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Putting the needs and priorities of disposable hygiene producers front and centre transformed the way we at Bostik approach adhesive choice and communicating those choices to customers. We recognised specifications were important, but something else was just as important, and more helpful when providing a product that truly meets the customer need. Choosing the right adhesive for the application and level of quality desired could also positively impact your operational efficiency, consumer confidence, and profitability.

Great things can happen when understanding customer needs becomes a top priority. According to Diane Toonen, Global Director of Strategic Marketing for Bostik Nonwovens, “It can change the way you look at—and talk about—your whole product line.” That’s what occurred when we began to put the disposable hygiene market and our customers’ needs at the centre of our adhesive solutions and support.

Better understanding disposable hygiene manufacturers’ adhesive needs

The process began several years ago through in-depth discussions with a number of disposable hygiene manufacturers. “Talking with customers about their needs is nothing new,” Toonen admits. “But we took it further, exploring what factors were important to their adhesive selection.” One thing became clear: Product specs were not always their reason for choosing a particular glue.

That realisation led us to a change in our collaborative supplier approach and communication strategy. As Toonen puts it, “Rather than selling an adhesive by technical specification alone, we wanted to better communicate the value that the bonding solution brings. And we needed to do it using language that our customers recognise.” Our communications had to focus on how we could best serve the producer’s needs and meet the performance goals of their baby diapers, feminine pads, pant diapers for adult incontinence, etc. In short, we needed to show how our adhesives enabled customer success.

For example, what is the value of high peel? It helps hold a product together. Simple enough. But in doing so, it also supports consumer confidence in the product, resulting in fewer consumer complaints. And often, a given product has additional benefits, such as reducing waste or rejected absorbent articles. These can add value to the areas of operations, profitability, and sustainability. 

As we immersed ourselves in what our customers were telling us, we saw that some patterns were simple to identify. Others were a bit challenging—and more interesting. In the end, we compiled a list of over 45 customer needs that could be sorted into three distinct categories: 
  1. Operational efficiency
  2. Better profitability
  3. Consumer confidence

Continuous improvement in products and communication

Optimising our product assortment has been a key initiative for Product Line Managers for many years, Toonen notes. “One challenge was understanding how our products compared to the competition, both objectively and in the customer’s eyes.” Data was not always available. We often lacked direct comparisons across all performance tests, and especially those using the same conditions or substrates. 

But what we could do was more deeply understand our own products and how the customer related to them. Recognising the properties and performance of each adhesive was critical. From there we could layer in market dynamics and the needs of consumers. Taken as a whole, this knowledge allowed us to position our product benefits to more fully serve our customers.

We also realised that a good/better/best model wasn’t what our customers needed. Instead, we shifted focus to demonstrate the “right fit” for a given set of requirements. Toonen explains, “One product might have a best-in-class peel. Another, best-in-class odour. Another, best-in-class bleedthrough resistance. Each customer prioritises different areas in their products, and makes purchasing decisions based on their design or operations process.”
Bostik: Attached to Your World

Overall, we invested hundreds of hours of Marketing, R&D, and Product Line resources into the project. “This did more than allow us to take a fresh look at our disposable hygiene adhesive product lines around the world,” says Toonen. “We could also take a more uniform approach to how we test and communicate the value of a particular product. Simply put, it revolutionised how we connect to our customers’ needs, to their world.”

Toonen admits to finding it somewhat surprising that this strategy is as novel as it is across the market. Generally, adhesives are sold by specification, that is, physical properties and test performance. Linking the “knowledge of the market” dynamics, trends, and the voice and needs of the customer directly to the product—and communicating this connection—helps us engage with our customers and also understand our product line more deeply. “In short,” Toonen says, “we learned a lot about what our customers truly value and what adhesives and Bostik can do to support them.”

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