In conversation with

Sophie Agar

Brand Director at Papier

Sophie Agar

Introduction

Introduction

At school, September signalled new stationery. But as adults, it’s the New Year when we begin to pen letters, open journals and get excited over notebooks. It’s that time of year when people return to the handwritten word.

And who better to do it with than Papier? A British brand that has always been synonymous with beautifully designed and considered stationery. They’re constantly collaborating with new brands and designers, and most of all listening to the needs of their customer.

“We’ve learnt so much about our customer and what matters to them over the last five years that we’ve sometimes shifted our approach to ensure we keep fulfilling their needs,” Sophie Agar – Papier’s Brand Director – tells us. And what are are they hoping to do through their brand? “To inspire people to create real and meaningful connections.”

Question and Answer

You’ve been at Papier for just over five years – how has the brand changed and how do you make sure you keep things consistent when you have to adapt and shift with the times?

It’s crazy to think we’ve gone from a team of 3 to nearly 70 in the last five years, and we’ve now served over 1 million customers. We’ve always wanted to make sure the brand retains the purpose that we set out from the beginning – to inspire people to create real & meaningful connections. We try to ensure that’s at the heart of all the decisions we’re making as we grow. That being said, we’ve learnt so much about our customer & what matters to them over the last 5 years that we’ve sometimes shifted our approach to ensure we keep fulfilling their needs but our core principles remain. As a team, we’ve always wanted to keep that entrepreneurial spirit as we grow and I think we’ve been successful in that – we’re really proud of the culture we’ve created at Papier and hope it lasts through the years.

What’s been the most memorable campaign you’ve worked on?

It’s so hard to choose – our ‘Stationery Addicts’ campaign in 2018 was a really fun project for the team. We asked some friends of Papier, including Dolly Alderton, Jackson Boxer and a cute dachshund, to share their stationery addictions with us. It involved some really fun photo shoots with excessive amounts of stationery, not to mention over-sized stationery items. More recently we created a TV ad in lockdown – hearing friends & family say they’ve seen our ad on TV was also a pretty memorable moment!

Has there been a particular brand challenge that you’ve had to overcome?

Probably the biggest challenge we’ve faced is not being able to do everything we want to, either due to limited budgets, time or team resource. We will always try to find a way to make something happen but it is such a shame when we have to say no to things. However, we’ve learnt that we need to spread ourselves less thinly, and take on fewer projects but really invest time, creativity & resource into making the most out of those opportunities.

What is a Papier customer looking for when they’re buying stationery and how does Papier help them get it?

Our customer is looking for something unique, something that catches their eye & might catch the eye of their colleagues or friends too! They really appreciate beautiful design and love our collaborations with artists & designers so we make sure to keep our collections feeling fresh and inspiring throughout the year. We also recognise how important quality is to our customers – we make sure the materials & finishes we use, from the ribbons to the end papers, are of the highest quality. Most importantly, the products have to be practical and usable for our customers on a day-to-day basis, so we spend a lot of time designing, for example, the inner content of our journals, diaries and planners, to make sure customers can get the most use out of them.

How would Papier write a thank you note to a friend?

I guess it’s about putting pen to paper in a way that feels as though you’re right there with that friend, engaging in a real and warm conversation over an imaginary coffee together. The little details are always key to a lovely thank you note, so any anecdotes, memories or fun/heartwarming stories you can recount will bring the page to life, or even the odd doodle! We’re very much about creating meaningful connections at Papier – it’s nice to really tailor the note to the individual, with nicknames, language or in-jokes shared between the two of you. Legible handwriting is always a plus too!

“It’s always been important for us to tell the stories of our design partners and collaborators, but to also give Papier a voice & personality too, and The Fold really enables us to do just that.”

Can you tell us a bit about Papier’s editorial section, The Fold – what stories are you looking to tell through it?

The Fold is a brilliant forum for us to showcase new design partners, offer artful advice and interview influential contributors from different creative industries – from floristry to food – which we then distribute to our community through social media, email and sometimes, in print – The Fold Out. It’s always been important for us to tell the stories of our design partners and collaborators, but to also give Papier a voice & personality too, and The Fold really enables us to do just that. I’m most proud of some of the amazing editorial pieces the team has made to accompany our launches – most recently we did a fun video shot in lockdown with Laura Jackson dining solo at home, as well as a gorgeous shoot of twin ceramicists Liv & Dom at home in Lewes, and last year a beautiful interview with paper marbler, Florence Saumarez of Inq, shot in her studio in Bath.

How much of a role does community play in your brand strategy?

Community has been integral to our brand strategy – we quickly realised Instagram was the perfect channel for us to build & speak to a community of #stationeryaddicts. The platform lends itself so well to our products – the eye-catching nature of our designs combined with the pure love of stationery people have, led to our Instagram account growing organically from the start. It’s so important for us to take what we hear and see on our social channels, and feed that back to our teams – whether that’s customers asking for products we don’t sell, or asking us to do more of what they’re loving. Our community is also a source of inspiration for us – they often photograph our products so beautifully but they also customise them in unique ways we hadn’t thought of!

What three things are top of mind when you’re thinking about a campaign?

Will it have cut-through? Will it catch the attention of our target audience?
Is it reflective of the brand and the story we want to tell?
Will it be long-lasting/timeless?

Sophie's Storylist

Books

  1. A Month In Siena by Hisham Matar
  2. Heartburn by Nora Ephron
  3. Girl Woman Other by Bernardine Evaristo
  4. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Magazines

  1. British Vogue
  2. Aesthetica
  3. Observer Food Monthly
  4. FT's How To Spend It

Newsletter

  1. Doré
  2. Modern Retail
  3. Good On You
  4. Thingtesting
  5. Hoste

Podcasts

  1. Out To Lunch with Jay Rayner
  2. WTF with Marc Maron
  3. The Great Women Artists with Katy Hessel
  4. Talk Art
  5. Here's The Thing with Alec Baldwin
  6. The Dropout

Websites

  1. The Guardian
  2. The Cut
  3. Vogue.co.uk
  4. House & Garden
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