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%20rollsUsing the right paper and print quality for marketing communications is vital to retaining a brand’s identity, yet many companies try to scrimp on the paper budget in an effort to peg the cost of marketing communications. Is this a false economy?

Definitely, believes Glenn Tutssel, executive creative director of Enterprise IG London. In an electronic age, he maintains that good-quality print products are respected more than ever.

“A well-printed communication makes a huge difference to perception,” he says. “Unlike an electronic message, a brochure is ownable.”

But is it possible to cut print costs without damaging the look and feel of a product? “There is always scope to be creative with print and still maintain brand credibility,” believes Claire Biscard, design director at branding consultancy Spencer du Bois.

Shiny stock
“However, fantastic paper will always be more expensive and will always look, print, function and feel better. Nothing is worse than flimsy, cheap, shiny stock.”

Francis Jago, chief executive of design agency Fingal, believes that any brand’s corporate guidelines should include a chapter on suggested stocks and finishes.

He says: “What’s often overlooked when appraising work – especially on screen – is that the finished document will have a tactile quality. This defines the emotional response to the printed matter.

“This doesn’t mean spending a fortune on high-quality paper,” Jago adds. “Cheaper materials can be used imaginatively to create a strong, memorable look and feel.”

Fingal worked on the sponsorship brochure for Volvo Ocean Race 2008-2009 and wanted to use an uncoated, earthy paper to reflect the rawness and discomfort of ocean sailing. Jago tested three papers and by opting for the cheapest, Challenger Offset, he saved the client thousands of pounds.

Kevin Freedman, managing director of marketing services agency Freedman International, says there are many ways to trim costs without using cheaper stock.

After taking on the job of printing BA’s in-flight menus in 1996, Freedman cut the overall cost by 70%. “The airline used litho and printed in bulk up to 15 weeks in advance of its flights,” explains Freedman. “It printed all menus for all routes centrally then shipped them to warehouses at each airport, ready for distribution,

“We took the information from the passenger booking system 48 hours before the flight and had a version of every menu in every language on the system. Then we created a digital print order that went to a local printer the day before the flight.”

The colour sections were printed centrally in each region to fixed paper standards and colour profiles, and the just-in-time element involved digital black overprinting.

Also it was found that the print order could be more than halved, which in turn reduced the cost of shipping and storage.

And as a bonus the new system allowed for late meal changes.

Centralising operations too can create economies of scale and ensure consistent quality.

Philips, another Friedman client, made savings by consolidating. Instead of 25 creative agencies and printers across its European markets, it now has one marketing team which means that artwork can be created and printed in one place. There is still some adaptation for local markets but branding is more consistent and costs are lower.

To cut costs without altering the paper stock or damaging the quality of the finished item, Freedman first looks at the design specification. A smaller sized document can reduce the amount of paper used without cutting back on the paper weight.

For print runs of less than 1,000, Freedman recommends digital printing over litho, though the quality may not be quite so good.

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, he continues, up to a third of the budget may be spent on distribution, and big cost savings can be made with the right choice of freight company.

Procurement is another area where savings can be made. During competitive tendering for one major US pharmaceutical company Freedman 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, Freedman adds.

Specialist print management firms argue that they are best placed to assess these elements. “We take control of the complete paper trail,” explains Matt Bird, group managing director of Extrinsic, which provides nearly 700 million printed items a year.

“As well as print procurement, services range from providing original artwork to digital asset and brand-identity management, and data handling right through to storage and distribution,” he says.

“With access to hundreds of printers, print managers can pinpoint exactly the right supplier for the job,” says Bird. “There are many ways to produce a finished print item and it needs a breadth of technical knowledge to work out the best route.”

Worrrying trend
However Steve Aston, head of creative services at Hicklin Slade & Partners, has identified a worrying trend. “More clients are bypassing agencies and going directly to print management companies,” he says. “This can impact on quality when moving to more prestigious or complex forms of communication.”

Paul Burgess, creative director of brand communication specialist Loewy, adds: “Dealing with an agency is a headache for printers because agencies expect the best and can spot inadequacies that clients often can’t.”

He continues: “As for print brokers, they can screw you on quality over the year through chopping and changing printers.

“Stick to the guys you know and trust, and everyone will win.”

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