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?

Women In Packaging – A Deep Dive Conversation With Alexis Chase

In October of 2019, Chase & Associates’ long-time business consultant, Bob Olmstead, sat down with Alexis Chase to talk about life, business, and women in packaging. The result was a deep dive conversation filled with authoritative insights and wisdom. 

Enjoy! 


BOB: When did you decide to jump into the family business? What were the moments that drove that decision? 

ALEXIS: I graduated from Barnard College, Columbia University, in New York City in June of 2001. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I moved back to California. As an Art History major, I was interested in gallery or museum work. 

I spent the summer working, and lo and behold, 9/11 struck. I think after 9/11, companies and the economy, in general, just went into a state of shock and were not necessarily hiring college grads.

I had always done summer work for my father’s company, whether it was bookkeeping or filing, office type of work. At the time, he needed some extra support answering phones, so I started working for him a couple of times a week, which led to me getting more responsibility.

As I started to have conversations with real people about their lives and their careers, executive recruiting became more interesting to me as a career path. I remember having a conversation with Michael (brother) about it, and basically, we simultaneously got into recruiting together. 

BOB: And how long ago was that?

ALEXIS: 2001. I was doing online research, cold calling to get names of candidates to different places, which eventually meant taking over a desk as a Project Manager.

BOB: Tell me about the dynamic back then. You start out as a project manager. Michael is a recruiter. Are either of you thinking in terms of ownership at this point or are you just trying to learn the industry and your job? 

ALEXIS: No, I was far from that. And Michael was not working in California. Neil, our father, had just had a liver transplant in 2000 in Florida and was not as active in the business for a good five years or so. 

BOB: I’ve known you and Michael for more than a few years, and I had no idea that you got a degree in Art History! And I had no idea that 9/11 and your father’s liver transplant informed your decision to jump into recruiting. I’ve learned a lot in seven minutes flat! 

And so, you spent, if I remember correctly, you spent five years in research and as a project manager?

ALEXIS: Yes, that’s about right. I had a lot of fears around getting on the phone and interviewing people. I was still learning the industry and the vernacular. It was tricky, but then, over time, I built my confidence and could have conversations with people that were very different from me. 

I didn’t have kids at the time. I wasn’t into sports. I didn’t play golf or watch football. I had to really figure out ways to draw some connections to them. I was like, “What do I talk to these people about?” So I had to find my way into that. 

And this is long before LinkedIn was created. I was doing a lot of cold calling. It was the old-fashioned way (now) of doing it, but that’s what I would spend my days doing. 

I was finding people that were getting placed, the reward of that success, how that makes you feel when you do something well, it remains very rewarding.

BOB: Did that surprise you? I mean, you were an Art History grad!

ALEXIS: It did because I never grew up having an interest in my father’s business.

BOB: It’s very interesting to me that you went from New York City art to recruiting and packaging. That’s like Banksy joining an accounting firm! 

How would you say that that time as a project manager prepared you to be a more effective recruiter? 

ALEXIS: I was exploring going to graduate school and thinking about either going to a bigger recruiting firm or trying something different, so I put an exit strategy together for myself. But ultimately, I decided to embrace it instead of resisting it. As a result, I started focusing less on my project management and more on developing myself as a recruiter.

BOB: How did all that eventually pivot to you and Michael taking over as owners? How did all of that come to come about? 

ALEXIS: It was just time for a lot of reasons. Neil (father) was moving towards retirement, and we were taking over and running the whole operation for the most part. And then, we started working with you (Bob), and we began to formalize the transition. 
I was about 32, still pretty young in my career, I was just beginning to get some successes under my belt as a recruiter. I was pregnant with my first child, so it was a lot at once.

BOB: I guess so!

ALEXIS: For me to figure out what my role was gonna be in all these different phases of my life was interesting. I think we coasted for a little while, and then we started working with you to get more of a handle of how to make this less of a mom and pop kind of operation, to professionalize ourselves, the company, and the brand.

