Selling paper to graphic designers is probably like selling sand to the Arabs. They are surrounded by it all day, everyday, and chances are they know more about how to make the best use of it than the companies that actually manufacture the stuff. So, how do paper companies make sure that when a designer is looking to choose a paper stock they opt for one from their range?
Tony Porter, marketing director at James McNaughton Paper, explained: “Having a strong marketing strategy in place is very important these days as the industry itself is becoming more complex in terms of who is making the decisions on buying paper stock. There is the end user, the designer, the print company and now with the advent of the print management companies there is another audience that needs to be addressed and they all need to be addressed in a slightly different way.”
For many years sample books have been the stock in trade of most merchants and mills and are still used extensively today. But paper mills and merchants are becoming much more sophisticated with their marketing strategies.
Porter said: “We try to tie up all the strands through our marketing and give all of our clients a broad understanding of all of our products. You cannot just focus on one segment of your market and you need to co-ordinate your activity as everyone is looking for something slightly different.”
So, is it ultimately about getting the right stock into the right hands at the right time or is the focus now on raising the profile of the paper mill and its stocks so that they are front of mind when creatives are searching for that perfect paper stock?
Philipa Charlton, group communications manager at Robert Horne, said, “Our marketing activity is tailored to do a combination of jobs. Obviously, one of the aims is to get the product in hand, but the other aim is to raise awareness of the product from the earliest possible stage.”
Ian McKay, marketing and business development executive at Inveresk, said: “We looking at marketing closely. Because we are quite a small company, marketing wise, we tend to create paper swatches that we distribute to the wide range of companies that we sell to or we arrange joint marketing ventures with our paper distributors to get our stocks into the hands of people. Our marketing tends to be pretty flexible but there has been little cohesion to it in the past, though we are certainly linking it together much better now.
“We have built up relationships with various companies like the Tayburns of this world as we aim to work together with them on their projects. We’d like to do even more of this in the future, but, for us, it still very much depends upon volumes.”
Robert Horne’s Philipa Charlton continues: “The earlier the market is made aware of and introduced to a paper stock, the better. If we can have the designers or the printers thinking about the product at the start of the process, then that is very important to us, indeed. We need to try and reposition paper at the front of the creative process, and that is not always an easy ask.
“If the buyers of the paper are as passionate about paper as we are, then it is important that they are able to consider the product and know how it can be used. So it’s important to get that message out to them.”
Another method that has become an increasingly popular tactic for paper companies to kill two birds with one stone (i.e. to raise their company profile while meeting and forging stronger industry relationships) is through awards schemes.
Only a few weeks ago James McNaughton Paper had 120 people from the industry out in Monte Carlo for its Review awards. Porter agrees that it is a good way to make contacts that will, hopefully, pay dividends in the future.
Likewise, Howard Smith Paper’s marketing manager Sam Findlay is currently in the process of organising the Consort Royal Awards that will take place this year in Dublin and have in previous years visited destinations such as Paris and Barcelona.These awards see both designers and printers jointly awarded for pieces of work, which again increases the company’s chances of forging stronger relationships across the many audiences it has to work with.
For a few years now Robert Horne has run its Shout Awards, which recognises outstanding design and it also sponsors the Scottish Design Consultancy of the Year Review, organised by The Drum to show its commitment to the design sector, as Charlton concluded: “The message we deliver is not just about getting paper in hand, it is to support the industry and to show that we support the industry. There is a degree of altruism involved.
“Innovation is key. Technology is changing and that enables printing on almost any surface, and that means there needs to innovation in the materials and products that we are selling. We have to try and provide an understanding of our products in the marketplace.
“In the future we need to continue to build on the knowledge of who it is that we are speaking to, and what it is we want to say to them. The communications need to be constantly tailored.”