Changing the Landscape: Overcoming the Status Quo

Episode 263

November 28, 2023

Adam Fray, the Senior Director of Global Marketing at Packsize, is on the show this week. We had a chat about challenging the status quo. Packsize offers a new way to think about sustainable packaging and packaging efficiencies. That offering means they are combatting the ‘this is how we have always done it’ mentality. Furthermore, Packsize has recently changed how the marketing department exists within the organization. These two ways of challenging ‘the way it is’ mentality, combine to make an enlightening conversation about change. Plus, Carman becomes a therapist for a minute. What more could you ask for?

Changing the Landscape: Overcoming the Status Quo Transcript:

Announcer: You’re listening to the Kula Ring, a podcast made for manufacturing marketers. Here are Carman Pirie and Jeff White.

Jeff White: Welcome to The Kula Ring, a podcast for manufacturing marketers brought to you by Kula Partners. My name is Jeff White. Joining me today is Carman Pirie. Carman, how you doing, mate?

Carman Pirie: All as well as well, excited for today’s show.

Jeff White: Yeah, me too. We’ve had some really interesting guests who are kind of talking about some similar sort of things and some similar sort of industries, but they’re all doing it very differently. And of course, we’re talking a bit about the packaging industry. One of our favorite manufacturing verticals.

Carman Pirie: It’s a funny, it’s a funny thing. I think if you told people that are going to have no exposure to it like how much goes into packaging, they wouldn’t believe you kind of like…

Jeff White: no 

Carman Pirie: Talking about that. To say that you can peel the layers of packaging would be mild 

Jeff White: For sure. And I mean, there’s no question that this is a particularly interesting area of packaging that we’re going to be talking about, it’s not necessarily the norm of what we think of when we might think of flexible packaging or or different types of packaging like that. This is more in the machinery front.

Carman Pirie: Indeed. But for our listeners that are thinking, are these guys on about either packaging or sustainability? Again, the answer to that is no. To both of those things. We’re taking this on a completely different direction, very applicable to folks who are not in the packaging space. 

Jeff White: Mm hmm. 

Carman Pirie: Let’s get on with it.

Jeff White: Yeah, absolutely. So joining us today is Adam Fray. Adam is the senior director, global marketing at Packsize. Welcome to the Kula Ring, Adam.

Adam Fray: Hey, guys. Thanks for having me. Excited to be here.

Carman Pirie: Adam it’s awesome to have you on the show. Can you tell us a bit about Packsize and how you ended up there?

Adam Fray: Yeah, absolutely. So for, for several years prior, my time at Packsize, I was really focused on marketing in the, in the 3D printing or additive manufacturing space and a lot of fun with that. But a little over a year ago, Packsize Head had made a decision to really invest in building out a world class marketing organization and really focus on making it a strategic part of the business.And the company named a new CMO last September, and this is somebody who I’ve worked with in the past and had a lot of respect for. And he was tasked with building out a, building out a marketing team, and reached out to me and I was very excited to jump on board and take advantage of this opportunity. Packsize is a pretty unique company. We were founded in 2002 and with a goal of delivering smart packaging for a healthy planet. So the founder of Packsize was really interested in how could he make a measurable impact. And he saw packaging as, as that area, right? Where you really can make a difference. So because we’ve all had that experience, right, where you you order something in the box arrives on your doorstep and you open it up in the boxes, it’s oversize, it’s much too large for, you know, for the product that’s inside and uh, Packsize has over 20 years to develop a portfolio of solutions to address that problem and really create right sized packaging on demand. And you know, by moving to right size packaging, companies are able to to get the benefit out of, out of, out of, having right sized boxes. right? So both economic advantages and environmental benefits. So, you know, there’s obviously the cost savings on the material, there’s the cost savings on labor when you implement that automation. Shipping, right? You can fit 33% more boxes on a truck If those boxes are the right size and reduce product damage. And so those you know, all those economic benefits with on top of that, having the environmental benefit of reducing your waste, you’ve got lower CO2 emissions with fewer trucks on the road. right? And you’re using a, you know, a sustainable material. So when you see that right, it’s easy to see that opportunity, that opportunity for growth. And it really is a meaningful business to be a part of. So so yeah, so that was, that was how I, how I chose to make this leap.

