When it comes to choosing paper, surprisingly, a lot. The emotions a stock evokes can be a powerful persuader.
The next time a new acquaintance hands you his business card, take a moment to notice its “hand”—the way it feels—and the way you feel when you touch the paper stock it’s printed on.
A flimsier stock may make you view the person and his company as lightweight, expendable, unimportant. Conversely, a heavyweight stock—165-pound cover, say—may elicit feelings of reliability, credibility, or value.
All that and you haven’t even looked at it yet!
“It’s something you feel before you see,” says Crystal Bryant, paper specification sales representative for Clampitt Paper, which is headquartered in Dallas. “Your message is more than the content printed on the page. The paper itself is a powerful, non-verbal element in the overall communication.”
But paper also accounts for a significant portion of a project’s budget—up to 35 percent of total printing costs. No wonder people like Bryant advise putting paper selection near the top of any checklist for a print job and including a “paper person” on a project’s team along with designers and printers.
In addition to engaging a paper expert on the team for a print project, users can tap into paper companies industry-wide that are educating their clients on what a powerful influencer paper stock can be in the effectiveness of any print campaign. So, savvy marketing, advertising, and public relations professionals are ratcheting up their paper IQ through educational programs sponsored by the people who know paper best—the companies that make it.
For example, Clampitt Paper tries to make it easier for communications pros to consider the emotional aspects of paper. Like any good supplier, the company keeps reams of paper samples in its sample room and countless shelves displaying the latest promotions from its customers in the Creative Center at its headquarters. It also offers its complimentary Paper School four times throughout the year for working professionals in the graphic design, printing, and corporate purchasing areas.
Hey, look me over
The way paper looks, Bryant adds, can be just as important as the way it feels, when it comes to evoking emotion.
For example, she points to two different pieces designed to promote a luxury-brand convertible. The piece produced for the American market uses glossy paper for a fast, glitzy feel. The second piece, for the Australian consumer, is printed on uncoated paper that creates a softer look. Same product, different approach, for separate markets.
“You want the best marriage of product and paper for your audience,” she says.
In fact, Bryant’s years as a paper maven have led her to a lot of handy, informal guidelines that she often uses when working with clients.
Pick an uncoated paper for annual reports, Bryant suggests, to get a warm, welcoming, inviting look that evokes feelings of partnership.
She recommends a linen finish for a solid, buttoned-down look. Linen finish is also good for clothing catalogs or a piece for a custom tailor, for example, because it shows off the texture of clothes best. If the clothing is rugged or made of denim, switch to the more 3-D felt finish. Felt finish is also great for showing off a rugged mountain scene, Bryant says.
Want to sell expensive jewelry made of pearls, diamonds, and other gemstones, and luxury metals? Go for a glossy finish to make them shine.
Coatings—and lack of them—also help move the emotion meter: dolphin skin and soft-touch have a luxurious feel; suede is rugged and rustic, suggestive of a down-to-earth lodge; metallic coating suggests glamour and luxury, and is suitable for perfume packaging, haute couture fashion, and gala invitations; hard edges, metal, and glass images work well on a coated sheet, says Bryant.
So, if your client is a lakeside resort, pick a coated, glossy paper for a cool and refreshing look. If your client happens to be a beer company, show off an ale-filled glass or a sweating can of brew with a pearlized or metallic coated paper, Bryant recommends.
Forgo coating on paper for an inviting look to sell a top-of-the-line cruise experience; to promote an environmentally friendly message; or to sell a fuel-efficient car.
Rules? What rules?
Or, perhaps not.
Despite her commonly accepted paper preferences, Bryant adds that she’s witnessing a countertrend among young designers: Some of those out of school fewer than 10 years, for example, tend to break the rules.
“All these different textures don’t need to pigeonhole themselves,” she explains. “A designer can connect them to any image they want because feelings are open to interpretation.”
She’s seen a linen sheet used by artists to promote their work because it looks similar to canvas. But she’s also seen it used effectively to illustrate men’s clothing and in a piece to recruit salespeople for car dealerships.
New finishes also open the door for new rules, Bryant says. For example, a stipple finish that resembles the texture of an orange peel came out less than two years ago. It’s used primarily for stationery systems (business cards, letterhead, envelopes), but Bryant has seen it used effectively for images of artwork on museum invitations, posters in music stores, and illustrations for a clothing designer.
Follow the rules or break them, just be aware that paper’s tactile and visual qualities—its weight, color, and texture— reinforce a brand, convey a message, and have the ability to evoke emotions in the recipient.
It’s not just about the paper
Emotions can come into play in other ways in other kinds of efforts—such as health campaigns or environmental causes—when persuading gives clients a reason to open their checkbooks.
Kyrsa Severson, senior territory manager for Glatfelter, describes one successful campaign that used health to promote carbonless paper.
Glatfelter’s client, 5 Day Business Forms, appealed to its customers by promising to donate a portion of its proceeds from orders for carbonless forms to fight breast cancer. The campaign started on Mother’s Day, and within two weeks the company had $35,000 in new orders.
“That’s a lot of new business for the first two weeks of a campaign,” says Severson.
New business for carbonless forms is notable, she explains. That’s because she has seen typical run size get smaller or move to different papers and communication methods as businesses increasingly adopt digital formats. With Glatfelter’s help—the breast cancer campaign suggestion is just the most recent and was preceded by other campaigns offering a wide array of prizes and trips—5 Day’s business has remained steady.
“But this time we said why don’t we tie it in to something that gives back,” Severson says.
So, with each new signup, the customer wins, too, getting a complimentary pink insulated travel coffee mug and an entry into monthly and grand prize drawings. The campaign runs through the end of November.
“It should drive sales for the entire five and a half months,” Severson predicts.
The breast cancer campaign made a big impression on at least one 5 Day customer, who took the time to send an email to the company.
“… just received my new pink travel mug!” the customer wrote. “Being a 19-year breast cancer survivor myself, I can appreciate what it stands for! Thank you to 5 Day Business Forms.”
Companies can also motivate customers by offering them a direct connection to their desire to align with sustainability efforts.
Clients focused on the environment may be willing to open their wallets wider for paper made with sustainable technologies, says Bryant. That includes the trees, and the ingredients used in paper manufacturing, and the formula for the ink. Modern manufacturing methods have made sustainable paper and printing mainstream.
Feeling before seeing
Recall that new acquaintance who’s just handed you his business card. In the few moments you first held it in your hand, subliminal messages raced to your brain. The stock it’s printed on elicited your emotional response, reinforced his company’s brand, and spoke volumes about him. And you received all of those messages just by touching the paper. How does that make you feel?