Your Identity on Paper: How the World Perceives Your Business Through Your Printed Materials

I had a pop-up book about astronauts¹ when I was a kid, and when I opened it, the lunar module came to life on the page and in my mind. I could clearly imagine descending the tiny ladder, jumping from the bottom wrung, and landing with both feet on the surface of the moon (I’m not sure what made the jump and the both-feet landing necessary, but it was, was it not, fellow space travelers?). The books that predated that one in my life were suddenly obsolete.  I remember very few of them.

Lasting Impressions

How about the first time you received a gift that was wrapped by the department store? I remember the realization that I had been duped, that mass-produced plastic bows must have been meant to approximate this supple, hand-tied bow of reinforced silk ribbon that, at probably 2 inches, was wider than any I had seen before. I pulled at it, and the knot came undone, and the ribbon drifted to the floor. Now I was at the wrapping paper, whose seams were creased with precision at the box corners, adhered by two-sided tape tucked imperceptibly beneath the folded hem. The paper was thick and crinkle-proof, and came off the box in a single glorious sheet, exposing the foil underside – a shiny surprise that seemed to caress my gift like the paisley lining of a bespoke suit. The box was strong and glossy, and under the lid was pastel tissue, joined by a fancy sticker featuring the logo of the store. Underneath it, finally, was a sweater. It was the finest sweater I had ever seen.

Actually, I’m not sure about the superiority of the sweater against all other sweaters, but that was my perception at the time, and that’s how I remember it now.

Are You Selling Feast or Frugality?

You don’t expect anyone to be enchanted that way when you hand them your business card. But to a much more subtle degree, you do send a message with your printed materials, and it’s a great, and easy, exercise to review the items that carry your brand. Sometimes you want those materials to communicate economy, and sometimes first class care. You would be just as suspicious of a man wearing a thousand-dollar dinner jacket working in a bait shop, as you would be of a man with a soiled clip-on tie trying to sell you an Aston Martin. But if your product is the Aston Martin of whatever industry you’re in, do your branded items create that impression? Does your collateral communicate appropriately how you’re going to outlast and outperform your competitors? Does your brochure, with its thick, dense, coated paper designed to hold lots of heavy ink to display rich, vibrant colors say that you’re going to win with exceptional quality and white glove service? Or does its deskjet ink on unscored, hand folded, office supply store paper say that you’re going to weather the storm with thrift and conservation?

If everything we feed our senses has the consequence of perception, are your materials portraying your business as you would like?


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