BOB: But what I love is that through your story, I see a very resolved Alexis Chase that way back when had a lot of business savvy. I suspect far more so than you realized. And you were willing to double down on that path, sight unseen! Impressive. Few would be willing to take those risks. 


Alexis Chase & Michael Chase / Sister & Brother / Business Partners

BOB: What motivates you to be a strong recruiter? 

ALEXIS: My clients and my reputation.

BOB: What motivates you to be a strong business owner? 

ALEXIS: Stability in that, the more secure and well-run and functioning my company is, the more stable the company is, the more stable I am. I suspect the same is true with our team. People need stability. 

BOB: What would you say is your superpower?

ALEXIS: I think I have the ability to make people feel special.

BOB: Nice! Tell me more.

ALEXIS: I can be a chameleon. I can always find something to talk about with someone. I can always find a way to relate to them in a way that I think helps them relate to me. 

In my friendships, I put a lot of time into remembering things, remembering occasions, making people feel special when they need to be, being there when they need me. And I think from a work standpoint too, I try and do the same thing. It’s just who I am.

BOB: So let’s talk about women in packaging. Tell us how Cocktails & Conversations came to be. What’s the back story? 

ALEXIS: I was raised by a very strong, professional, highly educated mother. My sister is also a high-achieving, graduate schools, and career-focused person. I have a lot of really good women friends, like a lot, and I invest a lot of myself in those friendships.

I think to measure what I go through on a day-to-day basis as a mother, as an owner, as a woman in a professional world, as a partner in a relationship, there are aspects to those experiences that only other women understand. 

I’ve also gotten to a maturity level where I can really identify with the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated industry. It’s very clear to me now. Whereas when I was younger, I was just trying to fit into the industry. It’s not always easy to be the minority in an industry or setting.

BOB: I hear a couple of themes like community, empowerment, mentoring. How did this go from an idea to an event? 

ALEXIS: I’ve tasked myself with building a network of friendships with other women in the industry so that when I am out there in the world, I’ve got friendly faces that I can call upon for support. And I think there is a lot of value to connecting with women that understand the industry.  

When I was invited to a happy hour last year with women in the industry, some of which I had placed, it felt very like getting together with friends as opposed to colleagues. There was something very comforting about it. And it was women of all ages and all levels in their careers. 

I thought to myself, “Why haven’t I been utilizing my ability to bring people together?” which is what I do in my personal life. In some cases, a woman might be the only female salesperson in the whole company. Sometimes, you don’t feel like being one of the guys! 

Creating an opportunity for more women to get to know each other and connect, build friendships that create support instead of feeling isolated, is very attractive to me. 

BOB: This is a great story, very inspiring. 

ALEXIS: There’s women in positions of power in the industry, but there’s no company where women are the majority, you know? So you might not be able to find it at your own company.

It’s not about getting to know someone so one day I can place her, I want to get to know these women because I want to be able to pick up the phone and to give and get counsel. It’s like, “I have two kids and work full time; how do you do it?” I think these common threads of connection could really make a difference in our industry.” 

Alexis Chase, Managing Partner

BOB: So you had your first Cocktails & Conversations event at PackExpo, what’s next? 

ALEXIS: I’m in research mode. There’s other events for women that I have not participated in that I want to explore. A part of me is really curious about what’s out there right now for women in the industry. There’s a conference in Nashville in November called Women Breaking the Mold in Plastics that I want to check out, for example. 

I’m curious as to what already exists for women; then I’ll either identify where I could offer additional resources or options. The last thing I want to do is create something that creates competition with another female-driven organization. I’m in fact-finding mode. 

BOB: You spotted a real need, right? And then you got to work to fill that need. I think you’re in it for the right reasons. I love where all this could go for you, the industry. What were your big takeaways from your first happy hour event? 

ALEXIS: Women feel pulled in lots of different directions. Women that weren’t there wanted to be there but couldn’t! I experience this every day on some level. What should I be doing? I have a lot of options on how to spend my time doing. Professionally, it’s a similar type of thing, too. 

