Author: Bryan Formhals, Senior Marketing Specialist
It doesn’t take long in the print industry to know that the current paper market is a tricky challenge to tackle. There are many different layers to consider when developing your direct mail and catalog strategy, but the most tangible element of your planning will always be your paper choices. Paper is what makes print….well, print!
Whether you’re a seasoned paper veteran, or new to print, you’ve undoubtedly realized that there are many variables to understand, including: pricing, size, finish, coating, sustainability, among others. The last two years have added a new layer of complexity with increasing paper shortages due to supply chain issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as fundamental shifts in the paper market. What does this mean? Marketers are facing unprecedented challenges when developing their direct mail and catalog campaigns. In such an environment, knowing the pulse of the industry and trends is more important than ever.
While we could certainly write a book on the topic (hey, this is our business and we love it!), we’re going to instead share the top tips and trends you need to know about making paper choices for your projects in 2022.
Stay Flexible When It Comes to Choosing Paper
Paper availability looks different in 2022. What was used in your last project, might not be now, or might take longer to acquire than in prior years. The name of the game going forward is flexibility. For example, one might have to consider environmental certified versus recycled depending on availability and timing.
This is also a good opportunity to discover new paper types and sizes you haven’t tried before.
Small is the New Big
Want an easy way to combat the increase in paper prices? Go smaller. With paper prices increasing, it makes sense to try to use less of it. This doesn’t mean your mailer will lose impact. It means being concise and strategic with your messaging and creative design. Think “small but mighty.” A smaller mailer implementing best practices can have the desired impact and achieve your ROI. For example, we’ve helped several fashion retailers make a splash with mini catalogs that have a smaller paper footprint. Not only does it cut down on paper, but it also stands out in the mailbox.
Supply Chain Issues and the Resulting Delays
By now, the snags and snarls caused by the supply chain issues have been apparent in nearly every industry, forcing businesses to be nimble and adjust. For the paper market, transportation challenges have been a leading cause of delays and price increases. Rising energy and gas prices paired with a shortage of truck drivers have created a perfect storm for moving paper from the mills to printers. Experts expect some of these issues to slowly work themselves out over the year, but for the time being, patience is required.
The Paper Market is Changing
As with many industries the pandemic has disrupted and fundamentally changed the paper market. Many mills have had to shift production to producing corrugated cardboard to meet the increasing ecommerce demand and are suffering from the labor shortage as well. The result has been that paper companies are now setting allocations for paper delivery, with shipments requiring longer lead times, creating the shortage we’re all feeling.
Plan Early, and then Be Nimble
In an industry that requires effective planning with moving parts, the current headwinds with supply chain issues and paper shortages requires planning even further into the future. Once planning is in motion, you want to be nimble and know where you can make last minute adjustments. This is where it becomes important to work closely with vendors such as Nahan to help guide through the process and find opportunities for optimization.
“I’ve been telling clients they need to firm up circulations and place orders as soon as possible. They also should be open to trimming their mail file at the 11th hour to remove the populations they feel are less likely to respond,” Pat Nahan, VP of Client Solutions.
Paper may not be glamorous but it’s a crucial component in the success of any direct mail or catalog campaign. With supply chain challenges persisting and fundamental transformations taking place in the paper market, it’s important for marketers to understand the core industry taking place. While these new challenges create headwinds in executing campaigns, they can also create new opportunities for brands who plan with agility and partner with the experts.
Bio: Bryan Formhals is a Senior Marketing Specialist at Nahan. His efforts focus on public relations, trade shows, sales support and other external marketing initiatives. He has over 20 years experience in digital marketing working across content, social media, strategy and communications. In his free time, Bryan enjoys photography and art, walking and hiking, and exploring parks and nature.