Picking paper and other print considerations, on any budget

Working with a few luxury brands, I often get to explore extraordinarily priced print options during the prep phase of certain campaigns and projects.

Currently, I’m looking at print stock for a photo book that can be added to, for one of my building & construction clients, and the options are endless!  We’ve tried matt, gloss, silk, textured, 200gsm, 180gms, 146gsm and every other thickness in between. We’ve considered how ‘greasy’ the pages may become as people turn a page, and whether the paper will retain ‘dirt’ from the hands that flick through the pages.

[Sidebar: What is Paper ‘GSM’? With respect to printing on paper, GSM stands for ‘Grams per Square Meter’. It’s a way to determine the quality and density of paper, that is globally understood. The larger the number next to the ‘GSM’, the stronger / thicker the paper should be.]

We’re considering the fold in the pages, and how well this will look over time, or will the page appear ‘creased’ after one use, and we’re considering future additions or volumes – and how easy it will be to recreate a comparable version with new images in a year or two.

Regardless of where your brand is on the ‘Luxury to Budget’ spectrum, your print choices will tell a story. The decisions you make around paper stock and quality, or the overall finish of something you are developing, is definitely a reflection of your brand.

There are both conscious and subconscious ways in which the user or consumer will perceive your brand, from their simple interaction with your printed products. From brochures to business card, to stickers and packaging, take a moment to consider the ‘message’ you want to send with the type of paper stock you choose. It’s both daunting and fun to realise that your choices send a message, so aim to control the subliminal and obvious message you are sending with the type of printing you do.

3 things we review with clients, at The Marketing Box before we print:

1. Decide where your brand sits on the ‘Luxury to Budget’ spectrum. Don’t ‘cheap out’ if you are aiming to reflect a company that prides itself on premium product or service, engages with a higher socio-economic end of the market, or if your print piece is something that is vital to ‘explaining’ your brand in visual form. On the flip side, if you are a budget provider of products or services, you might have the freedom to save money on lower quality stock that still communicates your message. Paper stock choices send a message too.

2. Think Green. Ask your team if you really need to print this item, if you just need a short-run print job completed, or simply a digital copy developed (that is much easier to edit!). Things have changed in the last decade – we’re using less paper, because almost everything is going digital.

In business to business (B2B) settings, we’re especially finding that brochures and flyers are less effective in print form, but have a higher connectivity as a digital resource purely because they can be shared more readily, the contents can be searched, and they are easier to access by multiple decision-makers.

Business cards are used less, as professionals can connect via LinkedIn, and from a security standpoint, many organisations prefer for documents to stay digital versus being printed and left around an office or placed in a bin where others may have a read.

For business to consumer markets (B2C) you might find greater return on investment + wider reach with social platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc., that through print that still needs to be distributed.

Regardless of whether you’re in a business or consumer market, don’t just print because that’s what has historically been done…think about whether it’s truly needed.

3. Check your Brand identity. When you are preparing the print piece, and when you look at the final design, ensure you are checking a few simple things:

  • the colour match – are these your logo and brand colours? Have you supplied your Pantone or CMYK colour numbers to the designer?
  • the visual look – do the fonts, style and layout match what customers know of your brand?
  • what you’re saying – would this make sense to a potential customer without any further information? Also, is there a way to connect with you simply stated on the piece?

There are other considerations when looking to spend money on printing, but these are a few good starting points, especially when your print budget is limited and you want to ensure the final product has impact.