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Printing Industry Exchange ( 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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Custom Box Printing: Effective Toothpaste Carton Design

My fiancee just brought home a toothpaste box, and I said, “Wow. I want that.” That’s effective marketing. It was a deep gut reaction based on an instant bond with the branding. It preceded any interaction with the product. In fact I haven’t tried the toothpaste yet, although I think I know how it will taste.

Effective marketing comes from effective design and effective custom printing. These are the building blocks, if you will. They combine to create that “Wow” moment.

The Toothpaste Box Design

First, let me describe the toothpaste box.

The Corrugated Paper Folding Carton

The technical term for this printed product is a “folding carton” because it is printed flat and then folded and glued into the carton for the toothpaste. This particular carton is composed of two elements: an unprinted corrugated box (about 2” x 2” x 7”) folded into a rectangular solid with the fluting of the cardboard exposed and facing outward, and with all of the fluting positioned diagonally to the dimensions of the box. Unlike most corrugated board, this carton has exposed fluting. Most corrugated board has the fluting sandwiched between two flat paper boards.

The Outer Sleeve

Wrapped around the corrugated board carton is a printed matte “sleeve.” It covers all four sides of the corrugated carton. However, it leaves about 3/4” on either side exposed, so you can see the diagonal fluting of the inner box. The “wrap” or “sleeve” is printed in earth tones.

Purpose of the Inner Fluted Box

In my opinion, the folding carton for the toothpaste gives an organic “feel” to the piece by means of a tactile fluted box (pliable and a little rough to the touch with its diagonal ribbing). What I find interesting is that the corrugated inner box achieves this organic feel not through any custom printing but through the simplicity of the fluted paper, its color, its texture, and its pattern of diagonal ribbing.

The Graphic Design on the Sleeve

The outer printed sleeve reinforces this organic theme in several ways:

    1. The forest green, beige, and rust brown colors offset-printed on the matte coated sheet provide a subdued and sophisticated, but at the same time simple and organic, feel. The Helvetica typeface for most copy and the corresponding sans serif face of the logo (with its extra tracking between letters) give a contemporary but, again, simple and orderly look to the piece.


    1. The content of the marketing copy reinforces the theme. Words and phrases such as “gluten free,” “fluoride free,” “organic,” “chlorine free,” and “authentic” position this particular toothpaste as a product a prudent, environmentally conscious consumer might buy.


  1. The materials used in the custom printing are “green.” The folding carton copy prominently notes that paper made with 80 percent recycled material went into making the carton and offset-printed wrapper. In addition, instead of using petroleum-based printing inks, the custom printing supplier used more environmentally friendly soy-based inks.

So in the simplest terms, the marketing team made sure the promotional copy, the typeface, the color scheme, the paper, and the custom printing technology all worked together to present this particular toothpaste as an organic, Earth-friendly option for cleaning and whitening teeth.

The Ideal Customer

A savvy marketer envisions an ideal customer and them finds ways to pique his or her interest. One of the key ways to do this is to list the attributes, likes, and dislikes of this “virtual” person. In this case, for instance, the ideal customer might be a 25- to 40-year-old with a desire to protect the environment, and a desire to use healthy grooming products while avoiding chemical additives. Who knows? Maybe he/she even likes kayaking or rock climbing on weekends. Or maybe he/she owns a Subaru with a bicycle rack on top.

With this ideal buyer in mind, a savvy marketer then goes about using ad copy, typefaces, design grids, paper choices, and paper textures (the fluting of the corrugated board, in this case) to create an emotional bond with the potential buyer. If the marketer can use the custom printing and design tools at his/her disposal to elicit from the buyer a sense of affiliation with the values of the brand, the marketer can make the sale.

So here’s to a breakfast of granola and yogurt, washed down with a latte, and then followed with flossing and brushing with this supremely organic toothpaste.

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