There’s a war brewing in the office supplies industry. A Post-it note war. It started with the creation of an Angry Birds character on the window of OfficeMax’s head office, and was swiftly answered with a Warehouse Stationery-branded Pacman tribute. Paper Plus has now been drawn in. This could get ugly.
When most people think of a fun corporate culture, office supplies isn’t the first industry that springs to mind, but OfficeMax is seeking to change that.
“We take our business seriously, we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” says OfficeMax managing director NZ and interim managing director Australia Kevin Obern.
The idea for the Post-it war came when OfficeMax took on some international consultants to help it understand the customer journey on its website. Obern says these consultants were digitally-savvy, trendy men, but he was fascinated to see that they used Post-it notes for all their mapping work.
“The meeting room was covered in Post-its.”
Post-it wars also have a distinguished history in the advertising industry. They raged through New York’s Canal St district in May this year, with agencies including Havas Worldwide, Horizon Media, Cake Group, Biolumina, Harrison and Star and Getty Images all involved. Havas, arguably, finished the war with a single gigantic image of a mic-drop.
— paul vinod (@Vinvox) May 24, 2016
Post-its are a cornerstone product for OfficeMax, and the team is enjoying its “friendly rivalry” with Warehouse Stationery. Obern is suitably dismissive of the competitor’s Post-it art: “It’s not as good as ours.”
Last year, OfficeMax began an attempt at a global merger with Staples. This received permission from the Commerce Commission to go ahead on New Zealand, but was blocked by a US federal judge due to antitrust concerns. It fell over on May 16, 2016.
Obern says this has had no impact on OfficeMax’s New Zealand operations: “It was a distraction for us while the whole thing was underway, but we just kept running the business as usual.”
The company is currently engaged in promoting a new feature on its website which encourages more business from SMEs. Obern says at the smaller end, there’s always been a feeling that it’s all about a rewards programme, but in fact, ease of ordering and reliability of services trumps this. He’s not concerned about losing out on customer data as the company has excellent visibility of account holders and their companies.
New software which is soon to launch will enable OfficeMax to make sure its online offering is “absolutely relevant” to the business of those browsing. Its creation took 18 months. Like many businesses, Obern feels, OfficeMax had got into a pattern of not spending enough on its website and instead of constantly developing the site, it is now taking a single “giant leap forward”.
For a fairly traditional business, there’s a lot going on, Obern says.
“People look at us as being an office products business, but actually, we’re a lot more than that.”