufacture site, do the research there, go back to the retailer site and fulfill it. That's great. We want to set up our digital presence to be that opportunity to communicate with that customer.
And some of that research just doesn't happen on our website. This show is about social, it's also about what they see in the social suite. What they're seeing in the neutral places out there to get the feedback from people to understand how the products work.
Adam Brown:I think there are so many things that you just said that I want to unpack. I think there were some really good nuggets of wisdom there.
Retailers right now are dealing with the challenge of show rooming, where people will walk into Best Buy, see the product, pull out their iPhone, and then actually buy the product on Amazon or another online retailer, as they sit there in the store. And in your case, you're kind of celebrating that. You're saying, listen, we want people to come to our site and look at our product and then buy it online. In those types of situations, I'm guessing that ROI is a trickier thing to measure. And one of the things that you shared with us before the show is how you see ROI being really important, but it's not just return on investment, it's also return on influence. And I really like that concept, and I'm curious if you could share how you see return on influence and it relates to digital and social marketing.
Ted Fay:So I think at the basic ROI level [inaudible 00:24:04] to the influence side, there is a component of our direct marketing where we do expect a certain return on transactions on our site. But the goal there is we want growth. Growth with engagement, growth of consumers staying on our site, staying on our social platforms, sharing thoughts, commenting back to us. We know we will be able to measure that back with in store sales and product sales throughout our eCommerce experience. And what we're hoping to do as we start to roll out our new social strategies is [inaudible 00:24:39] to pick kind of unique products or unique categories that we can measure against.
We have a really neat new product that we sell that's a small little whiteboard that fits underneath your computer monitor. It's kind of a little note taking device/pen storage/place to put the sticky notes so you don't get your monitor all filled with them. And it really fits today's technical environment and the ability to just kind of quickly remind yourself of things. And it's a product that we just introduced, so we know that if we can get that out in the social sphere, that people will pick up and start talking about it, we'll be able to watch not only the sales that come back to us directly, but also start to see demand for it in some of our other channels. That's one that we can track. It's certainly hard to track the impact of social against a brand like DAY-TIMER sales. We're selling millions of planners and millions of [inaudible 00:25:36] planners over the year. It's hard to say that social's gonna impact that one way or the other. It's an important part of it. There are so many other factors there. Those would be harder to measure.
Jay Baer:Ted, when you jump into social for these brands and start to execute on this ROI strategy, how do you staff for that? Do you think, all right, we need to have somebody in social who's doing content, somebody else who's doing engagement, or do you do it by channel? Somebody's gotta sort of monitor Reddit and Twitter. Do you do it by brand? How do you think about sort of the org chart for social and how it fits into digital when you're kind of starting from scratch for all intents and purposes as you are today?
Ted Fay:Sure. We're approaching it from a restructure of our entire marketing organization. What we did is we built a new structure that kind of starts with the product teams. They're responsible primarily for their product lines, their brands, the brand story, who we're targeting. They know who should buy this product, how it should be used, all of that.
And then at the other side of the equation, delivery to the customer side, we've got our channel marketing and our direct eCommerce teams who are responsible for ensuring product gets sold. We see the responsibility in the middle to be a digital marketing team. So we're starting it, going through a crawl-walk-run approach. What we're starting with is digital marketing managers who are, by necessity, good jack of all trades people. But there'll be a digital marketing person per brand, and their responsibility is to take that brand story that needs to be told and that product story, create a content calendar that needs to be told, and then determine the platform to tell of it.
I don't see social as a channel unto itself. I see the content of the story you need to tell as the one that needs to be articulated and laid out. And then determine great, what is the channel you're gonna use to communicate that story? Does it need to go out on your website, does it need to go out on third party blogs, do you need to get it out in public relations, do you need to get it out in social? Often it's a mix of all of those.
So we're starting out with a digital marketing person, and they're gonna be focused either per category or per brand. And that's our starting point. That's what we've got today. I certainly see it scaling up and probably twisting on its head over the next 12-18 months where we'll look to add more people responsible for day to day social management. But they should still fit within that brand because I find it hard, when you get a dedicated social person trying to serve multiple categories and multiple brands, being able to maintain a voice and an expertise and a responsiveness necessary to talk to someone who's buying a paper planner who's really concerned about the quality of the paper all the way to someone who's buying an insulated backpack for school. The stories, the needs, the audience you're talking to are just all very different. [inaudible 00:28:41] hard for employee to make that shift. So we'll try to keep that whole thing in a category or a brand group to focus on.
