Packaging Strategies recently sat down with Bill Kral, Chief Commercial Officer of Inovar Packaging Group, to discuss the advantages of digital printing when it comes to providing flexibility to brand managers.

PS: What are some examples of digital printing being used to attract consumers?

BK: If you think of the “Share a Coke” campaign … a different name on every bottle of Coca-Cola. That’s an example where a very large brand used digital printing to personalize their product to attract a younger generation back to their product. By personalizing their product, they created a connection with their consumers which, I believe, resulted in over 100 million social media posts. 

You are still seeing digital used today to personalize products. Simple things where brands are personalizing products for a university, sports team or a regional marketing campaign.

We are seeing it more and more, even down to the individual. Pet food, for instance. You’re now starting to see a lot of the marketing out there for personalized pet food. You can go online and enter information about your pet, and they will actually create a product that’s unique to your pet. When it shows up on your doorstep, it has your pet’s name and their picture on it. It also features information about why their product is beneficial to your pet.

PS: Why are some brand managers reluctant to switch from conventional printing processes to digital printing?

BK: Spirits, craft beer, supplements, and personal care … these are examples of product packaging where you have heavy embellishments. Foil stamping. embossing, tactile finishes, etc.

I think they would say, ‘Digital printing is very high quality, but because of the lack of embellishments it could diminish my brand.’ However, with today’s technology, we can give you everything that you do conventionally in a digital format. While some organizations have jumped into digital printing and embellishments, many are still not benefiting from this technology.

However, we are starting to see higher end brands in vertical markets like craft spirits and nutraceuticals, where moderate volumes makes it difficult to justify some embellishments, utilizing digital printing and embellishments to create premium packaging that aligns with their valuable high-end brands. 5 Star Nutrition is a perfect example of this strategy. They have incorporated digital tactile varnishes into their designs, creating a very premium package. 

PS: Why is digital printing advantageous when it comes to testing new messaging?

BK: Digital printing and embellishments allow brand managers to quickly test market a brand refresh and see how it pulls and how consumers react to how it looks on shelf or in the cooler … without incurring a ton of costs. With more and more consumers being less brand loyal and making their purchase decisions at the store, trying different digital embellishments to see which one’s better to highlight or entice the consumer to try their product can be invaluable. There’s always the option of trying five different variations and seeing which one pulls better … or doing a market study with prototypes with as little as a 10- or 20-person sampling. 

The use of digital printing is probably most powerful in its ability to help drive brand loyalty and consumer engagement. Many brand managers are using digital printing for loyalty programs and promotions. Take a look at smokeless tobacco companies that print unique codes on their packaging that consumers use to accumulate points to win prizes or Mountain Dew’s promotion where they printed unique labels for each State, enabling a consumer to win a prize if they collected all 50. These are all great examples of how digital printed packaging has given brands the ability to interact with their consumers in more interesting and compelling ways.

PS: What are the advantages of digital printing when it comes to consumer engagement and preventing counterfeiting?

BK: One of the best ways to defend against counterfeit products is to utilize technologies that fraudulent purveyors looking to turn a quick profit would never invest in. Scannable codes like QR codes are one way to allow your customers to verify the product they’re purchasing is legitimate. Of course, a generic QR code leading to your website can be replicated, but digital printing gives you the capability to print unique scannable codes on every individual product label, enabling a level of security for your product that can’t be matched.

By printing variable data codes on your labels, you will be able to guarantee the validity of your product to your customers. You will deter counterfeiters from even trying to enter the market with your product. As an added benefit, you will also have a unique opportunity to connect with your customers on a deeper level and possibly entice them to join your loyalty program.

There are also many other ways that digital printing can help deter counterfeiting. From the use of micro-printing, hiding hyperlinks in the graphics that require a third-party app to using specialized inks that make the packaging extremely difficult to replicate.

PS: What’s an example of Inovar helping a customer to experiment with its branding using digital printing?

BK: We worked with a high-end water company that wanted their product to have a differentiation on shelf. They compete in the $3-$4 category with the likes of Smartwater or Fiji. They wanted a very high-end look to their product and wanted every product to look unique. 

So, they produced 10 different variations of their logo, and 10 different variations of a scene that you see when you look through the bottle. We then utilized a hybrid digital printing process to randomly match logos and scenes to create 100 variations and printed them so that it would almost be impossible to have two of the same labels on the shelf at the same time. This hybrid digital printing process used digital and flexographic printing to produce an extremely unique package compared to what is currently on the shelf.

It didn't change their operations. It didn't change their production. It allowed them to produce 100 variations of their product and sell single-serve bottles of water for several dollars a bottle, that the consumer can interact with, setting them apart from their competition. 

About Inovar Packaging Group

Inovar Packaging Group is an award-winning converter, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, which produces innovative prime labels, shrink sleeves and extended content labels for many of the nation’s leading brands.

Bill Kral leads all aspects of Inovar’s sales and marketing strategy focused on creating value for their customers and the brands they serve.