Industry Info

Debate & Discuss: Is Digital Printing Truly Disruptive?

Posted: August 17, 2015 by
Linda Casey

In the August issue, Package Design engages on a frank discussion about digital printing’s current role in the design and marketing of package goods and what needs to happen to fully capitalize on the branding potential of this tool.

Alex Weber
Senior creative director at Kaleidoscope, Chicago office

Can the flexibility and ease of use of digital printing and finishers change the way packaging is designed and packaged goods are marketed?

I believe that advances in output technology have already had a dramatic impact on the marketing and design of packaged goods and beyond. These new technologies expedite the journey from conceptualization to commercialization. Regardless of the intended outcome—product innovation, industrial design, branded packaging, promotional materials, etc. —it used to take weeks, or even months, to go from initial concept to “shelf-ready” solutions. The proliferation of rapid prototyping technologies, from 3-D printing to inkjet prototypes, etc., have made this journey much more efficient—and as a result, less expensive.

How can designers and marketers take advantage of the flexibility of digital printing without incurring unrecoverable logistic and distribution costs?

In addition to dramatically reducing the time from ideation-to-realization, these same technologies have enabled brands to behave in a much more nimble, flexible and adaptive manner. Today’s consumers are increasingly seeking brands that engage them on their own terms and create individualized experiences. Their attention spans are shorter and their tolerance for products that are deemed out-of-touch or irrelevant is extremely small. Customization and personalization are driving trends in all CPG categories. Emerging output technologies allow brands to react quickly to fickle changes in consumers’ desires and create personalized experiences. So, marketers and brand managers should be less concerned with the cost that may be incurred by new production capabilities and more concerned about losing market share due to a perceived lack of innovation.

Have these technologies improved your design process?

Over the course of two to five years, many major national CPG brands have lost market share to challengers due to an inability or reluctance to get products to market efficiently. As a result, many brands have started to think more like startups and less like bureaucratic corporations. In practice, this means that they develop concepts quickly and test them in market rather than in focus groups. “Fail fast and often” has become the new mantra in CPG innovation circles. As a brand agency, having robust, on-site production capability is essential to Kaleidoscope’s success in meeting the needs of this new approach to innovation and becoming one of our key points of difference relative to our competitors.

Can in-house printing help marketers and designers be even more creative and effective?

I’ve seen multiple examples of how in-house printing and finishing capabilities help marketers and designers be more creative and effective. By collaborating directly with implementation, pre-media, model-making and production specialists, our designers have to learn to think beyond their desktop. In addition to color and typography, they begin to understand the language of materials, finishes, form and engineering.

The result is that the concepts that we develop are holistic meaning product form, packaging structure and visual brand language all work together to not only deliver on the brand proposition, but also reflective all of the practical considerations of CPG manufacturing (line speed, packing, distribution, palletization, etc.). On-site production capabilities not only broaden our creative lens, but also enable us to test and optimize quickly. By the time our concepts go to mass production, we’re confident that no unexpected problems will arise.                      

What needs to change to realize the full marketing and design potential of digital printing?

As an industry, we haven’t begun to explore the full potential of these new technologies. I believe that the printers, engineers and manufactures that adopt a problem-solver mentality stand to gain a great deal. Early adopters of these emerging technologies will set themselves apart from the pack, while those who are adverse to change will quickly become irrelevant.
 

Rob Wallace
Brand advocate, managing partner at Best of Breed Branding Consortium

Can the flexibility and ease of use of digital printing and finishers change the way packaging is designed and packaged goods are marketed?

Without question, as print technology advances, brand identity will significantly evolve. One of many advantages that digital printing provides is the ability to hyper-customize each individual package to every individual consumer’s needs. Big data, cost-efficient logistics and the decreasing costs of digital printing will allow marketers to engage in a one-on-one conversation with each consumer through their brand identities. Share a Coke is the tip of the iceberg.

How can designers and marketers take advantage of the flexibility of digital printing without incurring unrecoverable logistic and distribution costs?

Consumers will drive decreasing distribution costs. Anyone an Amazon Prime member? Is it worth the annual fee to have products shipped to you “for free” in two days? As more and more of us say, yes to that question, logistics and distribution costs will come down and this will open the flood gates to hyper customization.

Have these technologies improved the design process?

All advances in technology create a new palette of possibilities for designers to explore. Some of the early executions of digital package printing are effective applications of the “expected,” like adding a photo of your dog to your dog food. Do we all want our name on our toothpaste? Not necessarily. But will we have a stronger affinity with brands that allow us to express ourselves? You bet!

Can in-house printing and finishing capabilities help marketers and designers be even more creative and effective?

Those firms that brought 3-D printers in house, for example, have discovered new ways to apply them. I expect the same from bringing the advantages of digital printing to the forefront of corporate attention.

What needs to change to realize the full marketing and design potential of digital printing?

Commitment and courage. The future belongs to those early adopters who commit to change and have the courage to invest in that commitment.

 

Edward M. Dunn
Vice president of packaging and tech operations at
McNeil Consumer Healthcare,  a Johnson & Johnson company 

Can the flexibility and ease of use of digital printing and finishers change the way packaging is designed and packaged goods are marketed?

These advances may not change the way packages are designed and marketed, but they will dramatically speed the process and permit reaction to specific trends that can be applied to a product line. This [over-the-counter pharmaceuticals] is a high -volume market. In lower volume markets, such as high end fragrance, the brands can use digital printing and finishing to create custom packaging at the point of purchase. 

How can designers and marketers take advantage of the flexibility of digital printing without incurring unrecoverable logistic and distribution costs?

Digital printing permits minimal to no change over cost. This means small runs become affordable and late stage customization is a reality that reduces inventory and discarded goods.           

Have these technologies improved your marketing programs or package design process?

Rapid prototyping is the opportunity we are exploring first, with no active programs in [high-volume] digital printing.           

Can in-house printing and finishing capabilities help marketers and designers be even more creative and effective?

It can make you more effective. In-house printing permits late stage customization. This can many times be used for language changes for global products. The technology will permit vastly greater flexibility with inventories in addition to keeping them lower.     

What needs to change before marketers and designers can take full advantage of digital printing and finishing?

The very first thing that must happen is to see if the cost model fit the COGS [cost of goods sold] model of what you are manufacturing. Most industries have a “push” model, even if they want to think it is not. Understanding how quickly a product can get to its “finished” state will let you know if you can transition to a “pull” model, which is the most cost effective model.