“You can’t get more inside the Beltway than the Mayflower,” noted HCPA chair Pam Lam of Henkel. “We have access to key policymakers and that helps tell our story to Congress.”
The new location made it very convenient for its members to take a break from the mid-year meeting to attend Capitol Hill Day, which gave HCPA members a platform to deliver powerful messages to Congress, government agencies, and the key constituencies who influence public policy decisions that impact the household and commercial products association.
Once on the Hill, attendees could remind Congress that member companies support 200,000 direct jobs, represent 0.5% of US GDP and contribute $180 billion to the US economy. The new location also helped lift mid-year meeting attendance above 400, according to HCPA.
“More companies are recognizing the value of HCPA, due to a new strategic plan, an increased focus on member value and critical advocacy victories, both large and small, including the reauthorization of PRIA (Pesticide Registration Improvement Act) and the California Cleaning Product Right to Know Act,” observed Steve Caldeira, president and CEO, HCPA. “This helped us surpass our very ambitious membership recruitment goal in 2018. To put this in perspective, the last time the association achieved this measure of growth was in 2009.”
One of the draws for new members has been the recent success that HCPA has had in Washington. For example, with President Donald J. Trump’s signature, PRIA was reauthorized for five years, through fiscal 2023.
“This success would not have been possible without the hard work and steadfast support of the PRIA Coalition, countless member companies and of course, our dedicated government relations and public policy staff,” noted Caldeira. “For those of you not constantly within the DC bubble, I will tell you that it is incredibly rare to see bipartisan legislation pass in Congress, let alone unanimously, so this is a great accomplishment that we should all be proud of. Not just politically, but legislatively as well, ensuring the quick review of your pesticide products through 2023.”
While it was ensuring the reauthorization of PRIA, HCPA staff members were building a stronger relationship with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); last year, the Association met with EPA more than 60 times, including twice with then-administrator Andrew Wheeler. That relationship with EPA was on display during the mid-year meeting, which featured presentations by EPA’s acting deputy administrator Henry Darwin and Alexandra Dunn, assistant administrator for the office of chemical safety and pollution prevention.
HCPA is building relationships with other associations, too. During the mid-year meeting, Caldeira moderated a trade association CEO panel featuring Heidi Brock, The Aluminum Association; Cal Dooley, American Chemistry Council (ACC); and Geoff Freeman, Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). All agreed that the trade war between the US and China negatively impacts business.
“The chemical industry has never benefitted from a trade war,” observed Dooley, who noted that the US is now the lowest cost producer in the world due to low feedstock costs. “We are the preferred spot to manufacture chemicals in the world,” he added.
In fact, following the mid-year meeting, on May 10, HCPA released a statement after tariffs on $200 billion of imports from China were increased from 10% to 25%.
“Although recent bilateral trade talks held promise for ending the year-long trade war between the US and China, the US Trade Representative’s announcement regarding increased tariffs on imports from China is clearly disappointing and economically damaging to the household and commercial products industry,” the Association said in its statement. “By increasing the costs to these essential, everyday products and inviting retaliatory tariffs on the finished products that American industry ships abroad, the Administration is effectively placing a tax on consumer products that will ultimately be paid by Americans and cost jobs. HCPA condemns these increased tariffs, which will most assuredly escalate the trade feud with China, and respectfully urges the Administration to continue to engage productively in bilateral negotiations to bring stability back to the American economy.”
Like many other association and business executives, GMA’s Freeman took exception to the patchwork of regulations that continues to grow in the US.
“Smart regulations means uniformity,” he told attendees. “I can live with bad federal policy; but what I can’t live with is California doing one thing, Vermont doing another and New York, a third.”
All the association executives agreed that joining forces and speaking as one improves outcomes for all.
“It is a terrific way to enhance our voices,” said Brock. “Congress wants to hear from business and know the real-world impact (of its decisions).”