Carman Pirie: So you see Adam I lied a little bit when I said we weren’t going to talk about sustainability at all and of course like boom. But, but it’s, it’s certainly a worthy part of our conversation. I think an amazing part of the Packsize story. It’s it’s, it’s really, really cool. What you guys are up to here is just give our listeners a sense of the size of the business. I’m just kind of curious as we’re, we’re spinning up a full marketing team now, really doubling down. That’s at what stage of growth are we in? Where are we at?

Adam Fray: Yeah, So the companies, you know, experienced year over year double digit growth for, for several years now and we’re growing pretty rapidly as we continue to be adopted by many of the world’s largest retailers. right? And just earlier this year, we were excited to push out a release related to our, to our work with, with Wal-Mart and their next gen fulfillment center. So we’re all pretty familiar with them. And as you know, as you start to see that that rapid rate of adoption, the company is, has been growing rapidly. For instance, a year ago when I started, we were right around 500 employees and now we’re kind of knocking at the door of about 1000 employees. right? And, you know, so as we do that, we have to position the company to, to manage that growth, take care of the customer base that we have, and continue to innovate and develop as well.

Carman Pirie: That’s really helpful context. I mean, obviously, you know, super high growth and, you know, I appreciate that. You know, just going to start quoting revenue numbers at me, but, you know, even just the employee scale, etc., helps us understand kind of where you’re at. And so I guess how many people are in the marketing team now?

Adam Fray: Oh, that’s a good question. I’ll have to think a little bit about that. So the marketing team is right around 15 people globally all together at this time.

Carman Pirie: All right. And you emphasized globally, do we have a couple of different pockets of where people are located or.

Adam Fray: Yeah, Yeah, we do. So our headquarters is in Salt Lake City and so we have a good portion of the team is based out, out in Salt Lake. So but you know, I manage global marketing and I’m doing that from, from my home in Charlotte, North Carolina. We have, you know, we have a fair amount of remote employees within, within the Packsize team. So, and then we also have our, our European headquarters, which is in Herford, Germany. So we have a team based out in Germany as well. So, and then we also have a marketing representative that, that works from, from Australia. So we’re, we’re pretty well spread out, but it works out pretty well.

Jeff White: You’re not messing around when you said global, this sounds like the kind of packaging that absolutely everybody in the world should be using for creating boxes and other things like that for delivery. But yet we’re still receiving, you know, a phone in the midst of a box that’s got 18 cubic feet of space around it. Why isn’t everybody using this?

Carman Pirie: Yeah, we’ve been at it for about a year. We’d like to understand why everybody or not your customer yet, please explain yourself.

Adam Fray: It’s yeah, it’s a great question. So in fact, when I interviewed with the company, I asked that very same question of every single person I interviewed. I said, You know, this seems very obvious. We’ve all experienced the pain. So, same question you just asked. I asked why isn’t everybody doing this? And, you know, I got the identical response every single time, which is, you know, our, our biggest competitor is the status quo, right? People are just you know, they are hesitant to make changes. right? People get very comfortable in their current processes. And although you can clearly point out some of the benefits. Right, people are just just hesitant to do that. So that’s really what we’re faced with trying to address as a marketing organization is how we do that, how we market against the status quo.

Carman Pirie: I think when people talk about marketing against the status quo, you know, often it is through the lens of, you know, there’s a maybe that shift requires some level of change management or maybe some equipment that needs to be changed out. There may be some downtime associated with it. Um, there may be some uncertainty about how that’ll work. So then, you know, it comes out. Is the juice worth the squeeze? Both of those, both of those comments kind of necessitate that somebody know that there’s an option to begin with. But the other side of marketing against the status quo is whether or not even somebody looking for what the alternative is. Do you guys find that or is there a pretty healthy appetite for the alternative? There’s just it’s on the change management that you have to market or is it really on that core awareness of even letting people know there is an option?

