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Custom Printing: Bacardi’s Direct Digital Bottle Printing


reproduction rights purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

When BACARDI does something, people pay attention. As a contemporary brand, BACARDI is stylish and sexy–on the cusp of the future.

So I paid heed when I read an article recently about BACARDI’s new bottle printing work done by O-I: EXPRESSIONS on Dekron digital equipment (“BACARDI Personalizes Bottles with Direct Digital Print,” Pat Reynolds, 07/02/2020). The article defines direct digital custom printing, addresses the benefits of this technology from a marketing design and sustainability vantage point, and then goes on to mention the improved marketing results of linking this technology to digital-only media such as the internet and AR (Augmented Reality).

What the Article Says

(Reynolds’ article is actually quite short. However, it includes links to other articles describing cutting-edge, direct-to-shape (related to direct-to-object) custom printing not only on bottles but also on cosmetics tubes and cans. So this is a quickly growing phenomenon with a number of exciting facets. I think you might find such articles inspiring if you are a designer or printer.)

First off, “BACARDI Personalizes Bottles with Direct Digital Print” describes BACARDI’s marketing initiative, mentions the technology used, and then lists the benefits of the process.

For this marketing campaign, BACARDI chose not to print paper or plastic labels or even shrink sleeves. Instead, BACARDI’s creative team at O-I: EXPRESSIONS used Dekron digital custom printing technology to image the marketing message directly on the bottle using organic, food-safe inks.

From a design/marketing point of view, this approach made for striking BACARDI packaging.

It also expanded the space for branding imagery far beyond the usual limits. For example, in the case of paper labels, the space available for commercial printing is small: some variant of a rectangle or other geometric form on the front and maybe the back of the beverage bottle. The key word is “small.”

In the case of shrink sleeves (while larger than a label), there are still size limitations. Can it be printed and then wrapped around and over the neck of the bottle and also the bottle cap, extending the marketing imagery over the entire surface of the bottle? Will the shrink sleeve, even in its much larger than label-size format, still have too limited a texture? Will it have just an overall gloss or matte surface with no localized, textured effects?

Well, BACARDI’s Caribbean experience initiative addresses all of these concerns/limitations and then goes much further. According to “BACARDI Personalizes Bottles with Direct Digital Print,” the beverage maker was able to produce limited-edition personalized bottles with “a much improved look and feel to the packaging [that] is a more sustainable alternative” (as per Simone Kockelmann, Customer Marketing Manager, BACARDI Europe, as quoted in “BACARDI Personalizes Bottles with Direct Digital Print”). This enhanced effect includes a spot tactile treatment of both the BACARDI bat logo and some palm leaves and tropical flowers printed on the bottle. Using the Dekron direct digital printing equipment, O-I: EXPRESSIONS was also able to print an entire 360 degree, full-color image on each bottle.

The overall effect? An enhanced “Wow” factor.

But the benefits of the direct-to-object commercial printing didn’t stop here. The imaging technology was paired with the internet, Snapchat lenses, and Augmented Reality. As the article notes, these cutting-edge technologies were able to “transport the user to the homeland of BACARDI, the shores of the Caribbean” (“BACARDI Personalizes Bottles with Direct Digital Print”). According to Reynolds’ article, a Snapcode on the bottle unlocks the Snapchat lens, and Augmented Reality creates an immersive experience for the customer.

The Key Benefits of This Technology

So from a marketing point of view, here are some key benefits:

  1. This was a limited roll-out. So a relatively small—and precisely targeted—group of people experienced this promotion. Presumably a loyal group of BACARDI afficionados. In addition, the marketing initiative was prepared specifically for them, using marketing research to make the experience relevant to their needs and preferences.
  2. The marketing initiative extended the BACARDI brand across multiple media: print (the labeling) and digital (both the internet and Augmented Reality). It also involved multiple senses, reinforcing the brand message in the minds of participants.
  3. The experience was immersive—sort of like watching a movie and forgetting you’re just in a theater watching a film—but going even further due to the three-dimensional nature of Augmented Reality. Again, the more senses a marketer engages, the stronger the branding message. Just as the more media the marketer employs (such as signage, radio spots, product packaging), the more memorable the customer experience of the brand message will be.
  4. Sustainability. Increasingly, people are becoming aware of the need to change their behavior to maintain the livability of the planet. Labels leave a residue on bottles that can contaminate the recycling stream. Direct-to-object commercial printing leaves an empty, clean, and ready to recycle container (no labels, no residue). In addition, the inks are food-safe. Even the shrink sleeve noted above would introduce extra plastic sheeting into the environment. Direct-to-shape digital commercial printing will not. Moreover, from a manufacturing and storage point of view, not printing on either labels or shrink sleeves reduces materials’ costs as well as materials’ storage and inventory costs. No labels to buy and store. No shrink sleeves to buy and store. More profit.

The Takeaway

Digital commercial printing, in general, is ideal for marketing work. You can print short runs economically and efficiently. (Limited editions sell; it’s the “exclusivity effect.”) You can create a customized marketing initiative based on increasingly precise marketing research, and you can effect this “differentiation” quickly, making changes on the fly as needed. You can also personalize the experience to make the brand immediately relevant to the target audience (and even specific individuals you have identified as prospective clients).

This is even before you get to the mixed media effects BACARDI exploited in their marketing initiative.

Deep inside there is a child in every adult. That’s why people are so attracted to new, immersive experiences such as Augmented Reality, Snapchat lenses, and such. Your marketing work will be more effective (“relevant,” as they say) if you can tap into this quality of human nature. And using the new direct-to-object or direct-to-shape technology, you can even do this in a sustainable way, lessening your environmental footprint.

If you’re a printer (offset or especially digital), or if you’re a graphic designer, it behooves you to read up on this technology. (Research “direct-to-shape,” “direct-to-object,” “direct-digital.” There are multiple terms describing this technology.) Even if you’re not designing for packaging (shrink sleeves, labels), websites, Augmented Reality, or any or all of these—this is the future. It will serve you well to become conversant in this developing technology.

I think BACARDI has the right idea.

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