Making Paper Come to Life

June 14, 2014

"Is this something I’m going to open up and look at, or does it go into the wastebasket?"

By Ilene Wolff

Savvy marketing experts know that first impressions count, and many of them make a positive impact on their targeted audience by using attention-getting print and paper features—and new technologies that complement standard printing techniques. How so? Marketers pick a memorable paper or use it in a new, refreshing way, or they reach into their box of tricks and pull out fluorescent inks, die cutting, scent applied to stock, or augmented reality to produce look-at-me print pieces.

“The idea behind fluorescent ink, scent, augmented reality, die cutting, and those types of processes is that you want to create something memorable for the end user,” says Grieg Heimbuch, North American sales manager for Scodix Inc., of Saddle Brook, N.J.

Scodix manufactures digital enhancement presses that can add texture, gloss, metallic, embossed, and other effects to printed materials in one pass through a press.

About whether having the objective of a marketing piece grabbing attention is valid, Heimbuch says, “[Direct mail recipients say] okay, is this something I’m going to open up and look at, or does it go into the wastebasket?”

Of course, every marketer wants the recipient to choose option No. 1.

Even the relatively established technique of die cutting can be stunningly effective by making a piece different or, for example, by encouraging a recipient to touch and spend time with it, says Steve DeVoe, vice president of marketing for paper manufacturer NewPage, of Miamisburg, Ohio.

But like with any bell or whistle added to collateral, die cutting may have downsides that marketers should consider before making the cut. For example, a recipient may discard a complex piece—think origami—if it takes too much time to figure out. And a piece with a die cut may cost more to mail than something without one. Nevertheless, if adding a die cut to the piece grabs attention, driving the intended response, marketers are wise to include it in their campaign budget.

Reality and then Some

While die cutting is a time-tested technique, DeVoe explains that augmented reality, much the buzz these days, is still in its infancy.

Augmented reality uses a digital watermark, which is invisible to the naked eye, in combination with a smartphone or tablet computer application to augment information in print media.

Digital watermarking technology allows marketers to embed information—animation, audio, images, and video—into printed materials in a way that is imperceptible, yet easily detected by digital devices. In effect, augmented reality lets marketers layer media options directly on top of the real world presented on the page.

Here’s how it works: When a user scans the digital watermark on a printed piece with an app-enabled tablet computer or smartphone, if the marketing collateral is for an automobile, for example, a video could launch that shows the car driving along a road, with narration extolling its virtues.

It’s critical to think through the use of this technology, though, to determine if it would be a good fit for meeting your marketing communications objectives.

A good example is NewPage, which produced a showcase brochure entitled “Shifters” six months after introducing its Sterling Premium paper to the marketplace. The product launch was accompanied by a call-to-action, targeted mailing that got a phenomenal 14 percent response rate.

The brochure featured half a dozen stories with digital watermarks about businesses that had shifted the idea of what value means. A printed photo of a man who handcrafted guitars, when scanned with an app-enabled mobile device, launched a video about him. A printed image of a premium ice cream maker launched an online story about the business, and so on.

DeVoe cites other cool uses for digital watermarks: in high school yearbooks (to launch videos about clubs or the school itself) and program books for special events.

An Australian insurance company took augmented reality even further and embedded a small LED screen with a keypad in a marketing piece. Recipients could use the keypad to enter information about their car and personal data, and get an immediate quote on auto insurance.

DeVoe offers one caveat about augmented reality and the surefire attention it will attract, though.

“Ultimately, you have to have the value proposition that backs it up,” he says.

Glowing in the Dark

Another enhancement marketers use in print is fluorescent ink, which is added to four-color, offset-printed pieces either to give the cyan, magenta, or yellow more pop, or as a bright, vibrant stand-alone color. It can also be used to compensate for poor-quality paper, such as newspaper.

“Fluorescents in the packaging world are huge,” says Rick Krebaum, consumables sales specialist, Fujifilm North America Corp., part of the Tokyo-based Fujifilm Corp. “When people walk in a Walmart store, their eyes are attracted to colors that stand out.”

“It’s all about selling,” Krebaum says. One downside to using fluorescent inks is that they may cost about four times as much as regular ink and may require two coats to get the desired effect. However, the cost of ink in the context of an entire job is minimal.

Fluorescents don’t print as sharply because the ink spreads a little bit before drying, they don’t do as well in high heat situations like laser and copier printing, and they fade somewhat in ultraviolet light.

“After 90 days [in ultraviolet light], the color will be gone,” says Krebaum.

A blog entry on Austin Community College’s website may put it best: “These ‘fugitive’ pigments (fluorescent inks) are best suited for high-impact promotions with a short shelf life.”

If marketers want to catch the eye, fluorescent-enhanced tones of ink just may be the ticket.

Smell the Roses

Another attention getter is scent applied to paper stock (like the Rub’nSmell® patch on this issue’s cover). Today, it’s a mandatory step for marketing any product that has a smell, from couture perfume to fabric softener, says one expert.

“You can’t sell scent without getting the scent into a consumer’s hand,” says James Berard, co-owner of Scentisphere, of Carmel, N.Y. “Ultimately, the scent is to help sell the product.”

One of Berard’s clients, Yankee Candle, experimented by sending half of its catalogs with a Scentisphere Rub’nSmell® patch with pumpkin spice candle’s scent and half with no scent applied. The scent-containing catalogs accounted for a sales increase of 11 percent across the board, and not just for pumpkin spice-scented candles, says Berard.

As a result, all Yankee Candle catalogs have no fewer than six Rub’nSmell patches, and sometimes as many as a dozen.

Scent is also used for packaging, says Berard. For example, a children’s cereal maker may integrate a Rub’nSmell spot with a puzzle on the box, or a maker of flavored coffees may incorporate the smell of hazelnut to tap into its “yum” factor, he says.

One anti-drug initiative even incorporated the smell of marijuana onto a flier to raise awareness among parents to help identify any unusual odors on their children.

Essentially, there are two modes to incorporate scent on stock, Berard explains. Scratch-and-sniff, the technology used for perfume-scented strips in magazines, can only be applied in silkscreen or flexographic printing processes. It requires a minimum quarter-sized application, and has a limited shelf life.

Rub’nSmell, on the other hand, requires a minimum area equivalent to a 2½-inch circle, and can be printed at higher speeds.

“The beauty of our product is we’re trying to integrate it into the printing process,” says Berard. “So, there’s no extra step.”

He says clients ask him all the time to provide scent that doesn’t need to be rubbed or scratched, or activated by pulling a tab, lifting a label, or squeezing a device. But Berard warns users not to take the technique too far.

“The dilemma here is that consumers like the smell, but they want to control the smell,” Berard cautions. “They don’t want smell imposed on them. It’s sort of a balance thing.”

And striking the right balance between what turns a customer on and turns a customer off, after all, is what marketers strive for when creating a printed piece. Using all available technologies and tactics in one piece would be overwhelming, but thoughtfully and appropriately selecting just one or two might attract attention and get the intended buying results. Not too much. Not too little. Just right.