Adam Fray: Yeah, I think it’s a little bit of both. Right? So with, with packaging, right, people are very familiar with putting products in boxes. They’ve been doing it for a long time. Right? So,so there is a, there’s a big market there. The concept of packaging is something that is, you know, is widely discussed and we continue to build awareness for the concept of this right size on demand packaging. So awareness is growing. I think for the first 15 to 20 years of Packsize, there was a lack of awareness, right? So everything was really growing through things like word of mouth. And we certainly continue to, to work to build awareness for what it is that we do. But on top of that, right, I think especially as you mentioned with change management, one of the things that’s really important is that we can lend credibility to what it is that we do, right? I like to say as marketers, we’re paid to talk nice about what it is that we do, right? So what we’re really focused on is getting, you know, getting our customers to, to really speak on our behalf as well, to lend credibility to the process and really, really indicate that it is worth making the effort to go through the change. And, you know, for our company at least, right, we are really dedicated to being a partner in helping, you know, move people through that process. So there’s a lot of education that goes into how we work together to implement a solution that works for our customers, to help them, to help them through that change and to eliminate some of that disruption that they may be concerned about.

Carman Pirie: What kind of time frame are we talking about as somebody, you know, and just kind of trying to imagine the scale of nurturing around that onboarding process. Is it like a three month thing, a one month thing and one week thing? What does that look like when somebody makes a decision?

Adam Fray: Yeah, it’s,it’s typically a long process because if you, if you go into some of the, you know, these fulfillments centers, distribution centers that we work in, it’s a complex operation. There’s a lot of moving parts to making that work. So it’s really important that we put the thought and work in upfront to make sure that we are implementing a process that, that does work for that, that customer. So specifically on the, on the larger, more, you know, automated processes, you know, you are in that 18 months to two years and beyond in many cases to go from full ideation through through implementation. Now for some of the last maybe a little more semi-automated solutions, we work, for instance, a lot in the furniture and cabinetry building materials market where they need protective packaging and, you know, long skinny items and crazy shapes. right? Some of those, those less automated processes, those can be much quicker. But, but these, these bigger automated solutions in the, in the larger fulfillment centers is, is a much longer process.

Carman Pirie: Have we, I mean, we’re at a scale of change management there that’s not just something about a salesperson saying, no, no, no, we can do this. Like there’s obviously a bigger messaging structure at play and a level of infrastructure in the firm to to kind of on board somebody of that scale. Um, I guess I’m just curious, has this been, how involved is marketing in all that?

Adam Fray: Yeah, marketing is, is very involved. So, and that’s one of the things that, you know, it’s really important that we work together within the organization right between kind of solution engineering, between sales, marketing, product management. We are constantly interacting and collaborating as we work to identify potential new customers, as we work to, work with our existing customers to implement solutions, and as we work beyond to support those customers and tell their story. So we tend to be very, very involved. And we also are constantly, you know, working with subject matter experts within our organization to develop content that is relevant not only to generate awareness, but also to enable our sales organization to properly tell that story. So whether it be video content, whether it be presentations and technical information or even things like animations to show the different processes within fulfillment centers and where a Packsize solution might fit in. Right? If we just show a video on a machine, that’s not going to be real relevant for, for a lot of the folks that our sales organization is working with. But if we can show how that machine is part of a broader solution and how this will work and how we’ve worked with maybe the other tools that they have before, that becomes a much more relevant story. So we do try to be, you know, very involved throughout the process to make sure that we’re creating the right content, you know, and, and telling that story that’s, that’s going to help the organization grow and really help our customers succeed as well.

Jeff White: Sounds like this is a remarkably customized marketing and sales solution that you’re bringing to each potential account on an account by account basis. Is that how you’re approaching it? Is, are you, you know, are you spending the majority of your time on kind of the those kind of high, highly tiered accounts to customize the content you’re creating, to customize the sales and onboarding process for them, and then running some other things that are a little bit more broad based over and above that, Or is the account based side of things the way you really want to be?

