Feel the paper quality

With printed marketing communications taking on fresh importance, companies face the difficult challenge of maintaining quality while reducing ever-rising production costs. By Richenda Wilson

Paper%20productionUsing the right paper and print quality for marketing communications is vital to retain a brand’s identity, yet many companies try to cut the paper budget to reduce the cost of marketing communications.

This is a false economy, believes Glenn Tutssel, executive creative director of Enterprise IG London. In an age where communications are increasingly delivered electronically, he maintains that good quality print products are respected more than ever.

"Print is becoming unique again," says Tutssel. "A well-printed communication makes a huge difference to perception."

However, Claire Biscard, design director at branding consultancy Spencer du Bois, says: "There is always scope within any budget to be creative with print and still maintain brand credibility."

But she adds: "Fantastic paper will always be more expensive and will always look, print, function and feel better."

Francis Jago, chief executive of design agency Fingal, agrees that paper and print quality are vital to communications. He says: "Part of any brand’s corporate guidelines should include a chapter on suggested stocks and finishes.

Tactile quality
"What is often overlooked when appraising work, especially when viewed on screen, is that the finished document is three-dimensional. It will have a tactile quality. This defines the emotional response to the printed matter.

"This doesn’t mean that you have to spend a fortune on high-quality paper," adds Jago. "Inexpensive materials can be used imaginatively to create a strong and memorable look and feel."

Fingal worked on the sponsorship brochure for Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09. By using an uncoated, earthy paper that reflected the rawness and discomfort of ocean sailing, Jago saved the client thousands of pounds.

There are many ways to trim the budget of printed matter without using cheaper stock, says Kevin Freedman, managing director of marketing services agency Freedman International.

After taking on the contract to print BA’s in-flight menus in 1996, Freedman cut the overall cost by 70%. "We moved to a system of just-in-time printing, where we took the information from the passenger booking system 48 hours before the flight."

Savings were made in several ways. BA has 4 million business class passengers, but was printing 10 million menus. This was cut down to a print order of 4.8 million based on actual passenger numbers for each flight. The cost of shipping the menus also dropped, as did the cost of storing them in warehouses.

However, in other cases, centralising operations may create economies of scale and ensure consistent quality. Freedman also works for Philips, which made savings by consolidating its marketing endeavours. Instead of having 25 creative agencies and printers across its European markets, it now has one European marketing team.

Design specification
Freedman has a checklist to assess costs on print jobs. First, he says, you must look at the design specification. A smaller sized document can reduce the amount of paper used without cutting back on the paper weight.

The location of the printer is also important. The Czech Republic and Dubai offer some of the best prices, says Freedman, but the job will be harder to manage.

In international work, up to a third of the budget may be spent on distribution, says Freedman. Big cost savings can be made with the right choice of freight company.

Freedman cites procurement as another area where savings can be made. During the competitive tendering process for one major pharmaceutical company in the US, he achieved a 23% reduction between the initial tenders and the final price.

Annual contracts for paper, printing, mailing and translation services can also attract big volume discounts, adds Freedman.

However, Steve Aston, head of creative services at Hicklin Slade & Partners, the relationship marketing agency that works with Honda UK and Camelot, has identified a worrying trend. "It has become more common for clients to bypass agencies and go directly to print management companies. When it moves to the more prestigious or complex forms of communication, it is likely to affect the quality."

Saving money
Paul Burgess, creative director of brand communication specialist Loewy, also takes issue with clients who try to deal directly with printers. "They think they’ll be saving money, but in reality, they don’t know how to deal with printers, so come back to the agency for help."

Burgess says: "In the short term, print brokers can seem good value, but over the year, you’ll get screwed on quality as they’ll chop and change printers. Stick to the guys you know and trust and everyone will win. The client will get good, consistent print; the agency will get a happy client and a fair deal; and the printer will still be around tomorrow to help out again."

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