RETIRING after 40 years in the commercial and packaging print industry, Caroline Coughlan has set the bar very high for other marketing managers striving to push creative branding boundaries with paper and board.
However, long before she discovered her passion for marketing paper and print, Caroline credits her exposure to multiple industries including fashion, communications and retail, as providing her with the spark steering her into the branding side of the packaging industry. A sales role with Golden Harvest Breakfast Cereals grew into a promotions manager role, which included handling all the retail in-store promotions. ‘That was the first important step in my journey, as I could show my creative side and ability to bring something fresh to packaging and point-of-sale,’ she reports.
After a buy-out, this position evolved to include Ruto Flour Mills’ brands, promoting cereals, flour and mielie meal in both the informal and formal sectors. The next significant step was becoming a key account manager at Willards with sole responsibility for the Woolworths snack portfolio. Within a year, Caroline had taken ownership for the entire Willards point-of-sale (POS) portfolio, giving her experience in working with various POS media and printing techniques.
The next step in her career was as brand manager for various Willards products, with above and below the line marketing responsibilities. Removing tartrazine and replacing it with a natural colourant and relaunching Cheese Curls was a significant move in offering a healthier children’s snack. Big Korn Bites and Flanagan’s brands were marketed with novel snack market POS and packaging – moving to more environmentally-friendly options, including solid wood POS stands. A highlight during this period was as a team member that developed and launched the first metallised foil packaging for the Crinkle Cut brand.
Journey to paper
In 1998, Caroline joined Kalideck (then known as Haddons Star), as marketing manager and witnessed numerous changes, including the amalgamation of Haddons, First Paper and First Graphics into Antalis South Africa, and the eventual local management buyout in 2018 and renaming of the company to Kalideck.
‘This position fostered my passion for marketing and pushing the boundaries with paper because it creates a bond with those who touch it, and delivers an emotionally memorable experience through the tactile dimensions of visual communication. For 22 years, I enjoyed the creative process of inspiring designers, corporates and printers to choose paper. Printing on paper is still the world’s most powerful means of communication, and combines well with the latest digital communication. The current drive for sustainable paper and packaging and my love for its versatility and overcoming many production obstacles have kept me engaged and excited right to the end of my career.’
When reflecting on highlights, Caroline lists projects such as the launch of the 25 Designer Cups promotion, Munken range of journals, running the biannual Art of Design competition, and spearheading Forest Stewardship Council certification for the past 10 years. Her most recent project, the construction and launch of the Kalideck Experience Centre also stands out. ‘I could put my love for interior decorating and hosting at the forefront of conceptualising and creating this memorable customer experience.’
Caroline advises women in the industry to find and follow their passion as she did. ‘Don’t let anyone stand in the way of your dreams. Rely on the support and confidence of your partner and loved ones to make the journey easier when you’re facing obstacles.’
She also considers herself fortunate to have had bosses and colleagues who believed in her and allowed her creative drive to blossom. ‘Additionally, the printers and designers I worked with over the years encouraged me to push the boundaries, inspired and guided me to create well-produced printed pieces, and to invest love and craftsmanship into projects to make them even more successful,’ Caroline concludes.