Marvin Foreman, Tonejet’s worldwide Sales Manager, explores how digital printing for packaging can add a competitive edge for local brand.   

In a highly-commoditised market, packaging is often the one thing that makes a product unique, allowing customers to identify with your brand above the many others on the shelf. Global brands know all too well that the more unique the packaging, the more chance of a product standing out. 

Global brands have long enjoyed all the benefits of mass production such as cheaper unit costs, bulk distribution and the ability to dominate shelf space through sheer volume, all of which are typically out of reach for smaller local businesses. However, thanks to changing consumer habits and innovations in digital print technology, small to medium businesses now have an increased focus on both branding and customer communications, and greater ability to make it work for them. 

Despite having the advantage of volume and reach, global brands don’t always get it right. We have all heard or seen packaging faux pas - whether it be mistranslation or unfortunate design which causes offence, such faux pas illustrate the importance of research in local regions for global companies. The little details can make a huge difference to the consumer experience and a brand’s reputation. 

Craft Beer is a good example where smaller producers have increased focus on branding in recent years; it’s also a subject close to my heart. Craft beer, and in fact many beverage products (cider, wine, ready-to-drink cocktails and even non-alcoholic beverages) are commonly produced in smaller batches, celebrated for their uniqueness and sold locally. Many breweries have already made a move from traditional bottling processes to using cans, since these offer a full 360° circumference for marketing and branding, more cost-effectively than a label. New printing technologies are allowing brewers to not only explore creative branding opportunities, but to also include additional information to tell their story and sell their products. 

The Game-Changer - Digital Print for Packaging Many of the larger brands have taken to digitally printed shrink wrap that is then applied to bottles and cans, to create marketing hype and increase consumer focus on their traditional products. The same approach has routinely been taken by the craft beer companies, using digitally printed shrink film and paper labels, however, this was primarily to overcome the minimum order boundaries set by can suppliers.  This is where direct digital can printing steps in. 

Digitally printing directly onto cans is very cost-effective, allowing brands to capitalise on short run packaging for limited editions or special promotions. Products can be canned and printed exactly as required, in the exact quantity needed, without any of the set-up costs or time required for traditional printing formats.The true advantage of digital print is that every single can could be produced with a different image, creating virtually limitless design possibilities. Long lead times and minimum order constraints are eliminated, so essentially a digital can printing solution removes one of the most expensive and restrictive parts of beverage production today - traditional bottling and labelling.

The new digital printing technologies are capable of printing several batches a day, decreasing product time-to-market. This means that larger breweries can leverage digital print to respond to market or seasonal trends, and produce limited edition versions for events and social media campaigns much more easily. 

Brands should start to look beyond digital print for customisation and limited-edition products, and start to take full advantage of this technology for its economic and time-to-market advantages for mainstream packaging decoration on any scale. ‘Interactive’ packaging design will become more commonplace as more brands adopt methods to engage with customers through content such as how-to videos, coupons and promotions which can be accessed on a smartphone or tablet via a printed code or augmented reality app. This will also have a significant impact on the kinds of data that brands are able to collect about the consumers that are interacting with their packaging. 

There is a huge opportunity for brands to engage, entertain, and educate consumers in real time, opening the door for brands to capitalise on specific packaging features for local markets, while also empowering small producers to access global markets. 

It’s all about balance Customisation and regionalisation can attract more customers, but shorter print runs are often not feasible with traditional printing processes. Digital print for packaging makes the short runs required for brand differentiation increasingly accessible for smaller brands. True customised packaging, made possible by printer manufacturers such as Tonejet, is key to unlocking significant marketing opportunities, for a variety of packaging business models. 

When the balance between global and local branding is achieved, consumers are left satisfied and sales are certain to increase. Packaging is integral to your brand, so be sure it gets the attention it deserves. Custom digital printing operations on various types of substrate, should be a consideration for any brand, irrelevant of size.

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