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Paper and print: what role does print play in the marketing mix?


By The Drum Team | Editorial

July 24, 2012 | 8 min read

The Drum recently caught up with specialists from every part of the print process, from designers and publishers to printers and paper merchants, to talk tactile experiences, print v digital, and what the future holds for the industry.

Here we find out print's place in the communications mix, what it adds to the brand experience, and whether clients now see it as a premium medium.What place does paper and print have in the communications mix?
  • Graham Congreve, director, Evolutionprint: Where perhaps previous experience suggests print was central to the marketing mix, and often the only means of mass communication, the advent and growth of online media and new technologies moves print into more of a complimentary role. The industry has to come to terms with this and to proactively change models and product services to prosper. In a multi-channel marketing push print definitely is an exciting and worthy addition to further ROI, and adds value at many levels.
  • Justin Hobson, marketing director, Fenner Paper: In my opinion, it all comes down to design. Paper and print are still a great medium and always will be. Experiencing a great piece of print is the same as looking at a great website – if it’s a great piece of design produced in the right media put in the right hands, it’ll always work – brilliantly. It can only be a great piece of print if it’s a great piece of design or image being printed on it.
  • David Allsopp, director, ASAP Digital: As a printer, I believe it has an invaluable place in the mix, having a product that a customer can interact with, enhances the experience and gives a physical value to a communication piece. Of course all mediums have their uses and we have found that print jobs are becoming more highly specked with specialist finishes such as foil blocking, duplexing and singer sewing often being requested along with more adventurous and effective paper choices. Tactile papers, new techniques such as white ink and specialist finishes, enhance design and allow customers to achieve a creative edge that adds value to their brand.
  • Mark Diggins, senior designer, Kent Lyons: Print as a communication tool is probably working at its best at a more personal level... engaging with the receiver through touch and smell. There is something special about well considered print. For example, a simple business card on a sophisticated Colorplan stock with nothing but a foil treatment. It will feel special in anyone’s hands. It’s a statement of intent that I’d expect to elicit a great first impression.
  • Gary Wheat, business development director, USP Creative: A vital one. We only have to look at the history of paper and print and how intrinsic it has been to the way we communicate with one another.
What part does paper and print have to play in the brand experience? Does the tactile experience impart a message about the brand itself?
  • Graham Congreve, director, Evolutionprint: It’s crucial. Paper and therefore print choice lives and breathes – it exists – it’s a physical product, and you can even smell it, and taste it if you want! It’s a sensory experience that when used in the mix adds in a powerfully positive way. Get this wrong at your peril.
  • Ian Thompson, creative director, Thompson Brand Partners: Paper is sometimes the perfect technology for a job. Sometimes the tactile experience given with a paper communication cannot be matched by its digital equivalent. Also, annual reports are still predominantly produced on paper for a reason – in a lot of cases because it's infinitely more convenient that wading through a PDF.
  • Adam Quilliam, designer, Thompson Brand Partners: It is important to transfer established visual quality into an appropriate physical quality. A brand not only has a visual personality but also a tactile one, and it's important that these two things meet and are appropriate to one another; the printed material must fit physically within the overall feel of the brand. Paul Smith and many other fashion brands still use look books, with which they try to reflect the look, feel and quality of the product itself. The tactile nature of the materials used for the look book are a much more accurate reflection of the nature of the products that anything on screen can ever be.
  • Gary Wheat, business development director, USP Creative: Paper and print has a huge part to play in the brand experience. And the use of a beautiful stock with top quality finishing certainly says something about the brand. As does 50 business cards bought out of a booth in a supermarket. It is horses for courses but underestimating the tactile elements of a finished print job and how it could positively impact on a brand is crazy.
  • Simon Elliott, owner, Rose: Both paper and print have an important role to play in customers experience of a brand. Likewise, a tactile experience - whether through paper stocks or production techniques and finishes - can definitely help define a brand if used appropriately. But if they're only used in a bid to make a mediocre piece of design more interesting, it's decorative at best, and at worst, creates an expectation that the brand won't live up to.
  • Alex Frech, creative corrector, Black and Ginger: Depending on the client and the audience, paper and print can play a huge part on brand perception.
Is print now seen as a premium medium?
  • Kerr Vernon, creative director, KVGD: Possibly. But that in itself speaks volumes about the brand. Nothing communicates premium, luxury values better than quality paper mixed with some sexy, tactile print finishing such as foiling or embossing.
  • Jamie Ellul, creative director, Magpie Studio: Magpie Studio opened it's doors in 2008, right as the recession kicked in. In that time we've definitely seen a shift in the way clients perceive print. In a way print has become somewhat of a luxury rather than a necessity. We're lucky enough to have a wide breadth of clients which means we still get to practice the art of print design. Some of our more savvy clients see the value in a well considered print job, particularly when it comes to branding, the choice of print technique, the feel of the paper etc all add to the brand experience.
  • Jane Hudson, managing director, Forever Creative: I think it is. Digital marketing is often seem as more cost-effective and so is increasingly the first port of call for day to day marketing communications. When it comes to print, clients will often request just a small run of brochures for special events such as exhibitions and then use online versions for the remainder of the year. Frequently it is not the cost of the print itself that is the problem but the continued increase in postal prices that has made the distribution of brochures and direct mail prohibitively expensive for many clients.
  • Simon Elliott, owner, Rose: I don't think so. Print, like any other medium, should be used appropriately and be fit for purpose. Although a lot of our print work is still at the premium end, we're also seeing more clients looking for print solutions to minimise cost whilst reaching broader audiences. A case in point is a newspaper we've just created for the V&A. They're a client who generally use premium print to communicate to their audiences. But as an organisation world-renowned for its creativity, they also need inventive and sustainable solutions, that meet (and ideally surpass) audience expectation of their brand.
  • Justin Hobson, marketing director, Fenner Paper: I’m sure it is. In comparison with online, print is seen as extremely expensive. However, it is quite often the only, and often the best, way to deliver something tangible into customers hands which has the potential to give you an advantage over a competitor who is purely online.
  • Mark Diggins, senior designer, Kent Lyons: I would say this increasingly the case, which is why a lot of the smaller printers that weren’t as passionate have gone out of business. A lot of the remaining printers in the marketplace could be described as artisan. Really caring about the final product, working with the designers to improve the job from an earlier stage in the design process.

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Evolution Print

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USP Creative

USP is a creative consultancy run by business minded creatives for creatively minded businesses.

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Thompson Brand Partners

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Black & Ginger

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Kerr Vernon

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Magpie Studio Ltd

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Forever Creative

We are a design and marketing agency based just outside Manchester with extensive experience in Branding, Advertising, Digital, Print, Direct Marketing, Exhibitions and Packaging. Our experienced team have worked across a wide range of sectors including food & drink, telecoms, education, finance, healthcare, engineering, industrial, construction, fashion and the public sector.

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