Adam Fray: Yeah, it’s a really good question. So yes, we, we certainly have really you know, although I would say we run a bit of a hybrid marketing approach of traditional and account based marketing, we are certainly making that shift to a more customized or personalized account based marketing approach to what it is that we do. Right? Because you’re right, everybody operates a little bit differently, right? So we want to make sure that we’re telling the right message. And, you know, we’ve implemented a content strategy that identifies the personas within the buying units of these different organizations and really develops content that speaks to what it is they’re trying to solve. So whether it be trying to show the economic impact and talking about things like return on investment, whether to show kind of that automation, what’s it, how does this operate on the floor and showing an operator how how the solution can benefit them? We are very much taking that approach. As I mentioned earlier, we’re still doing some of that brand awareness type campaign activity just to get the name out there and really establish ourselves as thought leaders. But on top of that, that account based marketing approach has been very important in some of the successes we’ve had over, over my first year at the company.

Carman Pirie: And I’m glad you brought up that first year bit because it’s still early days and it would seem to me if you’re just building out the organization, that there’s just must be a robust but almost overwhelming in terms of the stuff that you haven’t been able to get your, you know, turn your attention to yet or.

Jeff White: Barely figured out where the washrooms are. right?

Carman Pirie: Well, we feel like it would be a bit of Whac-A-Mole for sure. If you imagine, you know, we’re building up the organization a bit from, from scratch. But I’m curious, what has been the biggest benefit of that? Is there, has there been any at any point where you’re like, the fact that we’re new is helping here, the fact that we’re just building this is helping.

Adam Fray: Yeah, sure. So luckily, as I said, I work from home so I can find the washrooms, but beyond that, so but once I go to Salt Lake, then I have to ask for directions, for sure. Yeah, you’re exactly right. So being, being in our first year, right when I first started, the marketing organization was, was very much, I would say, kind of a service function for the rest of the rest of the company, specifically for sales. right? We need a brochure. We need to develop a trade show booth. We, you know, whatever that may be. And the marketing team would go into action to, to create that and really serve the organization. And we’ve got a very talented team and they did a great job in doing that a year ago when Packsize made the investment to make marketing part of more of a strategic function within the organization. There was a lot of work that had to be done to do that. Obviously, you need to first establish, kind of, the foundation for tracking the results of that organization. So tying together your CRM system and your marketing automation platform and your social media platforms, and your ABM tools and all of that, to, to be able to measure your results and optimize from there. You know, there’s a lot of work that went into that. And really also kind of earning the trust of the team as we all came together as a global team. And you could see the shift in the way marketing functioned, that takes time, right? And I had to earn credibility within my team and really prove that what we were doing was going to make that measurable impact. So there are benefits that you see as you start to see those results take place and start to see the fruits of your labor. You know, we also were able to experiment a little bit. We did a lot of AB testing over the, over the last year, and that won’t stop for sure. But any new campaign that we would experiment with, we would do a couple of different versions of that so that we could see and learn what was working. So, and as we start to develop those results, you start to see leads roll in, you start to see the qualification rate that comes with that. You’re starting to learn some of those key metrics and really starting to make a measurable impact to the pipeline, which, you know, starts to build more momentum within the team. People get excited about that. We celebrate those results and, and, you know, we feel like we’re contributing to the success of the sales organization. And so that, that makes the team feel good. So we do celebrate that.

Carman Pirie: What’s been the biggest surprise in this first year?

Adam Fray: Yeah, so that’s a great question. One of the biggest surprises for me was, you know, the things that we used to do when I was working in additive manufacturing. They, you know, in some cases I thought, well, that will probably translate well to, to this market. And, you know, there are some, there’s some results we got that, you know, some of those key learnings that said, no, this is this is very different. right? So in additive manufacturing is very focused on, kind of, that design engineer. right? And, and the way they get data and information is different than the way that maybe a VP of, of operations or supply chain does, right? Maybe your Chief Sustainability Officer, they’re going to different places and they’re interested in different content than maybe what you know, what I was used to, to creating. There are some, some strategies that translated very, very well to this organization. And there’s there’s others that really didn’t. And you know, I kind of take the fail fast approach, learn from it, and then apply those learnings to future campaigns so that we get better as we move forward. And but there were yeah, there were certain surprises that, you know, that that we had to learn from and have adapted to.

