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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Commercial Printing: Personalized Package Printing

I just read an article by Tom Egan, vice president, industry services, at the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, entitled “Package Printing Gets Personal.” It was published online at www.beveragedaily.com on 7/30/18.

What makes this article intriguing to me is Egan’s ability to articulate the immense power of personalization. Basically, even when you buy a bottle of water (which is one of the examples he cites in the article), you’re making a statement about who you are: your essence, your individuality and values. And when the brand, as reflected through the packaging of the water, engages your emotions and makes you want to buy one kind of water over another again and again, it is clear that the marketing information on the product has created a tidal pull on you, both intellectually and emotionally.

When you think about this, it’s pretty amazing. And according to Egan’s article, the ability to personalize packaging design dramatically enhances the “pull” of the brand. Furthermore, it is the increasing ease of personalization, as well as its economy, plus the increasing quality of digital commercial printing, that are creating the perfect storm for package printing today.

Breaking It Down

Here are some of the words and phrases Egan uses in “Package Printing Gets Personal” to characterize the emotional pull of good packaging design:

  1. “Beverage manufacturers are looking to captivate customers with packaging that offers some form of personal resonance.” (“Package Printing Gets Personal”)
  2. “Whether referencing a lifestyle choice, a fond memory, or an important goal, a beverage label that can connect with consumers on a deeper level has the power to stick.” (“Package Printing Gets Personal”)
  3. “Today’s consumers will likely not reach for a drink when they simply feel thirsty, but instead when they feel understood.” (“Package Printing Gets Personal”)

Particularly the last quote has an almost transcendent feel. It’s not about the product; it’s about the experience and the values the product resonates with in the mind of the consumer. Using typefaces, the principles of graphic design, copywriting skill, and custom printing acumen and technology, marketing departments wield immense power to influence their customers.

Beverage Packaging Examples

Egan goes on to describe a number of bottling promotions and their beverage packaging.

  1. For instance. he describes a promotion in which Johnnie Walker, the whiskey company, created Jane Walker whiskey, a limited edition from which a portion of the proceeds went to organizations that empower women. So those who bought this whiskey could be affiliated with a brand that values strong, successful women and that shows this commitment through financial donations. This commercial printing initiative attracted “the female demographic typically not considered a whiskey-drinking group” (“Package Printing Gets Personal”).
  2. Another example Egan describes involves Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack whiskey, aimed at a demographic that “associates fine whiskey with a premium sipping experience.” (“Package Printing Gets Personal”) To distinguish this premium product from value brands, the manufacturer employs tactile labels and tinted glass to give the bottled product a more sophisticated look.
  3. A third example in Egan’s article involves promoting smaller cans and bottles of beverages, since there is a current drive toward portion control. So, in essence, bottling companies can command a higher price for smaller amounts of their product while making their customers feel good about their decision to drink less (less sugar, less alcohol, or just “less”).

Benefits of New Commercial Printing Technologies

Egan references the “Share a Coke” campaign in which Coca-Cola cans were personalized with customer names. This “strengthened customer loyalty and created buzz around the brand” (“Package Printing Gets Personal”). And it was only because digital custom printing can infinitely vary its printed output that such a powerful and persuasive campaign could be done, particularly for a reasonable cost. In addition, since high quality commercial printing is such an integral part of premium packaging, the fact that digital printing is now achieving such high quality makes a huge difference in the effectiveness of digital labeling. After all, if a customer is asked to pay a premium for a personalized product, the printing has to be stellar.

Sustainability is another draw of this new technology. Digital printing creates less waste and uses less energy. For environmentally conscious customers, this reflects well on the beverage makers and bottlers. Vegetable-based and aqueous inks provide excellent quality printing while releasing few if any VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into the atmosphere.

The same holds true for UV inks. These are cured instantly with UV light, so fewer VOCs are released, plus this technology allows for printing directly on non-porous substrates such as glass and plastic bottles. Furthermore, such direct printing is eye catching and dramatic when compared to traditional labels.

What this means is that beverage companies can produce their alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and get them packaged more strikingly and in a shorter time frame, so their products can be fresher when purchased by the consumer. And at the same time, the entire production cycle can be better for the environment. Moreover, since digital printing allows for versioning and immediate printing, it’s possible to keep less product in inventory or change the product more often (perhaps on a seasonal basis to focus on special calendar dates).

Another benefit of the current digital technology is the amount of coverage possible with some of the newer technologies. For instance, Egan in “Package Printing Gets Personal” focuses on both shrink sleeves and paperboard packaging, noting the benefits of each. That is, the shrink sleeves holding a six pack of a beverage provide a lot of space for dynamic images; however, they are often torn off and discarded. In contrast, some bottlers choose to package a six pack in cardboard, providing a longer-lasting visual display. The consumer can see the imagery and read about the brand story whenever she/he goes to the refrigerator. In both cases, the printing and wrapping of the product have benefited tremendously from digital printing and finishing technology.

Specialty inks can also add to the brand appeal. For instance, Egan’s article references the use of thermo inks in Coors Light packaging. The color of the imagery will change depending on the level of coldness of the beer. When the beer gets to the right temperature for drinking, this will be reflected in the color of the ink on the cans. (This is both useful and fun for the consumer.)

This reflects the growth in specialty inks, which have been crafted to change with temperature, and which can adhere better to metal cans. At the same time, other inks are now on the market that are light responsive or more tactile than traditional inks. And in addition to better technologies for coating metal cans, there has been an increase in the resolution of the imagery that printers can produce when printing beverage packaging.

The Take Away

Tom Egan’s article, “Package Printing Gets Personal,” basically says that if you’re a commercial printing vendor, the newer digital printing technologies, as well as advances in inks and coating methods, will help your brand tell its story. If you can create an experience that resonates with the consumer’s values and aspirations, and if you vary the appearance of the packaging to keep making the buying experience new and interesting, you can drive customers to your product year after year.

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