Adam Brown:In social and telling more of these stories across brands in multiple social channels, does that require even more cooperation with your retail partners? I mean, are you having to say, here's what we're planning in Facebook and here's what Staples is planning in Facebook and do some of that kind of co-op social programs, and does that add another layer of integration and complexity that perhaps you didn't have to deal with before you dove into social?
Ted Fay:So at this point in time, we don't see a ton of need, at this point in time, for coordination. Because often there are channel partner communications are more broad-based. They're talking about the season. Come back to back to school season, talking about come back to ... it's time to buy office supplies in the spring, which is a big time. Late winter, early spring. [inaudible 00:29:41] office supplies. It's time to buy your calendars at the end of the year.
Our channel partners don't often get it into social media programs about particular brands with very specific categories. But they will look to us if we start providing this high level content. They will certainly look to us to be able to share it back with them. And we would love to. This isn't a jealous thing. We think that if we can drive our categories well, and drive growth with our channel partners, it's a win-win situation for everybody.
Adam Brown:Ted, I know you also as VP of digital marketing lead direct marketing there at ACCO Brands. And I'm curious how direct marketing, in your opinion, is evolving and changing with all the attention that social has gotten over the past years. Are you able to see any alignment of the two, whether it's using social kind of as listing insights for direct marketing or trying to do more direct marketing via social with notifications and alerts.
Ted Fay:Great question. Yes, we have a very robust direct marketing program that's been built over the years. It's often been focused on some brands that historically grew up in the direct marketing category, which [inaudible 00:30:50] DAY-TIMER earlier. It started really as a direct marketing catalog we used to brand. And it's a solid program. And it's an interesting one because it's one that has some tenets of an old process that you'd think wouldn't work very well. For instance, direct mail is still a very big part of that because consumers respond to that. Some of them are [inaudible 00:31:15] to it. But it just works. It works really well when you can send someone a notice to let them know, in the mail, that it's time to order your calendar, next year's are available. They just react to it differently than they would to an email. It's nice to see that that's still a strong part of it.
On the flip side, social's a real important part of it because there are consumers that we can't reach or don't want to be reached through direct mail. So we use social as a way to not only advertise products, but also to reach out to those customers who we can't reach or don't prefer to receive messages through other channels, to connect with them. And we do use them for feedback on our direct, to consumer fulfillment process. They provide reviews or they provide feedback in social channels. And that goes right back into our operations team and our product development team to update our process to understand here's how we can do things better.
We are not yet at a stage where social is driving a lot of organic growth for our direct marketing programs, but that's something we are hoping to obtain in the coming months.
Jay Baer:I know one social channel that I would think would be important in your space that we haven't talked a little bit about is Pinterest. And when you think about how people used and visualized content, and again Pinterest being about organization, probably, behooves the planner or the organizer who's probably a big consumer of your brand. Any thoughts on Pinterest, and is that fitting in to your overall social strategy?
Ted Fay:We're really excited about Pinterest. We've got a lot of plans this year and programs that we've already kicked off for this year and we're really excited about what Pinterest holds for the future for us. There's a large component of our products that are sold with very much of a fashion type eye. People are buying some of our products as accessories. How it looks on their desk, how it looks in their hands, how it looks when they sit in front of someone and open it up. Or they just like a fun-looking cover to their notebook or their planner.
Jay Baer:Or their stapler.
Ted Fay:Or their stapler. That's true, that's true. Our gold stapler was a very popular item for quite some time. So we see pictures and the visual opportunity to just quickly get people to understand how that product fits in the context of a broader fashion appeal. Very important part.
