Go Special—Dress Your Brand in Foil, Ink and Film
By William Makely
Today’s new surface decoration techniques lend visual power to widely different brand images.  
Every brand is “special.” In fact, that is the definition of branding: creating and projecting an image for your product that makes it different from all others.
Today, more and more brand owners, especially those in image-sensitive market segments like cosmetics, hair and skin care and sporting goods are turning to what we loosely call “special effects” packaging to project a unique image.
 Witness our own “special” treatment of the cover of this issue, with foil supplied by Kurz Transfer Products that was hot-stamped by Letterhead Press onto our preprinted covers.
Read on for a small catalog of marketers who are using special effects to the advantage of their brands.
A gift pack
When Rusk Incorporated, the salon product arm of Conair, began preparing its 2004 holiday packages, it wanted something different and memorable (holiday packaging, like Christmas postage stamps, must be fresh each year).  
The company’s regular carton producer, Atlantic Packaging, suggested a dynamic alternative: holographic filmed cartons—something that, to the knowledge of both, had never been done for a hair care product.
“We wanted packaging that said ‘holiday,’” says Rusk senior marketing manager Maria Hannon, “without being so Christmas-focused that it would be completely dated when the season ended.”
Jim Brown of Atlantic developed designs that integrated the soft gleam of holographic film with a scattering of subtle printed stars and die-cut openings that revealed the salon products. For products that Rusk felt would sell out during the holidays, the die-cut designs were Christmas trees; cartons for products with longer market lives carried less seasonal shapes.
Holographic film from CFC Holographics was laminated to SBS board at Foil Laminating, then sent to Atlantic for printing, die-cutting and gluing before being shipped down to Rusk for packing.
A name dropper
Tommy Hilfiger also produces special Christmas packaging—in this case, for its Tommy Boy and Tommy Girl cosmetic lines manufactured by Estee Lauder. For the 2004 holiday season, the package designs featured stars—a traditional element of Hilfiger holiday packaging—that were eight-sided sharp-pointed designs requiring precise registration (within 0.015 inches) for the proper “stars within stars” effect. Blue for Tommy Boy and red for Tommy Girl, they were printed with ultraviolet transparent ink on UniFoil’s UniLustre paper, an 80-lb. metallized litho stock. The base PET film for the package was Toray Plastics (America) Lumbrite U6E holographic film, which is specifically designed for excellent registration.
A gourmet package
Across the pond, in Britain, Ashbury Confectionery wanted an exceptional package for its Gordon Ramsay’s Just Desserts Chocolates—one that would draw attention to the European chef’s confectionery creations launch but also portray a sense of elegance. Ashbury enlisted Alexir Packaging and the Henry & Leigh Slater design firm, who suggested a material that would focus on exceptional quality and also the contemporary minimalist image they desired: Brushfoil’s brushed aluminum foil, which was laminated to a 450-micron white-backed folding boxboard.
Brushfoil creates the look by mechanically abrading PET film on one side, then metallizing it, giving the final effect of a brushed solid metal surface. The Gordon Ramsay package is printed in six colors, embossed and finished with a high gloss UV varnish. The final result is nothing short of stunning.
A collectible
Nirvana was one of the biggest names in the world of alternative rock in the 1990s, until the tragic suicide of its founder, Kurt Cobain. When a collection of the group’s work was being planned, it clearly required a remarkable package.
Shorewood Packaging, which specializes in entertainment packaging, knew the look and feel of the packaging needed to do justice to the group’s influence on music and the near-obsession of its dedicated, now slightly-aging, fan base who had been awaiting this release for nearly seven years.  
Practically speaking, the boxed set required holders for three CDs and one DVD, and a pouch for a 60-page color booklet of rare photos and a detailed chronology.  The packaging also had to be durable and capable of maintaining its appeal even with repeat handling.  
The final package is substantial, yet innovative, capturing the spirit of the group. The case is covered with FiberMark’s Hyflex 9 premium latex-saturated, acrylic-coated material, which provides an optimum printing surface but also resists cracking—a critical benefit for a package that will be repeatedly opened.
The printing is a heavy laydown of thermochromic ink from Chromatic Technologies Inc. The ink appears black but, on the solid back of the box, for instance, it becomes transparent when affected by the heat of a finger, revealing the text beneath.
A class act
Victoria’s Secret products project a somewhat naughty brand image—an intentional contrast to a name that evokes images of Victorian chastity and propriety.
Victoria’s Secret chose a relatively sedate package for its recent Dream Angels skin care holiday gift sets, one that projected the look of Victorian wallpaper in classic pink, gold and silver patterns.
The preparation of the apparently simple package was not a straight printing job, though. This gift box collection was the first commercial application of Vacumet’s new “no-color” HoloPRISM paper patterns. Unlike typical micro-embossed holographic paper that diffracts light and generates reflective color, these “no-color” patterns do not exhibit traditional color-shifting properties. The lack of a colored background means there is no interference with print graphics, allowing for a true demonstration of trademarked colors and brand identity.
Whether we describe it as “appropriate use” or “what works,” brand managers have learned that the glitter and dash we call “special effects” work best when they—like any graphic treatment—support the fundamental objectives of the brand and create a point of difference on the shelf. BP
The author, Bill Makely, is a freelance writer specializing in packaging and technical subjects. Contact him at 630.960.0821 or at billmakely@aol.com.
Where to go for more information...
Brushed metallic films. At Brushfoil LLC, contact Jim Parker at 800.493.2321 or j.parker@brushfoil.com.
Designing with brushed metallic films. At Henry & Leigh Slater Ltd., contact Henry Slater  at +44.16.25650500 or marketing@hlslater.co.uk.
Printed holographic cartons. At Atlantic Packaging Group, contact Jim Brown at 860.889.1344 x19 orjimbrown@atpackgroup.com.
Holographic films. At Toray Plastics (America) Inc., contact Eric Bartholomay at 401.294.4511 or eric.bartholomay@toraytpa.com.
Holographic papers. At Vacumet Corp., contact Joe Formosa at 508.541.7759 or jformosa@vacumet.com.
Film-to-board lamination. At Foil Laminating Inc., contact Stan Brzoska at 610.759.8573 or stanbrzoska@hotmail.com.
Textured papers. At FiberMark, contact  Stella Alstede at  413.539.5273 orsalstede@fibermark.com.
Hot stamp foils. At Kurz Transfer Products, contact Sam McElree at 888.387.4226 or Sam.McElree@Kurzusa.com.
Hot foil stamping. At Letterhead Press, contact Dick Reindl at 262.787.1717 or dreindl@letterhead-press.com.