Jeff White: Oh come on Adam They’re both just machines that create things three dimensional objects. How different is it going to be? 

Adam Fray: Right, I know it’s amazing isn’t it? And you know and and it’s one of those that you know it’s not so much the machine. You really have to think of it from your audience perspective, right? And it’s who’s the buyer, regardless of what the machine is. And so that, that’s something that we’ve continued to learn and try to collect as much information as we can, as we, as we continue to do this, because it is, it’s, it’s quite different.

Carman Pirie: It’s really hard to separate these things, I think. But I’m going to try or see if there’s, if you’re noticing any separation, if your product the the benefits you offer are as as you noted at the start of this, there’s economic drivers to why you would use Packsize, there are environmental drivers to why you’d use Packsize and it just I’m reminded of this article I saw from the Wall Street Journal on the weekend that was kind of suggesting that ESG investing was the fad was over and some people were “Yeah, yeah nobody’s going to invest in sustainability ever again anymore.” I don’t think anybody believes that. But it was interesting to see that article this weekend. And it just I mean, I wonder when you’re selling impact size goes to market, do you, are you finding that the conversation’s being driven from the, from the cost savings or efficiency side, economic side or the environmental side? I’m sure the answer is both. But do you notice any kind of, any kind of one jockeying over the other or any kind of trend there that might be interesting?

Adam Fray: Yeah, it’s a great question. And sure, the yeah, the cheat answer would be both. What I would say to that, I’ll, I’ll give you two answers to that. First of all, it is a little bit customer dependent. So there’s certainly companies out there that do put a much stronger weight on their sustainability story than others do. That’s, that’s just the truth that we’ve seen as we talk to companies globally. At the same time, if a product and what we found is if a product really helps somebody achieve their sustainability goals, but they can’t make the economics of it work, in all likelihood they will not invest in it. Right? You need to be able to make the economics of it work and ultimately make the process viable for the, for the company. And then they will invest in it and they’ll get the sustainability gains. But it does, I would say more often than not, it’s led by the economics side with the understanding that there is the sustainability benefit, but there is, there are the occasions where, where sustainability absolutely leads the charge. But it’s but it’s always part of the conversation. There’s no doubt we see more and more companies that are bringing a heavier focus on ESG, on talking about sustainability and making it part of their message and wanting us to to be a partner of theirs in doing that. 

Jeff White: One of the things that we see a lot with both guests and clients of ours is that they’re often two very different ways of talking about this. If you’re talking about a new, you know, if if you’re looking to integrate Packsize into an existing supply chain optimization rollout or something like that, where you’re going into existing factories or perhaps replacing some some machines with with Packsized machines versus a whole net new build that’s kind of built around this kind of process. Are you finding that there’s a, a different way of communicating to people who are, you know, kind of choosing to do this from the beginning versus retrofitting into an existing solution?

Adam Fray: It is different. Yeah, absolutely. And when we’re going into an existing solution, it’s really important that we understand that process, right? And how we can fit in. And what other tools are they using, what robotics, what you know, what ASRS are they using all these different solutions that people are using? And we need to figure out how we can fit into that and and measure the benefits of that when we’re going into somewhere that’s brand new right now, it’s an opportunity for us to maybe be an even even greater partner and oftentimes will partner with other companies that are building out these these facilities to make everything work together. Because as I mentioned earlier, it is very complex. So having an understanding of, of what we’ve done in other places does help us kind of develop that content and build the message for how we can fit into existing solutions. Whereas being, being able to really play, you know, part consultant when you’re building out a brand new facility, it is a different approach. And we certainly see both probably doing more fitting into existing facilities than brand new. But, but there is a good mix there.

