In the last issue of L&L, Stratus Packaging CEO Isidore Leaser likened running a business during the pandemic to playing a video game – stuck behind a screen, relying on virtual rather than face-to-face interaction. In this issue, Paola Iannone, All4Labels’ head of marketing and communications, says that the company’s current priority is to meet with customers in person: ‘To understand the strategy of customers takes time, and it’s not just knowing about their turnover. At the moment, we do not know the brands’ plans to 2030, but we did know. Because face to face you have an open agenda and informal talking and go to lunch together and see how the company is running. So we need to cover the gap of uncertainty and we have to do this together.’
It is likely that, as we move out of the pandemic (whenever that might be) some things will not return to how they were. A hybrid working model – with more office work conducted remotely – is probably here to stay. Some international travel will be permanently replaced by Zoom calls.
But perhaps talk of a ‘new normal’ is overstated. Humans are social beings. The adage ‘people buy people’ correctly highlights the importance of personal relationships in business. We can, perhaps, maintain existing relationships virtually – but it is surely harder to successfully forge new ones.
Industry trade shows, beginning to return in the second half of this year – with Labelexpo’s own Label Congress in September in Chicago and Labelexpo Asia in Shanghai in December among them – play a key role here.
Just as it is hard to replicate the informal ‘water-cooler’ chats in the office if you are working remotely, so too is it difficult to reengineer online those chance meetings, impromptu introductions and snatched conversations that take place in the exhibition halls – not to mention the bonds forged during raucous evening gatherings.
The label industry has adapted remarkably well to extraordinary conditions over the past eighteen months. Indeed, many businesses have thrived. But people need people, and the return of trade shows will provide a welcome fillip to those areas of business that simply can’t be replicated online.
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