In the packaging world, zeroing in on the customer has never been more important. It is imperative for brands to stand out – not only on retail shelves, but everywhere their products are seen and interacted with – as a means to secure consumer loyalty. Now, more than ever, consumer demand for customized products is on the rise, particularly among certain demographics with growing spending power.

Adapting packages for different markets and occasions is becoming ever more important in today’s world. Driving this trend are a number of factors, including the growth in private labels versus major brands, the increasingly crowded retail space (and therefore far greater selection for shoppers to consider) and the growing expectation from consumers that they deserve specialized products how and when they want them. As such, brand owners are faced with the need to increase brand acceptance and connect with consumers in a more personalized fashion.

Customization is an effective tactic to overcome the challenges associated with targeting consumers in a marketplace abounding with options, for one key reason – it offers consumers a unique experience. Against this backdrop, there are a number of ways to approach personalization, particularly as it relates to product packaging, to create more valuable engagement with customers.

1. Addressing the needs of specific demographics
Targeting the unique needs and preferences of particular consumer segments is an effective way brands can customize their products. Personalization is becoming not only necessary but expected, especially among millennials, who desire far greater input on what they purchase than earlier generations. With this fact in mind, brand owners are seeking to differentiate and excite this consumer demographic through packaging.

One approach – particularly in the beverage space – is through the use of new variable printing techniques, which allow brands to fill pallets with packaging that features multiple graphic designs – from subtle nuances in design to bold changes in graphics and text. Digital printing, in particular, is growing in popularity for markets that require specialized decoration and designs that need to be updated frequently, with smaller brands such as the craft beer industry or those that have multiple label designs benefitting the most.

There are a number of printing options now available to meet this need. At Crown, our Two-for-One solution integrates a double imaging plate into the decorator so brands can have two different designs that feature similar ink usage. The system allows for two analogous graphical treatments with subtle differences and is a practical solution for conveying, for example, a different slogan or change in facial expression. Duo-Deco printing, meanwhile, is achieved by splitting the production line at the decoration stage. In this way, cans are divided and run through two different decorators that print entirely different designs before being mixed back together at the end when palletized. For greater variety, Accents™ variable printing technology allows up to twenty-four different designs – such as words or graphics – to be printed on a single printer. This process creates a range of cans for brands seeking to encourage customers to view their products as a collectible set or to personalize cans with their own name or messaging.

Personalization can also extend beyond decoration to address how consumers interact with one another. Crown’s GiftTagTM technology allows customers to assign a custom-recorded message to an individual package that is then accessible by another. Through the use of unique visual codes that can be read by mobile devices, the “giver” is able to scan a code and record a video message that is recovered and enjoyed by the “receiver” when their gift arrives.

2. Physical engagement
Apart from the visual aspect, there are also a host of ways to use shaping, decorating and other enhancements to physically customize packaging in order to connect with the consumer. Advances in shaping for steel and aluminum cans allows us to transform metal packaging into works of art that invite the consumer to physically reach out and touch a product. Shaping can also enhance the ergonomic characteristics of products, taking convenience a step beyond the ordinary. Packaging can now be molded to fit the consumer’s grip, improving comfort while also making products easier to grasp and use for elderly consumers.

At Crown, we use state-of-the-art blow-forming technology to produce uniquely shaped cans, directing high-pressure air into the container, causing the metal to expand into the desired shape. The versatility of shaping offers brands an exclusive opportunity to transform metal into packaging that is appropriate for anything from seasonal themes to new product promotions – all in a new, eye-catching way.

Special decorative effects such as Tactile or Soft Touch finishes are another simple way to appeal to and engage the consumer physically, giving packaging a luxurious and distinctive feel. Brands can choose whether to apply the finishes selectively or across an entire package to create the look that consumers want to reach out and touch.

3. Enhancing the Experience

These days, consumers live faster-paced, busier lifestyles, and consequently prefer to enjoy products on-the-go. Metal cans already address convenience and portability factors, but it is also important to consider innovations that directly enhance the consumer’s experience with that product.

For beverages, people prefer drinks to be at their most refreshing – whenever they want them. Crown’s ChillZone™ solution was developed since a chilled beverage will warm more quickly when held – from the warmth of the consumer’s hand – rather than the ambient temperature alone. ChillZone introduces an insulating band around the lower half of the can, where the consumer typically holds a beverage, keeping the product cold for as much as 40% longer than those without this solution. ChillZone can be printed in full color, helping brands utilize the same space as they would normally for product messaging and design. Moreover, in keeping with the can’s intrinsic sustainability and convenience values, the band does not require removal prior to recycling.

Personalization can also stretch beyond the appeal of texture and temperature to engage consumers through taste and smell. Crown’s 360 End® allows brand owners to improve the overall consumption experience with an entirely removable end that transforms the can into a drinking vessel, eliminating the need for separate glassware. This particular format, ideally suited for the craft beer industry, allows the product’s full aroma and flavor to register immediately, enhancing the flavor of the product for the consumer.

4. The importance of entertainment value
Even though consumers value functionality perhaps above all other packaging attributes, many are also expecting to be engaged or entertained by the products they buy. Packaging has a unique role to play in this respect as consumers typically interact with the package long after they select a product off the store shelf and bring it home. Solutions such as our Instant Win™ technology allow brands to run promotions or competitions by means of the beverage can itself. A tag is concealed just beneath the ring pull on the can end that confirms whether the consumer has won or not. Each label displays a unique code and is undetectable until the can is opened, affording brands a range of promotional opportunities.

An alternative to physical tags, laser marking is another way promotions can be incorporated into beverage packaging. Given their placement and function, beverage tabs are pivotal to the drinking experience and are prime real estate for images or codes that reinforce a brand’s identity or messaging. Using a focused laser, the top coating of the tab – or the underside of a ring-pull – is removed in the required design, either to expose the clear coating beneath or reveal a second color of coating below. The result is the ability to depict fine text, logos or codes in conjunction with promotions and competitions.

Today’s world demands not only packaging that lends brands a competitive edge, but also a format that stands out to consumers, whether it be aesthetically pleasing, physically engaging or enhanced to improve consumption. In order to engage consumers, brand owners, designers and retailers alike must put their best foot forward and utilize technologies that are best suited to attract and delight in today’s bountiful marketplace.