I think another big takeaway was young women are coming into this industry. Probably 25% of the participants were women under 30. They’re looking for mentors. They’re looking for stories of how women have succeeded in this industry. But it’s harder for senior-level people to show up to these events. 

We need to show up for the next generation. We need to invest in the future of our industry. Understanding women, their journey, their stories, and challenges, is critical to our success as a sector. Not doing so puts our industry at risk.  

Creating connections that give women support, I want to help people and businesses prioritize that, because it’s important. 

BOB: What do you see as the big opportunities for women in packaging? 

ALEXIS: I think that companies want to hire more women and want to find more women that are promotable. I think they’re recognizing that their customers are more diverse than they used to be when it comes to age, ethnicity, and gender. 

If you’re not connecting with your customers the same way, because your customers are changing, something needs to change. I think packaging companies know they need a more diverse workforce.

BOB: If your daughter were to build a career in the packaging industry, what advice would you give her? 


ALEXIS: I would tell her to find a company that has women in leadership roles already, not a company that’s trying to change that necessarily, but a company that’s already successfully diverse.

BOB: Why would you give that specific advice?

ALEXIS: Because I think it’s a very hard ceiling to break through in this industry. I believe that men in leadership positions, in some cases, just are not there yet. 

BOB: Sounds like you want her to stack the deck. If you’re going to go into this industry stack the deck in your favor, and the way you do that is by shopping company culture.

ALEXIS: Yeah, be strategic about it. Find a company that supports women that understands women, and therefore will support your career. If you (her daughter) decide to have a family and children, plug into a company that understands what that takes. Find the culture that will not hold having kids against you, and that will help you succeed.

BOB: I want you to remove yourself from packaging for a moment and pretend that you got invited to speak at a women’s only entrepreneurial conference. Let’s say, 200-300 female entrepreneurs in the audience, all different ages. What advice would you give a woman attempting to start her own business? 


ALEXIS: I think some women can be self-critical and doubt themselves a lot. I think that’s not productive. Nobody’s perfect. And we’re all hard on ourselves, but don’t let that get you stuck or get into your mind too much. You’re not going to be perfect at all of it, focus on what you do really well. Make it the thing that people remember.


BOB: Thanks for hanging out with me today. Even though I’ve been working with you for almost a decade, I learned a ton about your life and beliefs. You have a great deal of wisdom to share. 

ALEXIS: I think it’s always fun to tell my own story. I do talk about some things like this with friends, and they ask me about my work or my past and I get into it. I think they’re always surprised to hear a little bit about my perspective on my journey. 


What does this have to do with executive recruiting? EVERYTHING! The owners of Chase & Associates bring a great deal more to the table than their exceptional recruiting skills. You cannot recruit visionary leaders without being a visionary leader. 

Chase & Associates 
We Have Your Back


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
We Have Your Back


Our Best Career Advice In (2) Words

While the grass may be greener, that’s rarely the point. Brokering the win-win is what we do best but that just opens the door. Building a highly successful career in packaging requires taking risks.

Who knows what the future holds? There are no crystal balls. Even the best job offer and compensation package may fall short. None of that matters if you’re not the captain of your own ship.

“We must all learn not only to not fear change, but to embrace it enthusiastically and, perhaps even more important, encourage and drive it.” – Tony Hsieh / Founder & CEO Of Zappos, Author of “Delivering Happiness.”

Are you intellectually curious? How do you handle professional roadblocks? Are you doing your job or are you proactively building a career? Where there is no risk, there is no reward. Sure, we’ve all heard that saying, but few of us live it.

Take risks.

Talent, Tenacity, & Taking Risks

“… it boils down to the fact that as human beings, we are wired to resist giving up the known for the unknown.” – The Harvard Business Review article, Not Taking Risks Is the Riskiest Career Move of All.

When approached with a job offer, the tendency is to focus on the “package” versus the opportunity. It’s an important distinction. What to do if your best career move requires a weaker overall package? Temporary pain for long-term growth.  