It's also a great medium for some of our audiences. Teachers are a really important audience for us at ACCO. If you think about if you have a kid or if you've been a kid and you sit there in the classroom and the teacher has a planner and a desk calendar and there's a wall calendar, a Swingline cutter, a Swingline stapler in the back of the room. There might be a shredder. There's Quartet whiteboard, maybe a GVC laminator in the corner, a GVC document camera. That's [inaudible 00:34:19] talk to, when teachers go to Pinterest to share ideas, to look about new ways to decorate their classroom, to understand how other teachers are using some of these tools. So we just launched a new series of products we call interactive notebooks, and that we're launching with a heavy focus on Pinterest so we can connect with the teachers, so the teachers can see how to use and recommend to their parents to buy that interactive notebook. And the parents go to the channel to buy it.
That's one of these kind of perfect [inaudible 00:34:50] stories of our direct marketing efforts through social media. We [inaudible 00:34:56] to the teachers so they can recommend the product to the parents, parents can go to the retail store to purchase it, and it all started with a social connection that we did directly, and it wasn't even to the end user. So it's a very interesting model to try and build.
Adam Brown:Yeah, that is an interesting model. It reminds me of some of the discussions at least I've had, as a sales force person with some of our customers. I think of one of the world's largest toy manufacturers and how they're recognizing that a customer who might buy some of their preschool toys will very soon be a kindergartner and then an elementary school and then a pre-teen and a teen and so forth. And they're looking for ways to share data between those different silos.
Ted, one of the things you mentioned before was before becoming VP of digital marketing for ACCO Brands, you started with the DAY-TIMER brand itself. And I'm curious how you got to your role today and kind of what were those key steps that got you to an executive level position there at ACCO.
Ted Fay:So I joined ACCO just a couple years ago. I joined ACCO to really head up the digital marketing efforts for the direct organization. What the focus there was was to ensure that what we sold directly through our digital platforms was connecting in the right fashion, had the right business process around it. And really kind of forward-looking view. And what we're kind of led to with the role today was really working across the entire organization as opposed to working in this silo of the direct sales organization. Reaching across the aisle, working across the organization to say hey, this is a lot bigger than us trying to sell more products directly. We need to find ways to go out and communicate with the customers directly. And started telling this story that we talked about earlier in the discussion, that we need to connect with our consumers directly. Tell them the right story about the products and let them choose where they want to buy. It's not our desire or our opportunity or our right to tell the customer where to buy the product, but we should certainly be advertising our product more effectively.
That was realizing [inaudible 00:37:03] organization something we need to do. And it was also, we were trying to address the problem of having multiple web properties and multiple marketing efforts, whether it was direct marketing effort, it was the brand marketing effort, and sometimes the channel marketing effort. They weren't terribly well coordinated, so now we were gonna bring those all together, coordinate them in one fashion.
Jay Baer:Before all of that, Ted Fay, VP digital marketing ACCO Brands, you were a fencer at the University of Notre Dame. So I want to hear about your fencing career and whether you feel your background as a swordsman has assisted you in the rough and tumble world of digital marketing and now social media.
Ted Fay:That was a long time ago, but yeah, it did. It really did. Everyone takes different experiences out of their collegiate experience, and I learned more in the time I spent in the gym, time I spent fencing, than probably any of the classes I took while I was at school. I had the unique opportunity to fence on a team that was national championship, I also fenced a number of times in the national championships.
Jay Baer:Hey, well done, Ted! Hey Adam, if we ever get in some sort of a fight with Ted Fay, make sure that there's no swords or rapiers or whatever around.
Adam Brown:Yeah. Nothing sharp.
Ted Fay:That's right, keep the letter openers away.
But the neat opportunity there was really this combination of ... fencing is one of those sports that's this combination of clearly individual focus. You have to be training yourself and you're out there on your own. Your efforts are win loss, what you're doing on the strip at that moment. And yet, the work you're doing ladders up to all the points that the team is trying to earn. So you could be the champion of the day and still have your team lose. Go completely undefeated all day and your team finishes in last place. And so it's this combination of individual efforts that wind up stacking up to team results. And it was a lesson that was learned well, that I can do well on my own, but unless I have help with everybody else around me raise their game, become better at what they're doing, my success isn't gonna go anywhere. That lesson has served me very well throughout my corporate [crosstalk 00:39:28]
Jay Baer:I love that. That's super great. Thank you so much for sharing that, Ted, and congratulations on the success with the pointy object. That's pretty special. I think that's the first semi-professional national champion fencer we've had on the show, and we've had 325 episodes or something, Adam, so that's a long list.
