B2B Marketing Q&A: Heath Frye, Director of Marketing, Pixelle
B2B marketing insights from the director of marketing at one of the fastest-growing manufacturers of specialty papers in North America.
When it comes to building strong brands and launching new products, Heath Frye, director of marketing at Pixelle Specialty Solutions, certainly has expertise to share. Over the past few years, Pixelle, one of the largest and fastest-growing manufacturers of specialty papers in North America, spun off from Glatfelter. Their campaign, which we shared in a case study, “Making First Impressions Soar,” was integral in their efforts to unveil the new company and its products to its customers and stakeholders. Godfrey Vice President of Creative Scott Trobaugh and Strategist Alison Fetterman recently sat down with Heath to hear about his B2B marketing experiences and his advice for B2B marketers for Godfrey’s “Marketing to Complex Industries” podcast.
To listen to the full podcast discussion, visit the podcast page. Check out excerpts from our discussion (some answers have been edited for length):
Godfrey: Let’s talk a little bit about how you spearheaded a successful product launch recently … tell us a little bit about that.
Heath: Sure. We launched a new type of paper that falls in the category of what we would call opaque. It’s more on the printing and writing side. You could find it in books or any number of different print applications. You could even find it as artist reprints, so it’s an opaque type of paper.
We had it all set and planned the lines last year, but that was also the year of COVID, when everything shut down. So, it was definitely very challenging to launch it.
A lot of the challenges when you’re launching a product like that are internal. There’s so much work that goes on behind the scenes. You have to stay plugged in with the manufacturing side. We have to work together as a team, from management to the people who are making the paper on the paper machines. We work together as a big broad team with lots of different members coming together on weekly and monthly calls. Eventually, we got it to the point where the paper was running as we wanted it to. And then the challenge was: how wide or how much breadth do we want as a product line? And then you have to get the paper and you have to get it off the machine. And you have to get it to the printers because we want swatch books, and it just keeps growing and growing.
We successfully launched this opaque brand of paper and we also had to trademark it, come up with a name. Every piece of this is challenging because, in today’s world, every time you come up with a good one, somebody already has it trademarked. So, sometimes you have to settle for a name.
Our team had a couple of names that we really wanted; we couldn’t use them. The name we landed on was one that we could use, one that we could trademark. In hindsight now, it’s kind of the investment you make and put into it. Now, everybody uses this name for the product — it’s called Omnilux, and nobody thinks twice about it. But when we were trying to come up with the name, everybody was so irritated that we couldn't use one of these other ones. Now, Omnilux opaque paper, nobody thinks twice about it. It rolls off the tongue.
Also, we had to do product packaging, which we don’t always have to do. A lot of our products are sold in rolls. But this one actually did go further down the stream a little bit closer to the end consumer, if you will, so it did have to have product packaging design. When that was printed up and stacked up on a skid and delivered to a customer, and when a sales rep took a picture of it, it looked impressive. Very, very cool.
Godfrey: What ideas are most exciting to you right now? What kinds of things are you looking with that gleam in your eye like this is going to be good?
Heath: I don’t know just yet how to use the technology, but in terms of excitement, I think what I would like to explore is either augmented reality or virtual reality. Pixelle tried it sometime ago, but that whole technology was in its infancy when we first tried it; now it’s a little bit more widely used and there’s more tools available to us. I could see something like that helping to tell our story, because people don’t want to just sit there and read something.
Some people don’t even want to just watch a flat video; they want to interact with it. Theoretically, if we have a new generation of buyers at our food packaging accounts, let’s say maybe we could do something augmented where there is an example of a paper product or a couple of different paper products, but they can interact with it in a way that they’re seeing something beyond just that. And they understand the process that goes behind it and the products that help them make that end product that they’re about to consume. It’s still sort of foggy in my mind, but it’s slowly materializing.
Godfrey: If there were one piece of advice you would have for somebody in the company who is in your shoes, either whether it’s a large team, small team or an army of one who continues to do good work and keeps getting blessed with more work, too, because of that. What advice would you have for people in those positions?
Heath: The advice I would give somebody is that you have to be flexible. The companies are going to ask a lot of you. That’s just how it is in the B2B space. You can’t do it all by yourself. You do have to align yourself with a strong organization like Godfrey who has the horsepower to help you get the job done, get it done in a timely manner and help you and provide the guidance that you need.
I rely on the Godfrey team to help me with social media. Even if I knew social media, then there’s a new platform. And if we want to do advertising, I might know the platform, but I don’t understand the advertising model; the algorithms are different from one to the next. There’s no way you can know everything. So, you really need to work with an expert team just to keep up with the pace of things.
You have to know how to deal with the internal folks because they don’t understand half of it. But they know what they want, and they’ll ask you for it. And it could be anything, it can be the social media, it could be advertising, it might be market research. It could be developing messaging around things like ESG and sustainability; it comes from all angles. That’s why I’ve been doing this with the same company for 22 years, because it’s always changing. Always something exciting to do.
Godfrey: Because you work in paper, and because you work in paper in Pennsylvania, and because the TV show, “The Office,” has continued to stay very popular, what would you tell everybody out there who wants to know how accurate that show is to what a paper company in Pennsylvania runs like?
Heath: We love that show. My daughter watches it religiously. I think she’s watched every episode from beginning to end, more than once. And if she’s falling asleep at night, “The Office” is on.
That is actually a paper merchant. That would be a good example of one of our customers. We would produce the paper from the trees through the paper machine to the big rolls or cut it down to sheets and then send it to the paper merchant. Trying to distribute and sell paper across the United States across North America … it’s a vast geographic region. So, we only have so many sales reps ourselves.
We rely on our merchant partners to take it to the next level and distribute it to whomever — could be a converter or a mom-and-pop shop that’s going to do some printing and then fold it into something else, like envelopes. So, there is a big channel there. That’s a merchant and I don’t know how accurate it is — I’m hoping not very!
Thank you, Heath, for taking the time to talk to us about your experiences!
To read more about the Pixelle Omnilux product launch, “Making First Impressions Soar,” view the work.
To hear the full podcast with Heath, visit the podcast page.
To view the video of this episode, check it out on our YouTube Channel.
Heath Frye - Director of Marketing, Pixelle Specialty Solutions
Heath has 22 years of marketing experience in the pulp and paper industry. Prior to that, he was in B2B marketing at a global multi-billion-dollar corporation. Heath graduated from Penn State University and received his Master of Business Administration from James Madison University.
Godfrey helps complex B2B industries tell their stories in ways that delight their customers.