“If you really want to get ahead, you have to sit in as many spots as possible and find your expertise,” he says. “It doesn’t matter whether you start out as a recruiter or a generalist, you can learn from any position.”  Steve Cadigan, former VP Of Talent – LinkedIn.

The quote is found in Career Counselor Arlene Hirsch’s article, “How To Grow Your Career By Embracing Risk”, a helpful blog post on what you’ll need to take big risks. But risk taking does not operate in a vacuum.

Highly successful packaging executives have (3) things in common:

TALENT / Risk without talent is like a ship without a rudder. A deep and unyielding passion for performing fuels risk-taking. It’s the never-ending quest to be the best version of yourself. The result is a reputation. Your personal brand becomes that of a risk-taking rainmaker that gets results.

TENACITY / People that take risks fail more often than mere mortals. Some use failure as an influential teacher and others avoid it like the plague. Risk takers are failure friendly. They have the metal to play the long game. When the hurricane of change hits, they bring calm to the storm.

TAKING RISKS / Informed risk-taking is rooted in talent and sustained by tenacity — the three-act as one. Rainmaking risk takers see opportunity where mortals see risk. When they speak, people listen. And while such notoriety may seem impossible, the path begins with two words – take risks.

The Packaging Company Rainmaker

“Taking risks may seem scary, but risk is the moat standing between you and true success” – Sam McRoberts, Author &  CEO Of Vudu Marketing

Rainmakers are people that make stuff happen at a very high level. Your top sales associate, the Zen-like plant manager, your VP of Operations that is taking the world by storm; all are rainmakers. As noted earlier, rainmakers are known for their talent, tenacity, and their willingness to take risks.

In Sam McRoberts article titled, “Here’s What Science Says You Should Do to Achieve Greater Success”, he explores the relationship between taking risks and being a peak performer. It’s a brief but powerful blog post.

“Accordingly, you can make yourself more comfortable with taking risks simply by taking more risks — even if they’re small ones — in your daily life.” At the end of his guest post, he quotes Jack Canfield, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”

The Hollywood version of being is risk-taker is all about bravado, the big heroic moment. In the real world, being a risk-taker is far more about pushing past your comfort zones, than it is about heroism.

Want to become a rainmaker? Take risks. Fail. Succeed. Grow.


What does this have to do with executive recruiting? EVERYTHING! How can we find the Rainmakers Of Packaging unless we know what they look like? Talent. Tenacity. The willingness to take risks. When you’re looking for a rainmaker, call Chase.  

Chase & Associates – We Have Your Back

The Circular Plastics Economy: Innovators & Disruptors Needed!

The packaging manufacturing sector continues to attract private equity as a dependable growth investment. Packaging has long been a steady ship in the roughest of seas. But is that about to change? Is the flagship of ROI slowly taking on water? A storm of a different type grows in strength and momentum.

When visiting the “A Plastic Planet” website, you are greeted with this message:

WE ARE ALL PLASTIC ADDICTS.

OUR SIMPLE GOAL IS TO IGNITE AND INSPIRE

THE WORLD TO TURN OFF THE PLASTIC TAP.

The World Economic Forum put it best in one of their articles when they wrote, “Humanity’s relationship with plastic is rather schizophrenic.” And while they advocate for balanced solutions, it’s impossible to ignore their line, “There will be more plastic than fish in the ocean in 30 years, scientists estimate.” That kind of statistic embeds into a consumer’s brain.

Ok, fine, not good news, but there has been a tidal wave of reform and change in the industry. I mean, right? In 2018, The Economist published an article titled, “Only 9% Of The World’s Plastic Is Recycled.” And let’s not forget the legislation angle.

In May of 2019, California passed a law that requires a 75% reduction in single-use plastics by 2030. The Canadian government announced that it would ban single-use plastics as early as 2021. It’s enough to want to take up residence in your Happy Place permanently.

The good news is, as the pressure intensifies, so does the drive for innovative leadership and solutions.

