Creative Ideas on Paper

Most of us spend all too many hours each day staring at smooth and shiny screens. That would appear to be bad news for paper producers. In reality, it’s anything but a negative for manufacturers of innovative new paper products. And what’s good for them is also good for print providers.

Paper producers, the print service providers to whom they sell, and their marketing and advertising clients are getting reacquainted with the fact that richly textured papers in varying colors and finishes command attention and invite touches, especially from those forced to interact with boring computer screens most of their lives.

“Colors, textures, something that’s tactile really makes a difference these days,” says Kristen Hogan, senior brand manager for Neenah Paper. “It’s a lot more memorable when people get something tactile that is printed on high-quality paper with an interesting texture.”

Clearly, new papers unveiled over the past few years hold great potential for sales growth and creative opportunities among print providers.


Drivers of Growth

The new appreciation for paper is also in part due to a leveling out of cost-benefit equations, says Ferk X. Goldinger, marketing manager for Appleton Coated. For a while, print was being slashed entirely, and marketing efforts were going to the Internet. “Now we’re seeing a retreat from that, to a combination of print and Internet,” he says. “Some of the budget is going to really innovative papers that get attention and deliver results.”

Brian Cummins, product development specialist with Nekoosa Coated Products, notes a recent survey examining ways advertisers try to reach consumers—including online, email, TV, print media, and direct mail—reveals that the act of physically placing a printed piece in someone’s hands via direct mail continues to be a highly effective way to build brand awareness.

Innovation in paper products also has been spurred by shorter print runs made possible by digital printing. “Printers can easily leverage their digital press investment by looking to materials for creative applications. Whether premium textured and colored papers and envelopes that capture attention in the mail box, or synthetic substrates for more unusual applications like door hangers and waterproof menus—materials matter,” says Mohawk’s Chris Harrold, VP business development, digital.

Digital printing also has made it more cost-effective for advertisers to experiment with different papers. “With shorter runs in digital, we’re starting to see people use really fancy papers,” Goldinger says. “That’s because their print costs have declined, letting them funnel some of that money into the papers.”


New Applications Possible

How can PSPs leverage these creative new ideas in paper? Goldinger believes they can do so by being creative themselves. “For print providers, creativity is offering new capabilities and new technologies, knowing their clients’ businesses, and finding ways to merge them,” he says. “Some might call that sales, but I call it creativity.”

For instance, sales representatives might want to explain to clients in the not-for-profit realm how the use of differentiated paper—perhaps textured paper, or colored or translucent envelopes— captures results in direct mail fundraising campaigns. “In fundraising capital campaigns, your ROI is in the donations you receive as a result of such appeals,” Goldinger says. “PSPs need to show their clients these papers can help achieve that ROI.”

PSPs would also be well advised to be creative in considering the packaging area, particularly given the amount of digital finishing equipment available now for custom short-run packaging, Goldinger adds. “This opens up opportunities that once went solely to long-run package printing houses,” he adds.


Products and Promise

Mohawk has a compelling new portfolio of synthetic materials that are ideal for short-run projects, from rigid waterproof film to embedded magnets to repositionable vinyl window cling. “The embedded magnet product alone has generated a ton of interest because it offers any digital printer the ability to produce 4-up, 6x9" postcards with an integrated, pop-out magnet for high impact, high value direct mail,” Harrold points out.

Appleton Coated manufactures Utopia brand coated papers, as well as distributing the Curious Collection from Paris-based Arjowiggins.

Utopia appeals to marketers for use in such items as brochures, annual reports, and direct mail. Curious Collection offers a half dozen diverse product lines, from Curious Translucents to Curious Metallics, which provide sheen and shimmer, along with tactility, Goldinger says. It is used in stationery, packaging, menus, invitations, fashion and lifestyle brand promotions, greeting cards, and brochures that require a shiny cover.

Nekoosa’s niche is specialty substrates. “We’ve concentrated on products that help the short-run and digital printer,” says Cummins.

“One example is Synaps OM, which stands for offset matte, a polyester substrate with a specialized coating on it that allows it to be printed offset with standard inks. It comes right out of the delivery dry, like uncoated offset.”

The polyester substrate is exceptionally durable, weatherproof, and replaces laminating, he adds. It’s used in direct mail and custom signage as well as restaurant menus. “It has a silky finish that stands out,” Cummins says.

Neenah Paper cannot yet divulge details of a new paper product soon to be unveiled. In the meantime, an old standby, Astrobrights, continues to garner tremendous loyalty. Astrobrights command fully 75 to 80 percent of market share among brights, Hogan says. “A lot of these papers are used by printers for flyers, direct mail, packaging, greeting cards, invitations, announcements, and inserts,” she adds.


Paper’s Future

As for the next few years, Cummins believes there will be increasing numbers of specialty substrates introduced. “Paper mills are being driven away from the commodity side of the business,” he says. “That’s especially true of those that aren’t the biggest and best. Either these mills will change, become nimble, and find unique substrates that attract marketers, or they won’t be able to compete, and will go out of business.”

“Mohawk is committed to expanding its portfolio of fine paper and specialty substrates to extend its offering of best-in-class materials for the broadest range of print applications,” says Harrold. “An example is the new dimensional portfolio we introduced at Graph Expo. These are digital sheets which are pre-die-cut and pre-scored for packaging and point-of-purchase uses. Designers design to the template, they are run through a digital press, and then you punch out and easily construct wine bottle boxes, gift boxes, pocket folders, or golf ball boxes—and there will be more configurations introduced over time. We are very excited about giving quick printers the ability to provide short run packaging items without having to outsource the die-cutting and converting process. It’s a turn-key packaging designed to help printers grow their business and delight their customers.”

Asked if we’ve seen most of the innovation possible, Goldinger says no. “I don’t see a ceiling to this,” he says. “Creative printers and creative designers are just starting to explore the capabilities of printing, both traditional and digital, as well as finishing. So I think there’s going to be a resurgence in print that showcases the best in printing and design.”