Imagine buying a brand new car, that one that you’ve wanted for ages. That one with all the extras; the sparkly paint, the leather seats, the shiny alloy wheels. Imagine picking it up from the dealer, driving it home, proudly parking it outside your front door… and then leaving it covered in mud and bird poo.
When you invest a lot of money or time into something, it is worth making sure you show it off to its full potential. You’d want to make sure you keep the new car shiny and clean.
It’s the same story when you re-brand your business. To make sure you get the finished article that your business deserves, you need to budget for good quality print. It’s ever so tempting to choose the cheap option, but you won’t do your beautifully designed artwork any justice.
Having a quality visual identity that really captures your brand is great, but extending the message throughout your print collateral with quality paper and print will truly elevate your brand. It’s the alignment and consistency of your brand message that has a real impact on the experience you offer your clients.
This applies to everything printed, from business cards to brochures and the whole ‘Unboxing’ experience. In contrast to a digital presence which only allows you to see and hear, print enables your audience to actually feel your brand. The sense of touch is very special and should never be underestimated. There are many creative print solutions out there that can really enhance your customer’s experience.
To delve a bit deeper into print quality, finishes, print trends and how to achieve the best possible tactile brand experience, I’ve spoken to print specialist Gill Robinson of Nexus Creative Print. She has a wealth of knowledge on everything print and works with the very best local suppliers to attain the highest quality results for her clients.
Gill, you’ve been working in printing for a long time, how has the increase in digital advertising and marketing impacted on the print industry?
The impact has been huge, but not deadly in the way that many predicted a few years ago.
There is no doubt the way that we communicate has fundamentally changed over the last decade and that has had to be reflected in the way that we communicate in a business context.
But when you really think about it, the main areas of change have been access to information, reach and speed and, of course, analytics.
Print used to be the one of prime media channels for the broad distribution of promotional and sales support material.
Brochures and leaflets were used to reinforce television and press advertising and provide information in very broad-brush ways. When they first emerged digital advertising and marketing definitely took over that role.
Now, things are moving on again, marketing is ever-evolving as technology becomes more powerful and more prevalent and print has had to find a new place in the marketing mix. The print industry has been working hard to do just that, both in a marketing and in a technological sense.
Generally, this has meant a reduction in the number of print companies around and it has meant changes in investment and to the business models of those that survived and are now thriving.
And how do you see the role of print, both now and in the future?
Today, print provides the zig to digital marketing’s zag. It provides space and calm to make rational decisions in a very noisy and frantic environment.
Not all of our decisions are big. But when they are, providing well-written, well-designed, well-produced printed material is widely recognised for its ability to guide the interested consumer towards a buying decision.
When potential customers are nearly ready to buy, when they have shortlisted on the basis of product descriptions, that’s when your brand truly makes the difference, and print can really help them to choose you.
It is well known that readers absorb content better when they read on paper rather than on screen. We are all warned that, when creating digital content, we have to be mindful of scrolling speeds because audiences are anything but mindful; one thumb movement and your content is missed.
Print is a great contrast to the hustle, bustle, chatter and noise, and drive for ‘conformance’ that is digital marketing today. Print provides slow marketing; distinct marketing; different marketing. Physical sensation, subtle finishing enhancements, shape and structure are all elements that print can provide in ways that are so very different to digital marketing. Investment in printed material also conveys a sense of trust and permanence in ways that the transitory nature of digital marketing just cannot provide.
Print is not just brochures, leaflets and business cards. Print is all around us.
In physical retail outlets, it is point of sale and store outfitting. In online retail it is in internal and external packaging, boxes, adhesive tapes and labels. Print reinforces brand values so well and for so long and it appeals to that part of a buyer’s psyche that digital just does not reach.
Moving forward I see more detailed targeting that will lead to even more personalisation; the more mindful use of format and texture will lead to more memorable pieces that continue to shift print from basic communication to real experience. It is also interesting to note that sales of physical books are really standing up well against the onslaught of online reading and the use of sound and movement in children’s books is great to see.
I mentioned above that print enable people to actually feel a brand. Can you give me any examples of brands that use quality print to their absolute advantage?
There are many successful brands that do so, if their marketing is to be successful they have to use the whole marketing mix properly, however, the way they use print is very particular.
Large brands with mass market appeal use print to increase loyalty (who doesn’t grab the Lidl and Aldi catalogues for upcoming offers on their way out of the store?) Other major supermarkets produce lifestyle magazines and place products in food and lifestyle publications.
Beauty brands use print at every opportunity to reinforce with packaging, particularly in retail. In the influencer market they showcase their products in beautiful and unusual packaging to encourage conversations with their target audiences. I have worked on some complicated and stunning pieces for this market.