TheCircular Plastics Economy Outside-The-Box

In last month’s blog post “(15) Clicks To Legendary Leadership In Packaging,” we dedicated an entire section to developing your innovation skills. One of the lines from that post says it all, “If you’re not pushing the envelope, the envelope won’t open.” Let’s take a closer look at the circular economy outside-the-box.

In Thinkstep’s post about sustainable packaging trends (which includes three videos), they tackle the many complexities to creating a circular economy. While their post is EU centric, it’s an influential read for any organization serious about sustainability.

The challenges are many. Will your packaging brand respond to the top (3) trends or just one? An effective strategy requires fully understanding the landscape.

At the bottom of the Thinkstep piece they write, “How can you, as a manufacturer, go against regulatory pressure and potentially risk push-back from customers, to carry out the more sustainable option?.” It’s an interesting question.

ReNew ELP, the winner of the FlexPack Recovery Challenge, offers up a hopeful headline on the homepage of their website; “Unlocking The Value Of Plastic Waste.” It’s a simple statement that gets to the heart of innovative thinking. The solution is found by seeing challenges as opportunities.

In his interview upon winning the challenge, Richard Daley, Managing Director of Renew ELP, mentioned a collaboration to help the country of Timor-Leste. He stated, “This (referring to their technology) represents a significant opportunity to provide real environmental and societal benefit to Timor.” Credible technology + credible impact = results.

In her article for Packaging DigestTristanne Davis states, “In the midst of this quickly evolving and increasingly multifaceted conversation on packaging sustainability, many companies are still struggling with the basics.” When our brains and brands struggle with information overload, an overwhelming sense of impossibility kicks in. Rising above the overwhelm is central to taking effective action.

Success on complex issues never happens in a vacuum

In the decades to come, packaging brands large and small will be running two brands, not one. There will be the brand that packages, and there will be the brand that provides the kind of “real environmental and societal benefit” that Richard Daly mentioned.

To accomplish this, to play at the top of your game, join coalitions, connect with influencers, engage in the solution. Grow your sustainability tribe to effectively author strategies that deliver tangible results. Develop the key relationships that will ensure you have a seat at the table.

A strong brand position requires a strong sustainability position.


What does this have to do with executive recruiting? EVERYTHING! How can we find the innovative leaders in the area of sustainability unless we know what they look like? And it speaks to our own values of always thinking outside-the-box.

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(15) Clicks To Legendary Leadership In Packaging

The wake-up call shatters the darkness of your hotel room. Stumbling around the phone several times, your hand finally grabs the handset. An automated voice wishes you a good morning. For some reason, you respond. The robot says nothing in return. The glamour they don’t talk about in business school.

“Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” Golda Meir, former Prime Minister Of Israel

Surrounding you are some of the most capable minds in sustainable packaging. It’s a small group, just ten, but you trust their counsel. You recently landed a large international client that wants to decrease their carbon footprint. A lot is riding on this account, but for you, it’s business as usual.

“Leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work.” Seth Godin, Entrepreneur and Author of (18) best selling books.

Senior executives in the packaging industry have to spin a lot of plates. Legendary leadership? If only you could find the time! We jest, of course. In truth, you’re probably a voracious lifetime learner. But time poverty is real. It’s a thing. And it’s a thing that can get in the way of your growth.

Not to worry, Chase has you covered. You’re (15) clicks away from taking your leadership to the next level!

Inspired Leadership In Packaging

Our first stop, two blogs that will challenge you to rethink your view of leadership. Our second stop, three posts from a blog that explores how to train and inspire the next generation effectively. Let our journey begin!

What’s Missing In Leadership Development?

McKinsey & Company / Click #1

“But as the pace of change for strategies and business models increases, so does the cost of lagging leadership development. If CEOs and their top teams are serious about long-term performance, they need to commit themselves to the success of corporate leadership-development efforts now.”

We Need More Leaders

Simon Sinek / Click #2

“It is the responsibility of anyone who belongs to the group. Though those with formal rank may have authority to work at greater scale, each of us has a responsibility to keep the Circle of Safety strong. We must all start today to do little things for the good of others … one day at a time.”

In the case of McKinsey, metrics, targeted behaviors, drive their approach to leadership development. Simon Sinek embraces a more Zen “everyone is a leader” approach. Perhaps both points of view offer value? Onward we go!

Information on the Go: Google Glass Can be the Next Big Thing in Education

Technavio / Click #3

“Google Glass offers a world of possibilities when applied in a dynamic platform such as education. This technology simplifies the idea of constant connectivity and the near constant inflow of information can help students learn better and teachers/ tutors teach better.”

Bend the Learning Curve with Corporate Game Based Training

Technavio / Click #4

“As both the affective and cognitive domains of the learners are utilized in this learning process, the trainer can stay assured that what he intends to teach is being effortlessly understood. By cultivating values and internalizing them, what an organization gets is a highly skilled and well-informed workforce.”

Top 3 Trends in Corporate Leadership Training Market

Technavio / Click #5

“The market for corporate leadership training has changed dynamically in recent years, pertaining to the technology used for content creation, delivery procedures, and collaboration amongst trainers and learners. The technical innovations coupled with the digitalization of learning materials has established anew benchmark with regards to leadership development programs.”

Penny for your thoughts! What were your big takeaways from your first (5) clicks? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

“Leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work.” Seth Godin, Entrepreneur and Author of (18) best selling books. Senior executives in the packaging industry have to spin a lot of plates. Legendary leadership? If only you could find the time! We jest, of course. In truth, you’re probably a voracious lifetime learner. But time poverty is real. It’s a thing. And it’s a thing that can get in the way of your growth. Not to worry, Chase has you covered. You’re (15) clicks away from taking your leadership to the next level!

Thought Leadership In Packaging

If you’ve been reading our blog lately, you’ll notice we’ve doubled down on our quest to become thought leaders in the packaging industry. We’re not alone. Many others are doing the same and for a good reason.

Thought leadership is a lot like making a movie. Have you ever seen a movie filled with unrealistic dialog? The key to exceptional thought leadership is also the key to great filmmaking. Show don’t tell.

The key word is “show,” as in, be visual, demonstrate your value as a brand versus selling your value. Your next (5) clicks are industry blogs, each with a distinct personality that showcases their thought leadership.

Chief Packaging Officer

Click #6

When you land on the site, take a close look at their right-hand category navigation. In terms of thought leadership, it’s a sight to behold! Big, bold black letters with lots of white space. Also, note the post counts because how could you not notice the post counts?! This blog screams thought leadership with its robust design and engaging content.

Packaging School

Click #7

Large images. Bold titles against a very minimalist blog scroll. All of their titles spark curiosity. Courses. Certifications. Training. Everything about this site says, “hey, we know stuff.” While their blogs are brief, the content is the hero, a hallmark quality of thought leadership.

Design Packaging

Click #8

As soon as you arrive on this blog, take notice of how the blog looks and feels. Design Packaging’s couture design makes a powerful first impression. In terms of their thought leadership, check out their categories navigation. Almost 20,000views in just one category? That says it all. Show don’t tell.

DIELINE

Click #9

The second you land on this blog, it slaps you across the face and makes one point crystal clear – all the cool stuff is at Dieline. Click on one of their blog posts. I dare you. It’s like Andy Warhol started a packaging blog! They end with a witty but real bio on the blogger. Folks, this is what a home run looks like so take a close look.

Packaging Of The World

Click #10

With all the animation, blinking, a cornucopia of colors, this blog screams CUTTING EDGE – BEYOND RELEVANT – how may we help you? Your brain melts a little. What’s happening? Nervous, you click a link, not exactly sure what might happen. Then, boom, you disappear into the content. Show don’t tell.