Carman Pirie: I look, I’m, I’m a sucker for the recording, a podcast towards the end of the year because I always want to get people and make some level of prediction for 2024. But I guess I’m curious as you look to the year ahead in your second year with your organization. Is there, what’s the biggest kind of question mark, or challenge, a nut that you think really needs to be cracked in the next year? Is there something that sits out there that you’re you’re you’re kind of curious about how it will impact the organization you’re not sure. I’m just  kind of curious, where the doubts are, I’m trying to think this is like I’m trying to be a shrink or something now. What are you afraid of?

Adam Fray: Oh, afraid that’s a great question.

Jeff White: End it on a positive note. Yeah. 

Adam Fray: I know. I’m afraid of how to answer the question, but it’s a, it’s a great question. So, you know, certainly the outlook for the company is strong. Right? You know, e-commerce continues to grow and, you know, people aren’t going to stop shipping things anytime soon and sustainability is not going away. So, so overall, the outlook is, is very strong. One of the things that I think is going to be the biggest challenges for us is this year we have really done a lot of nice work and we’ve built awareness and in doing that we’ve become, I would say, you know, popular for companies that would like to work with us and grow with us and and I think that’s very important and I know our company thinks that it’s important that we become even better at partnering with with other companies and when you do that right, there’s there’s the cultural challenges, there’s the business challenges, there’s the growth challenges. You know, how do we share information, how do we work together? And I think that is going to be one of the biggest challenges we’re faced with over over this year is how do we grow with partner organizations where we do make each other stronger? And specifically from a marketing perspective is what is the story that we want to tell? What, what sort of joint activities can we do? You know, it is that, you know, we’re right now we’re focused on how do we tell customer stories where we’ve worked together because of, as we said earlier, there’s so many places where we’ve put solutions into existing facilities and maybe those partners were even already there. right? And we want to, we want to talk about that and how we’ve worked together. So I expect that, that that more collaborative approach is going to be a big growth driver for us moving forward. But how we figure that out and how we work together is going to be, you know, I think it’s going to take a lot of work. It’s going to take a lot of work to do it right.

Carman Pirie: Yeah, That’s a pretty interesting challenge to be embarking on, because you’re right, it’s kind of like the messy human stuff in some way, which is kind of fun.

Adam Fray: Yeah, you’re exactly right. So and but it’s exciting, right? So I’m very excited about it. It’s good that people want to work with us better than the alternative.

Jeff White: Yeah trying to insert yourself where people aren’t interested. Totally different dynamic. Yes.

Adam Fray: Yeah. Try not to do that.

Jeff White: Well, Adam, this has been an absolutely fascinating conversation. It sounds like a really interesting opportunity in place to work for you. A very cool product. You know, this has got the, checks a lot of boxes.

Carman Pirie: Yeah. My, I’m, I’m willing to bet some good money on Packsize. I think things are looking up.

Adam Fray: Oh me, too. I appreciate it.

Jeff White: Thanks for joining us.

Adam Fray: All right. Thank you so much.

Announcer:Thanks for listening to The Kula Ring with Carman Pirie and Jeff White. Don’t miss a single manufacturing marketing insight. Subscribe now at That’s K-U-L-A

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Adam Fray Headshot


Adam Fray

Senior Director Global Marketing, Packsize

Adam Fray is the Senior Director of Global Marketing at Packsize. Adam joined Packsize in 2022 after spending a decade marketing advanced software technologies and additive manufacturing, in both the public and private sector, for industry pioneers. At Packsize, Adam is responsible for the development and execution of the company’s global campaign and content strategy, with a focus of building awareness and generating demand.
Adam’s proven track record in both traditional marketing philosophy as well as Account-Based marketing enable him to lead the development of a marketing strategy that is both meaningful and effective while driving the mission of the company forward.
Additionally, Adam’s experience in leading global marketing teams gives him a unique capability to create trust and synergies within teams, while establishing strong team culture.
Adam holds a Marketing degree from Northern Michigan University, and a M.B.A. from Davenport University.
Learn more about Packsize at

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