Why Customized Packaging Works for Brands of All Sizes
Café Pelé, a coffee brand sold in Brazilian supermarkets, needed to fight back against consumer perceptions that its coffee was not as fresh as that of local Brazilian coffeehouses. Working with its marketing agency, the local newspaper and an innovative print service provider (PSP), the company used digital technology to print flexible packaging with images from that morning’s newspaper with the message, “This coffee was vacuum-packed today, here’s the proof!”
The marketing campaign was a hit, with more 1 million customers repeatedly engaging with the Café Pelé brand and sales jumping 400%.
Not long ago, a campaign like this would have been nearly impossible for most brands because of limitations in traditional printing technology, such as lengthy press setup and economics that reward standardization and long print runs. Today, digital printing technology makes it possible to produce short runs quickly and affordably, so brands of all sizes can be more agile with product customization.
Indeed, this technology can help smaller brands use flexible packaging to build awareness and look more professional, even when they’re not operating at the scale of their larger competitors. Competition among similar products on store shelves can be intense, with shoppers often making buying decisions in mere seconds. Some are more motivated by price. Others select brands based on experiences and loyalty. But a large and growing set of consumers are influenced by visual stimuli.
According to a WestRock survey, 86% of packaging professionals believe consumers are more likely to purchase products with visually appealing labels, and 38% are likely to repeat purchases for the same reason. Similarly, a study by Shorr Packaging found more than half of 422 adult buyers polled believe specially printed or customized packaging makes a product more valuable.
For smaller brands, the upshot of this data is clear: when it comes to standing out on store shelves, aesthetic features such as color, typography, brightness and graphical style truly matter.
For example, facing stiff competition from imported brands, Israeli chocolatier Strauss Elite decided to breathe new life into its brand by releasing 1 million candy bars, each with one-of-a-kind labels. But Strauss took its custom packaging a step further. Every one of its wrappers could also be folded into a fun sculpture of a cow using origami (the company has used cows in its signature red packaging since 1934).
What Café Pelé and Strauss Elite have been doing isn’t unique to smaller brands. Larger brands like Coke, Dr. Pepper, Oreo and Planters have also driven successful, limited-time marketing campaigns built around custom labels and packaging. Still, many large consumer packaged goods brands don’t pursue this option because their size tends to limit their ability to be agile and to customize at scale. Smaller, more nimble brands have an opportunity, therefore, to compete with larger brands by embracing custom packaging to stand out and be noticed.
Digital printing presses make this possible. They can embed not just data but also variable images and special effects, producing it all in beautiful color on an extensive variety of media. In fact, color reproduction is incredibly sharp with digital printing, which is one reason many major brands have put it to work.
Obviously, the average small or mid-sized business does not have the capital to invest in digital presses to make any of this a reality. But they do have options, namely PSPs, which can produce as few or as many customized labels or packages as needed, operating almost as a personalized branding bureau. Many PSPs today have entire business practices dedicated to doing just that.
In Western Canada, for instance, Associated Labels and Packaging, a leading labels and packaging converter, recently installed digital presses to dramatically expand its flexible packaging services. And in Atlanta, Georgia-Pacific Corrugated, a leader in packaging solutions, installed a digital printer to help craft brewers create custom beer bottle carriers that attract consumers at point of sale with high-quality graphics, low minimum order quantities, and variable images — all while saving on costly printing plates.
PSPs can offload much of the stress, complexity and time involved in producing custom labels and packaging. At the same time, they can offer smaller brands the expertise and strategic counsel they might need to limit costs and produce more compelling images that will resonate with consumers.
Today, it’s becoming evident that looks really can matter, and that product packaging itself is becoming an important element in the marketing mix. Growing businesses have an unprecedented opportunity to put their imaginations to work and create innovative labels and packaging that will grab consumer attention and help them compete against larger brands.
Dave Prezzano is the Vice President and General Manager of the Americas Graphics Solutions business at HP Inc. In this role, he is responsible for the go-to-market strategy, execution and overall financial performance of the business. This includes the sale and delivery of HP’s Graphics Solutions portfolio in North and South American markets, including Large Format printers (Latex, DesignJet and PageWide XL), Indigo digital presses, Scitex industrial presses, PageWide web presses, and associated services and supplies.