Ok, so your brain is still reeling from the inspired leadership section and now this? It’s like packaging Disneyland! We get this is a lot of information, but here’s the deal. It only takes a few ideas to scale your leadership to a whole new level. Quarter for your thoughts? What were your big takeaways from the (5) thought leadership clicks? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Innovative Leadership In Packaging

In case you hadn’t noticed, disruption is a central theme to this blog post. Vanilla is ok, nothing wrong with vanilla. It’s dependable. It’s easy to find. It plays nice with other flavors. And thus all the problems with vanilla.

If you’re not pushing the envelope, the envelope won’t open. If the envelope of all that you and your packaging brand are capable of never opens, what are you leaving on the table? Sometimes, you got to push the envelope.

Focusing on innovative leadership in packaging, your final (5) clicks.

Why Innovative Leaders Aren’t The Same As Great Leaders

FastCompany

Click #11

“Just because you’re full of new ideas doesn’t mean you’re prepared to lead others. An innovative leader’s role is to build a community.Innovation is elusive and full of contradictions. It’s about breaking from convention and going in a new unprecedented direction, but also requires incredible teamwork.”

5 TED Talks for Creating a Culture of Innovation

INNOCENTIVE®

Click #12

“If you’re looking to create a culture of innovation in your organization it can help to look outwards for ideas. Take a step back and avoid a creative block – learn from the mistakes and successes of others and challenge your assumptions. Here, we shortlist five of the best TED talks for creating a culture of innovation.”

Four Packaging Innovations Driven by Consumer Trends

JABIL

Click #13

“Irrelevance is the most dangerous future a business can face. Often the result of unmet consumer demands and ignored trends, it is the death knell of a company. Just ask many of the “leading” companies that have ceased to exist in the last decade. Industry and consumer trends are useless if those findings are not integrated into the business strategy.”

We kicked innovative leadership off with three deep dive clicks, two of them containing strong videos. It’s like a crash on innovation! But what about the packaging angle? Your last (2) clicks!

Drupa Innovation Blog Archive

Drupa

Click #14

Although we featured a blog post specific to packaging, we recommend wandering around their blog a bit. Clicking on the category tag, “innovation” is a great place to start. It’s a good looking blog that offers brief, on point posts about a variety of topics, to include innovation in packaging.

The Pack Hub Innovation Blog Archive

The Pack Hub

Click #15

The posts on this blog are rock solid, strong visuals, and brief. What impressed us most about this blog is how much they pack into, pardon the pun, each post. There is a ton of quality information in each bite sized serving. Same with their Disruptive category. We suggest surfing their site for the topics that matter the most to you and your packaging brand.

Silver dollar for your thoughts? What were your big takeaways from the (5) innovative leadership clicks? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.


Do you know the wake-up call story that kicked off this blog post? The phone ringing in a pitch dark hotel room, followed by the mad scramble to find the phone. What if we were able to find you the senior executive that snags the phone on the first try, every single time? For the record, it’s one of the things we do best.

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The Human Side Of Recruiting In The Packaging Industry

It is easy to forget the human side of moving someone, often an entire family, from one job to another job. Pulling up one’s roots is no small decision. It’s a big decision. It’s an emotional decision. It’s a profoundly personal decision.

How skilled is your packaging company at helping potential hires during these vulnerable moments of transition?

Your ability to attract and retain the best and brightest is as much about your culture as it is your HR department. Your company culture can become one of your greatest competitive assets, or not.

Let’s revisit the idea of vulnerable moments.

When a brand values their Best Place To Work awards as much as they value the bottom line, the bottom line grows. Retention soars. People plug into something bigger than themselves.

Take, for example, Brigade – a creative agency with serious chops in package design. When Ad Age deemed Brigade one of the best places to work in 2017, Ad Age said something about the leadership of Brigade.

Back to those vulnerable moments – the sequel.

If you’re thinking about uprooting your family to join Team Brigade, you’re probably thinking those Brigade people get it. They get the fact that uprooting your family is a tough, vulnerable decision to make.

Beyond Brigade’s award is the tone they set on their website. In particular, they are showcasing how Brigade treats their interns. Seriously? Interns? How you treat interns says a ton about how you view people in general.