Smaller niche brands make sure that you receive postcards, business cards, carrier bags, loyalty cards, price and service lists, so that their story is not forgotten when their product is used and can use smart design and clever material choices to punch above their marketing weight.
Successful coaches and thought leaders create physical giveaways for premium sales; VIP days and workshops are rarely without pads and pens, workbooks, journals and text books.
Can you tell me a bit about current trends in paper choice and finishes?
Recycled and eco-friendly papers are very current and they are getting more interesting: the Extract range for GF Smith is made from used paper cups and the colours are wonderful.
It is worth remembering, though, that all papers are environmentally friendly; wood pulp and water, chlorine-free bleaches, vegetable dyes, chain-of-custody certificates, and re-forestation have all been in existence for years, and more importantly, paper is much more easily recycled than lithium batteries.
Bringing some of the older craft finishes like foiling, laser cutting, duplexing and spot UV varnishes into the digital printing market place has transformed print buying options for smaller businesses.
And business cards are getting thicker because they carry weight – literally & metaphorically.
Are there any other techniques that you would recommend considering?
There are many: layflat binding, hand sewing, fluorescent inks, synthetic paper, amongst others, and of course personalisation and augmented reality.
It’s interesting that the range of items in finishing techniques is changing as well – the number of foils and finishes is vast – not just silvers and golds but a rainbow of colours and effects.
Again, the most important thing is being in alignment with your brand and doing things that are appropriate and in tune with your customers’ aspirations. Sometimes less is more, other times more is more! It really is dependent on want you want to achieve.
The ‘unboxing experience’ seems to be an increasingly popular term in the industry. Cardboard boxes, tissue paper, wallets for invoices, flyers and discount vouchers are just some examples of items that can be branded to enhance the experience. Which brand’s ‘unboxing’ impresses you the most? And how could, for example, the service industry use this to their advantage?
There is a US subscription brand called e-salon, that makes ‘bespoke’ hair colourants and sell online – you choose your shade on line and it is mixed to order. Their product is the same as any other box colourant: it consists of a bottle of colour, activator and conditioner, but when it arrives, the presentation is so smart – it is a joy to receive.
All of the elements are personalised with your name and the smallest element is considered. They include a small removable sticker so that you can fix the instructions to the wall or mirror temporarily while colouring your hair!
All of these little things can add up. You do not have to spend a fortune to be able to offer these touches.
What really is worthwhile is thinking hard how people will use your product or service and what would help them have a great experience doing so.
Help them to remember you, so they buy again and also refer you to others, and don’t give them a chance to think that you could have tried harder.
The recent introduction of GDPR has had many companies changing policies, procedures and the way they communicate with their clients. In your opinion, what impact does this new regulation have on print?
GDPR can only be good for print. Regarding data cleanliness, print has a march on digital marketing; direct marketing is an older technology and it has been compliant for years.
Postal addresses are not considered personal data. A building is not a person and our names are matters of record so the same GDPR rules on consent do not apply.
But the best incentive is Royal Mail – why would you want to spend £££s to send mail to bad addresses? It costs a fortune and is one of the biggest wastes of a marketing budget there is.
GDPR is mostly good manners and good marketing formalised to avoid abuse. Why would you antagonise a potential buyer by sending them material, in whatever form, that they are not interested in?
‘Know your target market’ is a very basic marketing principle and businesses cannot ignore that and now if they do, they can get punished, I have no problem with that.
To help business owners get a rough idea of how much to set aside for print, would you be able to recommend a minimum printing budget for a re-brand?
Oh, this is almost impossible to answer in money terms, but what I can say is that with the development of digital technology in print, budgets are much smaller than they used to be.
Rebranding a business can range from £00s to £000,000s depending on the size of the task and the scale of a brand.
I have packages for micro-businesses that start from £175 plus VAT that will buy good quality business cards and a mini banner that can then be flexed with postcards and leaflets or with letterhead and compliment slips; depending on what the business needs.
Restaurants and retail markets, online services and products will each require very different elements: point of sale and window decals for the former, inner and outer packaging, labels and stationery for the latter. Service providers will look at containers e.g. folders and wallets to give physicality to their offerings.
And which items are most often ordered as part of a re-branding project?
The humble business card is top of the list, definitely. It plays such a big part in forming that so-important initial impression, that we cannot do without them.
The rest really depends on the industry and the market. Again the major consideration must be the engagement with the customer and all items must reinforce the tone and the feel of the brand. After all, it is the essence of the business.
A small number of well-chosen items that really work hard for the brand under consideration would be my choice.
Getting in touch with Gill: