Interviews | May 25, 2021
Century Label Shows the Importance of Resiliency
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Century Label decided to revamp the way it connects with its customers — inspired by, of all things, a decades-old commercial.
The commercial first aired in 1989, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant today. A grim-faced executive walks into a conference room packed with people and announces the company has lost a longtime client. The executive tells his employees that they have lost touch with their clients, relying too much on faxes (okay, maybe that’s a little less relevant) and phone calls while eschewing one-on-one, face-to-face interaction. He takes a stack of United Airlines plane tickets and begins handing them out, instructing his employees to go meet with their clients and improve their relationships.
Century Label didn’t feel like it had lost touch with its customers, but it wanted to forge stronger connections and get to know them better. So in late 2018 and early 2019, the Bowling Green, Ohio- based company began making plans to visit its customers and build deeper relationships. The timing couldn’t have been better.
“I think [the trips] really helped us propel and get ready for what happened in the pandemic,” says Todd Frendt, the chief operating officer of Century Label’s parent company, CMC Group (pictured left). He compared Century Label's efforts to strengthen its customer relationships to the United Airlines commercial. “We did go through a mindset change because we felt ourselves slipping into that mentality, ‘We’re just after product and we’re starting to compete on price.’”
When the business landscape changed dramatically at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Century Label was in a good place with its customers, having just reaffirmed its commitment to them in the form of trips, one-on-one meetings and group discussions. So it’s no surprise Century Label remained a valued partner for many of its customers during the pandemic, helping them adjust to the new circumstances. For example, some of Century Label’s customers began shifting their production lines at the start of the pandemic, making hand sanitizer and disinfectants rather than their usual products. Century Label began making the new labels for the new products without skipping a beat.
Meanwhile, Century Label had put itself in a good position to survive the pandemic, Frendt says. Before the word “coronavirus” was on anyone’s mind, Century Label started new lean manufacturing and automation projects. When the pandemic hit and the company was slammed with new orders while many employees were stuck working from home, these projects helped ensure Century Label was able to manage everything without taking a hit to its on-time delivery rate.
The company also reshuffled its available products, focusing more intensely on tamper-evident labels and other labels it had always offered, but rarely emphasized. They also began selling infrared thermometers.
In many ways, it’s not surprising Century Label has been able to weather the pandemic so well. The company has always been resilient, and whenever it is faced with a challenge, it finds a new way to grow and thrive.
Al Caperna, owner and chairman of CMC Group, founded Century Label in 1980. In the early years, Century Label sold primarily to mom-and-pop retailers on Main Street, USA. But when big-box retailers began squeezing out smaller retailers and jeopardizing Century Label’s success, the company pivoted and began focusing elsewhere, including on restaurants and food and beverage companies. Over time, Century Label also expanded its digital capabilities, further enhancing its position.
“It just continues to grow and redevelop and redesign itself over the years,” Frendt says.
Century Label’s resiliency has inspired it to do everything in its power to help its customers be resilient in the face of challenges, too. Frendt says the company likes nothing better than to discuss such opportunities with its customers. Century Label won’t hesitate to offer help, even if that help is outside the realm of labels and decals. If a customer’s IT department is having some trouble, for example, Century Label’s IT department works with it to help solve the issue.
“We take that approach. And if we get labels out of it, even better,” Frendt says. “But if we don’t, we know we’re solidifying that partnership and when they think of challenges in their company, they’ll think of Century Label [helping them].”
That approach is largely borne out of Century Label’s mission, to “birth, grow and operate companies that extend the kingdom of God,” Frendt says. Century Label embraces the Golden Rule, so it’s no surprise that it strives to always treat its customers like it wants to be treated.
When it comes to closing sales and attracting new customers, Frendt says Century Label’s facilities are often a persuasive tool. Whenever possible, the company invites prospective customers to tour the facilities and meet employees, and these in-person tours and interactions often seal the deals. But Century Label has also focused on another sales tool, one that has become even more important during the coronavirus pandemic: YouTube videos.
The company has a YouTube account featuring videos on topics ranging from active and intelligent packaging to augmented reality. Frendt praises Century Label's "incredibly talented marketing team" for planning, shooting and editing the videos. The company website also features a page for success stories with embedded videos about Century Label’s relationship with two clients, Hella Bitters and Sun King Brewery.
Now that customers are largely unable to visit Century Label’s facilities in person, the YouTube videos are an especially important tool in attracting interest and closing sales. Ultimately, Frendt says, they boost Century Label’s brand recognition and provide insight into the company’s capabilities, enhancing its reputation in the industry.
Frendt joined Century Label a few years ago. When he entered the labels industry, he began thinking about how he could learn more and become more involved. He started hearing mentions of PSDA, and last year decided to officially join the association. More than anything, Frendt hopes to take advantage of PSDA’s networking opportunities and get to know more of his industry peers.
“Our industry is unique, with how close-knit it is,” Frendt says, praising the relationships he has already cultivated with other companies. “PSDA will help solidify those relationships and help us grow.”
Though the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated the outlook for in-person gatherings in the short term, Frendt is excited to attend PSDA events when they start up again. He has also started making use of the PSDA Community and reading PS Magazine.
So far, Frendt says, he has had only positive experiences with PSDA. From fellow members to PSDA staff, everyone has been friendly and responsive, making for a great start to his experience.
“It’s been very, very good,” Frendt says.
Frendt and 2,990 other members take advantage of all PSDA has to offer. Interested in joining them? Find out more about membership.
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