In their post, We Are BRIGADE: A Conversation with Jackie Saucier, Creative Intern– they write the following: “At BRIGADE, we foster the next generation of creative talent by offering competitive paid internships to young designers from all over the country.”

Ok, cool, but what does that have to do with a packaging executive uprooting his or her family for a new job? Everything! Brigade treating their interns like gold makes a statement to the world. It demonstrates how they view people, which gives a potential hire what he or she most craves, peace of mind.

Interns. New hires. Long-term employees. When it’s all for one, everybody wins.

Does your packaging brand give new hires peace of mind? If not, how can you change that? The recruiting and hiring process is a human process.

Sonderen Packaging: A Case Study In Excellence

Excellence is a decision. It’s the choice to rise above the crowd in the areas that matter the most; value, customer service, company culture, to mention a few. To this end, Sonderen sets the standard as evidenced by the many awards they have won.

But it goes deeper than awards. Much deeper.

When you’re building a packaging brand, the tone is everything. The same is true when you are trying to attract top-tier talent. Tone, in this context, is defined as the “general character or attitude of a brand and company culture.”

The best way to experience the tone of the Sonderen brand is the (6)-minute video found on their About Page. To be clear, we have no affiliation with Sonderen. They don’t even know we’re writing about them!

After viewing the Sonderen About Page video, what words would you use to describe their brand? What words would you use to describe their company culture? It’s easy to see why they have won so many awards.

“All of us out here (plant floor) take pride in what the finished product looks like.”

In the name of full disclosure, many agencies can make an excellent video for your brand. Getting an employee to deliver the perfect line is also easy to craft. But is it real? And what does that have to do with recruiting? The answer is on their website.

In their post, “Empowering Employees and a Great Company Culture Lead to Excellent Employee Retention”, this packaging firm plants their flag. The Sonderen Way is crystal clear. People matter. Excellence matters — values matter.

When you’re a recruiter talking to someone about turning their life upside down, such cultures are pure gold. Companies like Sonderen tell a potential hire that yes, change can be tough, but the ROI will be worth it in the end.

And who doesn’t want to join a company passionate about excellence?

Tone matters. Excellence matters. Such brand qualities play to our base need to do meaningful work. When we feel a potential employer offers us those things, we naturally attract to the impact that could have on our lives.

Will Trinity Ever Host Saturday Night Live?

If you’re like me, such a question melts your brain a little.

Pop culture, ugh. Who is Trinity? Pop star? Actor? Comedian? Influencer?

The thing is, it’s a valid question, and we think one of Trinity’s employees was in Game Of Thrones. We’ll let their YouTube video fill in the blanks.

The Trinity YouTube Video

Yep, Trinity is a packaging company. Wow! But did all that tomfoolery translate to the bottom line? We’ll let Inc Magazine answer that question in their piece, “How Relationships–Both With Customers and Employees–Form the Core of a Fast-Growth Culture.”

Ok, so the article title stretches from sea to shining sea but the takeaway is clear. We want to drink beer with these Trinity people! Virgin America was famous for taking a similar approach to their marketing.

When we want to drink beer with a brand’s persona, we are far more likely to join their team. How so? Trust. Trinity Packaging is a brand people can trust. And when it comes to recruiting top talent, trust is the name of the game.  

Trinity only produced a small amount of YouTube content. Same on the blogging platform, Medium. But the content they did produce (let’s hope they provide more), backed by awards and recognition, put them on our radar.

Meaning, their brand rose well above the noise to capture our attention. Do you think that might matter to a potential hire? Absolutely!

Retaining top talent is about a whole lot more than a fun brand. But it’s a great place to start, especially if you back it up with exceptional leadership.


Recruiting for the packaging industry is a very human process filled with real fears and stress points. Companies like Brigade, Sonderen, and Trinity calm those nerves by bringing a lot to the table. We have no affiliation with any of these brands, but their stories touched us, so we wanted to share them with you.

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