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Call me old-fashioned but I think print marketing is such a rewarding way to experience a brand’s message. There is something so delightful in being able to touch and interact with a quality printed piece, especially when it has luxury finishes and unique folds and cuts. I routinely keep collateral pieces for products I have no interest in simply because I liked the feel of the paper or the intricacy of the fold. I can recognize that my passion for print may be a little biased because of my background as a print and packaging designer. There is some neuroscience to back me up here. According to Sappi’s report, Neuroscience of Touch, “to touch a thing is to trigger a reaction: as soon as we do, we begin to feel differently about it. We begin to feel we own it, and research shows that makes us value it more.”

It is exactly because of print’s power to create value that when it came time to create this year’s Quality brochure for FIU Online, I got all kinds of excited. I don’t often get to make specialty printed pieces, but this quality book was celebrating the organization’s ten years of providing Quality Matters certified courses, so even more reason to make it special. I pled my case for all the bells and whistles, die-cut, fold-out cover, foil stamped…and to my absolute delight, I was able to secure the buy-in and the budget.

Pretty in Print

In the following weeks, I designed my little heart out and once ready reached out to some printers for quotes. I specified the paper I wanted, something uncoated so the print wouldn’t crack, I selected the proper shade of gold foil and sent off my custom die-cut cover to production. We were coming up against the deadline, but still had some cushion. Everything was on track, or so I thought.

Days into the process, I started to get panicked calls from Kenny, the printer. They ran out of the paper I had selected. They were having trouble securing more because of supply chain issues. He tried to offer me some coated stock but I knew that wouldn’t match the interior paper. Getting more of the selected paper was going to make us miss the print deadline, and though I could be flexible, I still hadn’t been presented with a reasonable alternative. Hours later, I got another call. This time, Kenny was informing me that after consulting with the warehouse team, they located a palette of a similar paper, a little thicker than I had initially wanted, but good enough. I adapted my plan, Kenny adapted the paper source, and ultimately the deadline was met, but that kind of paper drama has been on the rise since the pandemic.

The New Normal

Paper shortages are affecting printed collateral across many industries. Recently the Secretary of State from Louisiana, Kyle Ardoin noted, “this shortage has already caused difficulties for the Elections Division in securing adequate paper supplies for the absentee ballots, absentee ballot envelopes, and other critical paper-based items needed.”

So what’s the solution? Like the Marines say: ‘Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome.” Though supply chain issues have become a new enemy of the besieged print industry, there are workarounds. Being flexible with paper stocks and even paper colors can make a difference in getting a job completed in time. When placing orders for paper, ordering well in advance can pad the timeline in such a way that a small delay won’t set off a chain of negative events. Most importantly, making sure to communicate the need for this extra planning with your customers can increase the chances of their flexibility and consideration. Though paper sometimes sure is hard to find, print isn’t dead, and likely won’t be anytime soon.

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Mia Almaguer is a brand innovator/educator who leverages her creative capital to strategize, visualize & deploy campaigns that resonate. You can read more of her insights on her blog, check out her portfolio, or connect with her on instagram or LinkedIn.