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Where Paper Performs: Tapping into the Tactile

While there are a host of attributes that favor digital media over print—i.e, the ability to instantaneously update and add in video and audio—there is one area that paper-based marketing beats digital hands down.

Paper evokes an emotional attachment, fed by its inherent tactile nature, that savvy marketers are tapping into when looking to optimize their message. (See section: Why Paper Performs)

When combined with targeted lists finely tuned to ferret out high quality prospects, marketing programs that focus on paper’s emotional draw are generating a high return on investment.

The whole point, says Lisa Arsenault, president of Maryland-based McArdle Solutions, is to capture the attention of a consumer marketplace that is overly saturated and stimulated.

That’s why, says Arsenault, the connection with paper companies is so critical. “At the end of the day, we all have too much to do, and are often challenged with ideas,” says Arsenault. “The paper products themselves can help generate ideas.”

McArdle, a “solution-oriented communications firm,” offers design, cross channel communication, data management/segmentation and custom direct mail.

Paper companies—such as Mohawk (see below for its latest campaign), Neenah, and Iggesund allow printers and marketers “to get in front of prospects and tell a different story,” says Arsenault. Another major resource for top marketers and printers is, which offers custom and standard templates for folding, as well as project support.

Spawning a Website

Mohawk’s line of Dimensional pre-diecut and pre-perforated packaging, plus its line of Panoramic products, is helping McArdle Solutions spawn a new e-commerce site,, set to launch within the next two months.

The new website will offer customers predesigned die templates or allow them to create it themselves.

“All these different tools in our portfolio informs your prospects and clients; it gives our salespeople the opportunity to talk about challenges in getting noticed, and how we can work with the client to resolve it,” says Arsenault.

For its own promotional campaigns, McArdle continually looks for out-of-the-box creative ideas, designed to highlight what’s possible. A promotional calendar shows specialty techniques like pearlessence, letting prospects see for themselves what it looks like.

Another campaign, titled “You don’t know Jack,” a paper-doll—Jack—was diecut into a direct marketing piece. “Jack” popped up when the piece was open.

The campaign moved 10 percent of business respondents to take action, as well as seven percent of their college audience.

“We were looking for a way to give our customers ideas of what we can do,” explains Arsenault. “Our clients really enjoyed Jack—they hung Jack up in their offices, cubicles and on their windows.”

The promotion has taken on a life of its own, with a Jill and Spot the dog dolls also being created, ”helping to extend the campaign,” explains Arsenault. “One of our clients turned Jill into Superwoman and the dog into Underdog and sent us a message back, saying ‘You’ve given us our superpowers.’”

Another promotion piece turned a brochure into a game board, mimicking Candy Land. The player’s travels around the game board, showcases McArdle’s different service offerings, instead of candy.  “The idea was to engage the customer, letting them know that they could use us to do a mailing or design, or wherever they had a gap to fill,” says Arsenault. “It demonstrated in a fun way that we didn’t need to do the entire project, we could do a piece of it-- wherever they need us.”

Exploiting Paper’s Tactile Nature  

Exploiting the tactile experience that paper delivers is the cornerstone of New York City-based Structural Graphics, which specializes in creating three-dimensional and interactive print materials for top brands and agencies.

It all begins with what the client is trying to accomplish, explains Michael Dambra, VP, Creative Services, Structural Graphics. “We marry messages to mechanism, crafting dimensional pieces that present an idea in a memorable way. The mechanisms we use enhance or illustrate the message. We are trying to create a more long lasting effect rather than just an email,” says Isabel Uria, Paper Engineer.

Structural Graphics uses some type of interactivity in the majority of the work it creates for its clients. “Some of our pieces appear to be flat, but they are always performing in some way,” says Dambra. “Paper is always performing in some way—whether it pops up or not, it does interact.”

One of the exciting things about working with Structural Graphics, and what we are doing with the, notes Janice Reese, chief engagement officer, Network PDF,, is that they are helping to promote the idea of how paper can be created to applied design, of using paper more effectively to drive results.

The 37-year old company has developed a dozen exclusive dimensional graphics that allow paper to move, pop, and swing for direct mail campaigns.

For Lake of the Torches Casino, Structural Graphics used its patented MagnaPop as a direct mailer to promote a Chevy Camaro giveaway. The pop-up paper car, delivered flat inside the self-mailer, immediately popped up when the two sides were squeezed in. 

For its own self-promotion piece for a trade show invite, Structural Graphics used its Jackknife self-mailer concept. The Jackknife begins as a card-size promotion; pulling a tab at the top left rotates out a second panel, like a Jackknife, revealing additional information and images. The second panel also has a tab. Pulling on this tab mirrors the motion of the first, revealing a third panel and almost tripling the size of the original promotion. To coincide with the promotion’s overall rock-star theme, each panel of the Jackknife carried a graphical element that ultimately built itself into an electric guitar.