Finding common ground with the Aluminum Association, GMA and ACC, not to mention the American Cleaning Institute and other trade groups is critical to HCPA. Building better relationships with consumers was the topic of a presentation by Wharton School of Business Professor Jonah Berger, author of “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” and an expert on word of mouth, social influence and consumer behavior. Berger recalled a McKinsey study that found marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising in a range of consumer products.
“No one trusts ads, but we think consumers trust our ads,” he observed.
Berger reviewed his six key “STEPPS” to drive people to talk and share. They are:
Social currency: It’s all about people talking about things to make themselves look good, rather than bad;
Triggers: which is all about the idea of “top of mind, tip of tongue.” We talk about things that are on the top of our heads.
Ease for emotion: When we care, we share. The more we care about a piece of information or the more we’re feeling physiologically aroused, the more likely we pass something on.
Public: When we can see other people doing something, we’re more likely to imitate it.
Practical value: Basically, it’s the idea of news you can use. We share information to help others, to make them better off.
Stories: How we share things that are often wrapped up in stories or narratives.
Done successfully, companies can build trust with consumers and that ultimately turns them into advocates for products and services. For example, Please Don’t Tell (PDT) is a popular bar in New York City’s East Village. The cocktail lounge is connected to Crif Dogs, and can only be accessed by walking through a vintage phone booth. The exclusive nature of the place, not to mention nearly 200 original cocktails, ensures that the speakeasy gets a steady stream of customers who only know of PDT via word-of-mouth.
“When you care, you share,” he reminded attendees. “Find the aspect of your business that you want customers to share.”
The HCPA mid-year meeting included an array of special events and presentations, such as the second annual Capitol Hill Day, B2B networking lunches with pop-up speakers and networking receptions. But the heart of the HCPA remains its seven divisions and divisional programs are critical to the mid-year and annual meetings. Alexandra Gonzalez, CEO and founder of Savvy Marketers, opened the cleaning division program with a presentation, “Designing with the Consumer in Mind.” She noted that by 2020, 80% of internet traffic will come from videos, and that 53% of adults are more willing to buy a product if they first watch a video.
While it may appear that they are glued to their iPhones, consumers crave experiences.
“Experience is more important than ever,” she told the audience. “Eighty-percent of responders would choose a luxury experience over a luxury item.”
Therefore, Gonzalez urged the audience to design products for the people interacting with their brands. She noted that empathy plays a critical role in product designs.
“Consumers buy our products for their reasons, not ours. Emotions drive the buying decision process,” she noted. “Design thinking is a proven and repeatable problem-solving process.”
That process includes five steps: Empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test.
Once the consumer becomes the center of the process, the issues can be defined, possibilities ideated, prototypes created and products tested.
“Consumers want to be involved in our design process,” Gonzalez concluded.
Consumers want more household cleaning products, too. According to Khaled Samirah, an analyst with Euromonitor International, global household cleaning product sales stand at $156 billion. The good news for industry, according to Samirah, the unmet consumer need stands about $103 billion, providing plenty of opportunities for growth. The biggest gains are expected to come from Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa. Specifically, the biggest increase in sales will come from China, the Philippines, Indonesia and Egypt. What’s driving the increases? Rising incomes, time scarcity, minimalism, sustainability and health and wellness issues. All of these play a role in consumer purchasing decisions.
“Candles are considered to be healthier than other air freshener forms,” said Samirah, who noted that shoppers are making a similar connection with essential oils. More troubling for industry, a majority of consumers identify natural with “chemical-free.”
“People don’t understand that burning 50 candles in a room can be worse for air quality than one can of air freshener. There is a lot of chemophobia out there.”
Misunderstanding has plagued the aerosol industry for years, but aerosol division members are working to change that. Its “Mist: Understood” messaging campaign aims to bring positive aerosol messages to young people, their communities and their digital devices. The effort is moving the needle in the right direction, according to results of the 2018 US Aerosol Pressurized Products Survey. While estimated total units filled rose just 0.3%, the total of 3.854 billion units filled was an all-time high. Gains were driven by a 16.9% increase in insect sprays and 15.2% jump in household products. These gains were partially offset by a decline in personal care products.