‘See me, Smell me, Touch Me’: Special Effects add Multi-sensory Allure

by William Makely
Novel finishes, inks and films heighten visual, olfactory and tactile appeal of packages. This encourages consumers to pick them up.  
For years, when marketers talked about shelf impact, they were really talking about the effectiveness of color and graphics. Color, the universal method of visual attraction, has been the weapon of choice in the battle on the shelf.
Today, with color so widely and so effectively used, it is no longer as effective as a differentiator. In the words of Sunny Maffeo, Director of Creative Marketing for Engelhard Corp. and a frequent presenter on color trends and influences, color isn’t the whole story these days.
So what is taking the place of color? Nothing. Color still owns the power to attract and excite. But special effects are adding to colors to make them even more effective in attracting attention, and to encourage consumers to stop in their swift flight along the aisle and touch—even pick up—a package.
Maffeo says that advancements in the use of special effects accentuate brand “personality,” stimulating consumers’ emotions. This initiates a relationship between the consumer and the package.
Whether that is true in every case, special effects certainly work to create a connection between the consumer and the package physically. These effects appeal to the senses to attract attention.
What do we mean by “special effects” in packaging?
Literally, special effects can be any container treatment that distinguishes a packaged product from its shelf neighbors. That can include container size, shape, material and color as well as surface treatments.
“Special” also implies different. When one marketer began using metallic paint on aerosol cans, it was special. When everyone could (and many did) use it, it wasn’t. So uniqueness also plays a part. For this article, lets focus on surface treatments and add-ons to color that make packages more eye-, nose- and fingertip-friendly.
3-D finishes
Color is still king, so how can it be enhanced to even more power?
Crown Holdings has developed two new techniques—Patterned Varnish and Color Change—that do just that.
Patterned Varnish can coat the entire surface of a metal can or a localized area, adding a three-dimensional pattern that adds shimmer to the can’s appearance. Colors “move” as consumers pass by the container, adding shelf impact. This visual effect is similar to foil or patterned film. But it claims to offer a lower cost and with better control.
Color Change uses a varnish containing multiple color pigments. As consumers pass by the package, the color changes subtly. This gradual change is enough, however, to catch the eye and interest of consumers.
Marketers can control the effect by varying the color and amount of pigment in the varnish. Subtle effects like a pearl color over a lavender or rose base color may enhance feminine appeal in a personal-care package, while more distinct or bold color changes could attract a male audience.
Marketers can apply these varnishes over finished cans to enhance the underlying color. Other packages can incorporate color-shifting pigments into the container itself. Here’s one example.
Color-shifting bottles
When Fiji Blend was preparing to introduce its line of tanning products for indoor tanning salons, CEO Scott Freeman was well aware that most tanning lotion bottles look alike—brown, low-cost, low-impact bottles. He wanted more “presence,” and got it through Clariant Masterbatches’ Spectrachrome colorants.
The two-layer high-density polypropylene (HDPE) bottles chosen by Fiji Blend use Spectachrome colorants in the outer layers. These pigments shift red-gold-orange, blue-green-purple or bronze-gold-green in different bottles. The final effect varies with the color of the inner layer but is exotic in every case, especially when contrasted with the common tanning lotion bottle.
For an even greater visual effect for its Tantric brand, Fiji Blend added a lenticular carton. This tapered polyester carton carries a South Seas scene, including a volcano.
As the carton rotates, the consumer sees the scene move and the volcano erupt through the 75-line lenticular lens. Fiji Blend prints the graphics in seven colors.
Shrink-sleeve labels can also benefit from special effects. On the transparent container for the Nina Ricci Premier Jour fragrance, for instance, a sleeve label makes the graphics on the primary bottle appear hazy, as if they are under water. Sleever International supplies the labels.
HBA’s 2005 color palette
Engelhard’s Maffeo identifies four categories of color palettes that her research shows as coming trends for cosmetic and personal care packaging in 2005. They are:
- Ceramics—earth tones like terra cotta and brick and earthenware with special effects created by varnishes and enamels, and by layering transparent materials with contrasting effects showing from underneath.
- Halo—multicolor combinations of feminine colors that are combined with matte finishes and neon colors to create a misty, shimmering, very feminine final effect.
- Kaleidoscope—the colors of nature, like moss, mineral and lichen hues, combined with iridescent surfaces and marble effects. Animal prints and mother-of-pearl, mineral tones. An overall effect of subtle and spectacular power.
- Nocturnal—dark, shiny colors with light-catching effects, like those of the glossy supper clubs of the 1930s and 40s. Contrasting hues and maximal reflective qualities create an illusion of being between night and day.
Advancement in the development and use of special effects accentuates brand personality—the emotional associations represented in a brand, Maffeo says. Special decorative effects subconsciously touch and stimulate those emotions, leading to a product purchase.
This union of the emotional and the practical seems to work best in personal-care categories like cosmetics and fragrances. Emotions usually outweigh logic when consumers select these types of products from the store shelf.