Adam Brown:Statistically it was bound to happen [crosstalk 00:39:49]
Jay Baer:We've had Nick Cicero on the show who was like a famous trumpeter before he invented Snapchat analytics company, so we've had some unusual backstories, but this is our first fencer that we know of. We don't know everybody's-
Adam Brown:That's true.
Ted Fay:That's true, that's true.
Jay Baer:Ted, I'm gonna ask you the two questions that we've asked every single guest here on the Social Pros Podcast across our eight years in business and counting. Before I do that real quick, I just want to remind our guests of that message that I told you in the introduction, that if you go to,, use the code SOCIALPROS, you'll get 20% off ACCO Brands products, courtesy of Ted and his team. Thank you, Ted, that's very kind of you. Adam is already rushing to to fulfill his DAY-TIMER needs.
Adam Brown:I'm sorry, I was distracted there. Did you say something?
Jay Baer:I'm gonna buy so many staplers and give away as holiday gifts.
Adam Brown:Trapper Keepers for me.
Jay Baer:Trapper Keepers. Replace your Chewbacca Trapper Keeper., use the code SOCIALPROS, get 20% off.
Okay, Ted. First question. What one tip would you give somebody who's looking to become a social pro?
Ted Fay:Become fluent in analytics.
Jay Baer:Oh, yes. I'm slow clapping, Ted, right now, with my microphone muted. Because you are exactly right. We had Chuck Hemann on the show a couple weeks ago, Adam, who wrote the new edition of the book Digital Marketing Analytics-
Adam Brown:Volume two, yeah.
Jay Baer:And boy, we had a great conversation about stats with Chuck. And I think he and Ted would get along famously.
Couldn't agree more. It's all about the math, and if it's not today, it will be soon. Ted, last question for you. If you could do a video call with any living person, who would it be? And I'm hoping for a famous [crosstalk 00:41:33]
Ted Fay:Barack Obama.
Jay Baer:Oh, Barack Obama. I was hoping for a famous fencer reference there, but unfortunately, none was forthcoming. I guess Barack Obama is a famous fencer in a number of ways.
Ted Fay:In a turn of phrase, yeah.
Jay Baer:Yeah, depending on how you interpret that. So your selection is Barack Obama. Why, Ted?
Ted Fay:I want to learn what he thinks of the world today.
Jay Baer:What he thinks of the world. And you are in suburban Chicago, of course former President Obama also a noteworthy Chicagoan. So you have that in common as well. That would be great.
One of these days, we had a few people mention President Obama to that question here on Social Pros, and one of these days, Adam Brown.
Adam Brown:He's one of the more popular, I would say, responses to your question.
Jay Baer:Top two or three, for sure. Oprah we get, and Eli Musk, and Richard Branson. I'd say those four would be the four that we get most often.
Ted Fay:Two Chicagoans out of four.
Jay Baer:Yeah. The best chance I think we're gonna have to get Barack Obama on Social Pros is when and if your boss, Mark Beniof, books President Obama to key note Dream Force one fall, and then you can weasel in there and get him on the show.
Adam Brown:I will do my best.
Jay Baer:Yes.
Adam Brown:We had Michelle Obama at Dream Force last year.
Jay Baer:I know. We were so close. We were that far away from getting.
Ted, thank you so much for being on the podcast. Thank you for taking the time and for sharing your wisdom with your listeners. Love what you're doing at ACCO Brands. Really fascinating story. We're all going to be watching to see how you spin up this new social program and tell the stories of your long-standing brand across the social universe and beyond. Thanks again.
Ted Fay:You're welcome, guys. Take care and have a great day.
Jay Baer:You bet.
Five, four, three. Hey everybody, it's Jay Baer from Convince and Convert, and this week on the Social Pros Podcast, Adam Brown from Sales Force and I talk to Ted Fay, who's the vice president of digital marketing from ACCO Brands. What's ACCO Brands? They make everything on your desk that doesn't plug in. They make Swingline staplers, they make DAY-TIMER, they make Trapper Keeper, they make whiteboards. They make paperclips. Here's the crazy thing, though. Until now, have never been in social. None of their brands have never been in social. How does a huge global company start a social media program from scratch in 2018? That's what you'll learn on this week's episode of the Social Pros Podcast.
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