Owens-Illinois, which makes glass containers for food, beverage, pharmaceuticals and other industries, is using a b-to-c-to-b strategy to raise awareness of glass as a packaging material.
This year, O-I is ramping up its "Glass Is Life" campaign with social media, online videos and events, working with agency partner Doremus, New York, to create an ongoing stream of content aimed at consumers, but ultimately designed to benefit its b-to-b audience of manufacturers.
The "Glass Is Life" campaign first launched in 2011 and shows the many reasons people love glass, from being environmentally friendly to offering better taste for products.
"Consumers want sustainable packaging for their food and beverages, so we are trying to build a new perception of glass as the package of the future," said Saga Shoffner, VP-global brand marketing at O-I, which was founded in 1903 as the Owens Bottle Machine Co.
"The b-to-b play is to consider our target audience as people and look at the human reasons people choose glass around health, safety, the environment and sustainability -- the same reasons brands choose to use glass for packaging," she said.
O-I's clients include some of the largest food and beverage companies in the world, including Anheuser-Busch InBev, Coca-Cola, MillerCoors, Nestle and PepsiCo. While it sells directly to businesses, O-I is hoping to raise awareness of the benefits of glass to drive widespread adoption of the packaging material.
"Our goal overall is to start a movement for glass and to help people notice something they weren't noticing and recognizing why they like glass in the first place," said Evelyn Neill, chief creative officer at Doremus New York.
"It's getting trickier and trickier to keep people engaged," she said. "Everyone is besieged by lots of content everywhere they look, and advertisers are getting savvier about how to place content. This has been a fun way to surprise and engage users."
Working with Doremus, O-I developed a social-content strategy to pump out fun, engaging content around glass, from using the #betteringlass hashtag to link to food recipes to Instagram photos at events.
Ms. Neill and Ms. Shoffner shared the following strategies for creating fresh, engaging content:
1. Combine social with events to build relationships with the target audience. At the South by Southwest music festival this year, O-I was a sponsor of the Fader Fort, a private music event where glass serving products were not allowed. So it branded all the plastic serving cups with "Glass Is Life" on one side and "My Other Cup Is a Glass" on the other. It also hosted a bottle-painting booth, where users could paint bottles, take pictures and post them on Instagram. O-I created a video of the event and shared it on YouTube and other social channels.
"You wouldn't expect a glass manufacturer to be at an event like SXSW, let alone partner with Fader Fort," Ms. Shoffner said. "The whole experiential piece was important to us. These people became part of our community, and the growth rate on Instagram just for that one event was significant [up 75%]."
2. Produce content tied into social trends. Using social-media channels, O-I creates content based on trending topics that are tied to glass in a humorous way. For example, to play off the "endless T-shirt" trend in May (Macaulay Culkin tweeted a photo of himself wearing a T-shirt featuring a picture of Ryan Gosling wearing a T-shirt with a photo of Mr. Culkin), O-I tweeted pictures of bottles wearing "cozies" referencing each other -- move over, Ryan Glassling!
3. Provide useful information to users related to product benefits. From tips on recycling bottles to documentaries about how pollution is ruining the oceans, O-I churns out content that is tied to the benefits of glass.
"We are always thinking of the strategic goals of the campaign and for glass," Ms. Neill said. "We do a lot of content around all the reasons why people choose glass and how they reuse glass."
4. Don't be afraid to experiment with different channels. O-I uses Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube for different types of content. "You have to have the flexibility to experiment, learn and adapt," Ms. Shoffner said. "It's an ongoing conversation -- people don't stay static."
O-I is driving engagement with its "Glass is Life" social strategy. It has over 242,000 fans on its Facebook page, over 4,300 Twitter followers, and more than 1,200 Instagram followers.