Another of its patented designs, the Flapper, was used in an integrated campaign for Iggesund Paperboard, a leading European manufacturer, looking to demonstrate the strength, durability, print reproduction capabilities, and resistance to cracking of its Invercote paperboard product.

The Flapper, which folds out into four selling panels, “offers a lot of real estate to communicate your message,” says Neal Haussel, sales manager, Iggeusnd Paperboard USA. The Flapper was used to drive the recipient to the company’s website and a PURL (personalized URL).

The paper used is an integral role in how the project is conceived and executed. When a client requests a specific paper, it’s up to the paper engineer to find a way to make it work. For one recent project, “ the paper—not Invercote--started cracking, so we had to use fine tricks of printing and diecutting to make it fold properly,” says Uria.

Anytime we can eliminate restrictions with the paper, it is helpful for us,” says Dambra. “A substrate like Invercote can handle the mechanisms, you don’t have to struggle with it. Invercote won’t crack on the fold, whether the fold is with or against the grain.  You don’t have to worry about cracking.”

While the cost per piece for these dimensional direct mail pieces is higher than a flat piece, marketers are seeing the results. “Our clients are seeing response rates that are three times that of a conventional piece of direct mail,” says Dambra. “These pieces are moving the needle in terms of response.”

Iggesund Paperboard experienced a six percent response rate with this campaign (a 400 percent increase over their previous marketing campaign) and gained valuable insights into what is important to their prospects and customers.

“Our clients take advantage of their data, which has gotten really good at qualifying their client list,” says Dambra.  

The list justifies the expense. “Our pieces are move expensive to produce, but they are also a lot more effective,” says Dambra.

Transforming the Ordinary

Hoping to inspire designers to make even the most mundane project spectacular, Neenah worked with Washington, DC-based graphic design studio Design Army to create a promotional piece that includes six customized folders and ties in to a Facebook contest—the winner receives 200 custom printed folders of their winning design—that ended April 24. The folders, which vary in finish, weight, and color, from Red Pepper and Patriot Blue to Classic Natural White, also highlight a variety of printing techniques, such as raised gloss UV coating, fluorescent inks, metallic inks, and laser cutting production techniques. Inside the folders are tips and information about dealing with stress, keeping track of receipts, and innovative printing methods.

It’s all about adding value to printed communications, comments Tom Wright, senior director of advertising and design for Neenah Paper.

Neenah paper also inspired Aldine Printing, which holds court on Varick Street in New York City, once the hub of the printing industry, where it focuses on specialty printing techniques. Aldine Printing created a self-promotion piece featuring six different printing techniques on one cover sheet: engraving, letterpress, embossing, foil stamping, thermography, and offset, printed on Neehan’s Classic Crest Cover in Eggshell. 

“What Will You Make Today?”

For Mohawk’s “What Will You Make Today? campaign, world renowned designer Massimo Vignelli has co-developed a limited edition journal featuring a selection of Mohawk’s papers. The journal was co-developed by New York-based Pentagram and printed by Boston-based Universal Wilde, with finishing/bindery completed by The Riverside Group of Rochester, NY.

The front and back covers showcase a geometric grid of artfully debossed panels on Strathmore Premium Wove Midnight Black 130dtc/352 gsm.  The spine is white foil stamped with the phrase, “What will you make today” and includes the Mohawk logo.

The 100 interior pages each feature 24 rectangular blocks forming a perfect grid, and are printed on Mohawk Superfine Eggshell Ultrawhite 80t/118gsm.  The journal’s end leaves, Strathmore Premium Wove Smoke Gray 80t/118gsm, complete the beautiful design.

The introductory page enabled with augmented reality (AR) technology to connect readers with the animated video via Mohawk Live, a new, free mobile app, designed to enhance materials printed on Mohawk paper.

Why Paper Performs

In its study, “Using Neuroscience to Understand Direct Mail,” global brand, media and communications research agency Millward Brown investigated how “the brain processes physical marketing materials, such as direct mail, compared to virtual (or digital) materials presented on a screen.”

The study used functional Magnetic Resonance Imagery (fMRI) scanning to understand how the brain reacts to different stimuli. Its conclusions are not only of interest to direct mail marketers, but anyone involved in paper-based marketing programs:

  • Tangible materials leave a deeper footprint in the brain
  • Physical materials involves more emotional processing, which is important for memory and brand associations
  • Physical materials produce more brain responses connected with internal feelings, suggesting greater “internalization” of the ads

Learn more about the Interactive Engagement of Print

Isabel Uria will be speaking on her experience as a paper engineer and designer, while attendees see firsthand gallery examples. The focus of the presentation is the interactive engagement of print.

The event will be held:

June 19th, 2013, 6-9 p.m.

The Iggesund Art Gallery

The Glasshouses at the Chelsea Arts Tower

545 25th Street

New York, NY  10001