Paper Plus and FCB play on emotions and imaginations with new rebrand and ‘porky, green, loveable’ mascot

Kiwi retailer Paper Plus and its agency FCB have enlisted the help of a goofy-looking alien character to bring excitement and imagination into the in-store experience. FCB’s general manager of retail Kamran Kazalbash and head of planning David Thomason talk us through the rebranding journey.

Paper Plus is one of the nation’s biggest bookselling retailers. It has 100 stores nationwide and turns over more than $100 million a year. And, despite the book industry seeming increasingly gloomy, with Whitcoulls going into liquidation and Borders closing in 2011, the downward spiral in book sales came to a halt last year.

Nielsen figures show book sales in New Zealand rose 0.1 percent in 2014 thanks to a ten percent increase in sales at Christmas time, compared to previous years where book sales had plummeted.

Merchandise manager at Paper Plus Catherine Raynes said to Booksellers NZ in January that 2014 had been a really good year in profits and margin for the company She said the company performed better than what the Nielsen figures show. 

“We experienced real consistency in November and December, where in 2013, trade had been scratchy over those months.”

Founded in 1983, Paper Plus has traditionally marketed itself as a book and stationery seller. The company’s previous slogan was “My books. My stationery. My store,” which was launched around four years ago after a major rebrand and store refit programme.

Books and stationery are still a core part of its make up, but the store is home to eBooks, technology and gifts, amongst other items. 

Head of planning at FCB, David Thomason, says Paper Plus’ diverse product offering means people have completely different perceptions of the brand. 

“For some people Paper Plus means greetings cards, or books, or toys,” Thomason says. “In the end you realise it’s a really broad audience and what you’re trying to do is find a common theme that goes across it.”

So Paper Plus and FCB decided a rebrand was once again in order. 

General manager of retail at FCB, Kamran Kazalbash, says one of the first things Paper Plus wanted to do was reinvigorate the staff and the stores.

“When you’ve got a business that big, it’s important everyone galvanises behind one core purpose for that organisation,” Kazalbash says. “Over time that [core purpose]had gotten a little bit lost.” 

FCB, which is also responsible for Pak’n Save’s stickman, decided to develop a new character and slogan that united customers and staff under a common idea.

Since the previous slogan was about Paper Plus being functional, they went for something that appealed to people on an emotional level. Enter Blurb – a “porky, green, loveable character” that Kazalbash says appeals to people young and old alike.

Paper Plus seems to have a thing for animation. Its 2011 campaign via Hyde was full of it and FCB’s festive campaign, ‘a present’s not a present until it’s wrapped’, featured an array of, wait for it, rapping presents.

“His humour is appealing to children, but you’ll see some stuff that’s got a bit of an edge to it that adults will find funny,” he says. “It’s kind of like when you watch a Pixar movie and you see jokes in there which are deliberately designed for adults, it’s in that vein. Stickman’s similar.”

The new slogan, “tickle your imagination” is a call to action, Kazalbash says, which challenges New Zealanders to engage their imagination through Paper Plus’ arts, crafts, books and other products. 

Thomason says though Paper Plus may tend to be perceived as a miscellaneous store with a bit of this and a bit of that, imagination is the common theme.

“I think what’s actually in the stores from a kid’s point of view through to people choosing a book for their holidays, is they’re full of exciting, imaginative sort of stuff,” Thomason says Blurb’s green colour is the same shade as Paper Plus’ previous branding, as it’s unique and familiar to customers.

His face will be rolled out to stores, staff t-shirts, the website and its social media channels. 

Paper Plus stores are also undergoing a fit out, with stores in Taupo, Cambridge, Papamoa and Remuera completed already.

There are basic guidelines for how to merchandise the store, but just how “imaginative” the store’s look and feel is depends on the store owner, as Paper Plus is a franchise.

In the Taupo store, staff have embraced it and gotten creative by placing pots, pans and food beside cookbooks for sale to create a theatre around it, Kazalbash says. 

Eight more store redesigns are currently being worked on, with all stores to be fitted out in due time. 

As for competitors, Thomason says Paper Plus is easily differentiated in the book and stationery market because no other company is appealing to people’s emotions.

“When you think back to the early days of retail, it’s not a new idea to think there should be excitement. It’s almost like we’ve forgotten,” he says. “People choose to buy on emotions, no matter what, so they should be excited about going to a shop.”

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