Digital printing provides the flexibility brands need

During the Digital Packaging Summit, an exclusive, invite-only event in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, last week, Linda Casey, editor-in-chief of Packaging Impressions and senior editor of BRAND United, took the stage with a panel of leading brand owners to discuss how brand owners can leverage digital packaging to elevate their brands.

Casey introduced Brian Keith, senior project manager, print manufacturing and color management, packaging and content, Microsoft Corporation; Hector Garcia, founder and brand guardian, MBN Creative; and Morgan Potts, founder and CEO, Granarly.

The three panelists represented brands of three different sizes. Unsurprisingly, Keith explained that Microsoft requires a large amount of packaging for its products, which includes its line of PC accessories, Surface products, and Xbox. One of the things that Keith pointed out is that when it comes to printing, the most important thing is that the experience must be the same no matter what technology is used.

“Sometimes we refer to our customers as fans, especially on the Xbox side,” he said.

That means there needs to be consistency in its printed output, which for Microsoft, is always evolving.

“One of the biggest wats we use digital is through what we call postponement,” he explained.

Postponement is when core SKUs are transformed into new SKUs, which can be unique to a region or retailer, and in response to demand spikes. Keith explained that in these circumstances, Microsoft tries to reuse the packaging as best as it can and that it doesn’t throw away its packaging.

Digital printing would also be beneficial if Microsoft dives deeper into personalization. Keith explained that currently, “fans” can personalize their own Xbox controller. He reasoned that it would be interesting to be able to produce personalize packaging to go along with the controllers. However, there is a challenge the team would face: its systems are designed for mass production and ensuring the right controller in the right box gets to the right customer would be difficult.

“It’s hard to get it right, and if you get it wrong, it’s really wrong,” he said.

While Microsoft products are easy to identify on a store shelf, MBN Creative has a different story to tell.

“You may not know us, but you’ve seen us,” Garcia said.

Hector Garcia (center), founder and brand guardian, MBN Creative, speaks to the audience about elevating the brand experience.

MBN Creative has worked with many premium brands to create memorable experiences using digital printing. Take, for example, MBN Creative’s work with Sniffin Griffin’s BBQ Sauce, musical artist Warren G’s line of sauces that needed a creative label lift. Garcia worked with the brand to create labels with foil, matte lamination, and a Spotify code, that when scanned by a consumer, brings up a custom playlist from Warren G – creating a truly multisensory experience.

Another brand Garcia highlighted was Autumn’s SuperNatural, an emerging health food brand that needed packaging fit to be shared at a launch party hosted by Oprah Winfrey. It’s Garcia’s strong partnerships with print providers that helped him fulfill those needs. In this case, the brand needed packaging within a few days, and Garcia knew who to call.

“I’ve been in the business so long, I have several different options, but it depends on what the client needs. … Overall, digital has saved my tail and saved my clients’ tails, it’s enabled me to get in front of big customers fast,” he said.

Far from the massive size of Microsoft, Granarly has had a similar experience with digital printing. Potts shared the story of how Granarly was born from a dream … literally. Her whiskey-infused granola is perfect for consumers on the go, with waterproof pouches ready for adventure. Although her packaging now makes a bright and colorful impact on shelf, it wasn’t always that way. Potts explained that when she first launched, she shared her product in Ziploc bags with hand-drawn labels, which eventually transitioned to a brown pouch, before making it’s final transition to the colorful and wildly branded packaging that it has today.

Digital printing didn’t just provide Potts with an avenue for creating short-runs of pouches quickly and cost-effectively, it was a lifesaver when the brand needed to reprint all of its packaging. Originally, the products said “nut-free” on the packaging before Potts realized it wasn’t allowed since peanuts are still present in the factory. “Thank god for digital printing,” she said, because it enabled her to quickly and cost efficiently reprint the packaging.

Originally, Potts explained, she wanted her granola to fit in with other granola brands on shelf, but she realized she wanted to stand out instead.

“Inkjet has changed everything for me,” she said. It allowed her to have the flexibility to look ready for the shelf, while experimenting to see what would work.

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