But what about more mundane products like food and beverage, consumer electronics, clothing, lawn and garden, etc? Does Engelhard’s research apply to these categories, too? The answer appears to be “yes.”
Perhaps not in terms of catching trends, but in more pragmatic terms of seeing that special effects have a powerful ability to supplement and even heighten the effect of color as a tool to enhance consumer appeal.
The power of touch
While eye appeal still remains the primary way to attract the consumer to a package, once the package has been picked up, touch takes over.
“Texture has become important,” points out Nipun Marwah, Market Manager for MeadWestvaco’s Packaging Resources Group, “because it helps differentiate one product from another.”
Crescendo, one of the company’s smoothest printing boards, is sometimes used inside out, to give cartons a textured feel. Kraftpak, an unbleached brown kraft board, is often selected by marketers for its different, more rugged look—a plus for many men’s cosmetic products.
For men, the rough masculine feel of Crescendo’s “other” side feels comfortable, an important selling point when the product is a traditionally feminine one, like cosmetics.
“Customers say that drawing attention to a package on the shelf is important,” he adds, “but when you create a tactile feel, the consumer is more likely to pick it up. And once it is in the consumer’s hand, the sale is that much closer.”
Matthew Unger of Procter & Gamble says that design, workmanship and decoration are all important in a successful package. But how a package feels to the consumer, how it speaks through touch as well as vision is the “moment of truth—the moment of choice,” he says.
Molding processes can give a plastic bottle a soft feel that is comforting. This special effect turns a slippery plastic bottle into an easy-to-grip, secure surface that feels welcome. And the surface is visibly soft, which encourages the consumer to touch it.
Working in harmony
Color catches the eye still, even on shelves crowded with vibrant hues. Scent brings powerful memories of pleasures waiting within a package. And touch draws reassurance from the solidity, from the rough maleness to the soft femininity of the package.
With all these special effects at play and others on the horizon, marketers have an artful toolkit to make their packages virtually irresistible to consumers.
The author, William Makely, has written extensively on packaging and technology. Contact him at billmakely@aol.com
Keeping an Eye on color change
“Standard” or “normal” colors are reflective. Light hitting the pigment is absorbed, except for the band reflected to produce a specific color. Quality control focuses on keeping pigments consistent within a batch of packages and from batch to batch.
The new “flip” colors and color-shifting coatings achieve their effects using refracted light. Light hitting the surface refracts as through a prism, usually from multiple layers within a coating, giving the effect of shifting and varying colors within one coating.
The color additive itself has very little color value as it comes out of the box. “It looks,” says Len Kulka of Clariant Masterbatches, the maker of Spectrachrome, “like floor sweepings or the sand on a beach.” The molder has no visual reference as to what the final effect will be. Quality control relies more on chemistry than on matching colors.
A three-part color flip may vary in exact tint from one production run to the next, but the change will be slight, and the dramatic effect will be as great. The emphasis in quality control shifts from exact color matching to assessing total effect.
Releasing The Scent of a brand
Scent triggers memories, like homemade bread baking in the oven when you were a child. Imagine an equally evocative scent attached to a sealed package of peaches, fruity beverage or sliced pepperoni, just waiting to be touched to release it. Imagine being able to smell the contents of a package before the consumer purchases it.
Makers of scented inks hope that those evocative memories will soon be touched often and effectively. The technology is here, and the scent applies as easily as printing a spot varnish on a package material. Scented inks are not new; anyone who has opened a fashion magazine recently has encountered one even before reaching the page holding it.
What is new is Rub’nSmell, an innovative technology that uses synthetic polymer microencapsulation to embed fragrance oils in inks that can then run in-line on offset, flexo, gravure or screen-printing equipment.
The microcapsules are so small that only rubbing releases the scent, and only in the area rubbed, making the effect subtler and more effective. The capsules withstand heat, pressure and humidity without releasing their scent prematurely.
“Scent is the strongest trigger of memory ,” claims Bob Bernstein of Scentisphere LLC. The company co-produces Rub’nSmell with manufacturing partner Flint Ink. “These inks are a powerful way to differentiate brands to consumers.”
Numerous marketers of fragrances, such as Calvin Klein, ECHO Dardoff and Kenneth Cole, are already using the new inks in their promotional mailings, and are testing them in their packaging.
Where to go for more information...
- Color trends in package design. At Engelhard Corp., contact Sunny Maffeo at 800.842.6245, ext. 7365 or sunny.maffeo@engelhard.com
- Specialty coatings. At Crown, contact Brad Dahlgren at 215.698.5260 or bdahlgren@crowncork.com
- Package colorants. At Clariant Masterbatches, contact Len Kulka at 815.363.0025 or len.kulka@clariant.com
- Shrink-sleeve labels. At Sleever International, contact Marina André at marina.andre@sleever.com
- Paperboard. At MeadWestvaco Packaging, contact Nipun Marwah at 203.461.7661.