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Esko's Jan De Roeck on Packaging Trends

Published on August 10, 2015

Jan De Roeck, Markering Manager for Esko, talks to Richard Romano at last June's Eskoworld about the growth of digital packaging and the trends driving it.

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Discussion

By Gordon Pritchard on Aug 10, 2015

I find these notions for packaging trends hard to digest outside of the marketing departments of vendors trying to find problems for their solutions to solve.

So, some questions -

RFID technology has been with us for at least 15-20 years but I haven't seen any adoption in, for example, the shelves of packaging and labels in supermarkets or retail outlets. Why is that?

How do you deploy personalized/customerized labels and packaging in an online retail environment like Amazon? What would be the point?

Where does the Brand owner get the data from to enable personalized/customerized labels and packaging and how would that data create personalized/customerized labels and packaging in a dynamic retail bricks and mortar environment?

Which products/class of products would benefit from personalized/customerized labels and packaging. E.g. If I'm shopping for diced tomatoes, shoes, or binoculars would those items benefit from this kind of solution?

What products are currently actually using this fairly mature marketing technology for their labels and packaging. Product that I can go to the retailer today to experience?

 

By Gordon Pritchard on Aug 14, 2015

No? No response?

 

By De Roeck on Aug 17, 2015

In almost all of my recent conversations with packaging and label converters that have embraced digital printing technology, it was mentioned that the main challenge for a successful implementation is to find the right application for digital printing. A digital press is no replacement of a conventional one but rather finds its merits as a complementary technology addressing new packaging and label applications. These may include (extremely) short run printing for personalized packaging.

As a supplier, I consider it my role to inform about new business opportunities enabled by technological advances, even if there are certain bottlenecks today that would hinder adoption. RFID hasn't really made it to the shelves, I agree, most likely due to cost considerations and technological shortcomings. However, other technologies like QR codes and NFC tags are popping up on shop shelves with exactly the same goal: to provide for a consumer experience that stimulates repeat purchases and, not to forget, to make consumers talk about that experience (and about the brand) on social media. There are excellent examples of such integrated marketing campaigns enabled by new technologies.

During these same discussions with digital print converters, I also learned that personalized packaging and variable data are probably the least used capabilities of a digital press. Hyper personalization is possible from a print perspective, but the hurdles to overcome in supply chain logistics are indeed preventing wide-spread adoption. Nevertheless you will find successful examples in luxury goods, beauty, healthcare and gifts market segments. Online ordering of gifts in a personalized package is an application that has kept many web portal designers and converters busy.

In the interview, I also described digital print and personalization as a business opportunity for the converter. The data management challenge that comes inevitably with a production run of personalized packs or labels provides for exactly that. The business opportunity lies in a partnership between converter and buyer whereby the converter can potentially manage the entire campaign, including data management and supply logistics, rather than remaining a commodity supplier of ink on substrate. I'm not saying it's easy, but if the niche application is identified as a collaborative effort between brand owner and converter, the business opportunity for the converter can be considerable. It wouldn't be the first example of a traditional packaging converter transitioning into a brand management service provider.

I find it exciting to learn about new enabling technologies, share those and in the process inspire a wider audience to think about how such technologies may be used to discover new packaging and label applications to the benefit of the consumer, the brand, and, of course, the packaging and label converter.

 

By Gordon Pritchard on Aug 18, 2015

You say:
“In almost all of my recent conversations with packaging and label converters that have embraced digital printing technology, it was mentioned that the main challenge for a successful implementation is to find the right application for digital printing.”
And
“These may include (extremely) short run printing for personalized packaging.”

So, customers don’t see the application for what seems obvious, namely short run printing for personalized packaging?


You say:
“As a supplier, I consider it my role to inform about new business opportunities enabled by technological advances, even if there are certain bottlenecks today that would hinder adoption.”

The bottlenecks have been there for several decades. Is there really an opportunity when nothing over the decades has changed to remove the barriers to adoption?


You say:
“RFID hasn't really made it to the shelves, I agree, most likely due to cost considerations and technological shortcomings.”

As a technology RFID works - cost is commiserate with usage. I would argue that those aren’t really the barriers to adoption at the consumer level.

You say:
“However, other technologies like QR codes and NFC tags are popping up on shop shelves with exactly the same goal: to provide for a consumer experience that stimulates repeat purchases and, not to forget, to make consumers talk about that experience (and about the brand) on social media. There are excellent examples of such integrated marketing campaigns enabled by new technologies.”

Can you provide actual examples of QR codes and NFC tags enabling integrated marketing campaigns? Frankly, I do see QR codes being included in promos - but I have real doubts about the typical consumer actually using them. Ditto with NFC tags. These are now old technologies but seem to be seldom used by consumers.


You say:
“During these same discussions with digital print converters, I also learned that personalized packaging and variable data are probably the least used capabilities of a digital press.”

I would agree.

You say:
“Hyper personalization is possible from a print perspective, but the hurdles to overcome in supply chain logistics are indeed preventing wide-spread adoption.”

Those hurdles are likely to continue since they are endemic to this aspect of graphic communications.


You say:
“Nevertheless you will find successful examples in luxury goods, beauty, healthcare and gifts market segments.”

Name some examples.

You say:
“Online ordering of gifts in a personalized package is an application that has kept many web portal designers and converters busy.”

Define “many”. Can you give examples?

You say:
“In the interview, I also described digital print and personalization as a business opportunity for the converter. The data management challenge that comes inevitably with a production run of personalized packs or labels provides for exactly that.”

It’s not just a data management challenge (that hasn’t been cracked in decades) - it may also just be that the capability just does not fit the industry.

You say:
”The business opportunity lies in a partnership between converter and buyer whereby the converter can potentially manage the entire campaign, including data management and supply logistics, rather than remaining a commodity supplier of ink on substrate.”

That sounds like they’re taking on the role of the advertising/marketing agency - who, I think would be concerned about suppliers becoming competitors for their clients.

You say:
“I’m not saying it's easy, but if the niche application is identified as a collaborative effort between brand owner and converter, the business opportunity for the converter can be considerable. It wouldn't be the first example of a traditional packaging converter transitioning into a brand management service provider.”

I would agree that becoming a advertising/marketing agency might bring new ideas to the brand owners - however, that goes against the culture of typical packaging converters, and would potentially alienate their existing client base.

You say:
“I find it exciting to learn about new enabling technologies, share those and in the process inspire a wider audience to think about how such technologies may be used to discover new packaging and label applications to the benefit of the consumer, the brand, and, of course, the packaging and label converter.”

There are, and have been many such “new” enabling technologies. However, if they don’t align with the reality of the industry they’re aimed at then they have no broad value nor adoption. The ideas that you (and other vendors) promote have been promoted for literally decades and yet the basic barriers to adoption remain the same and, as far as I can see, will remain as such in terms of personalization/customerization in the print (packaging/converting) industry. The issue is not technical.

 

By Patrick Henry on Aug 18, 2015

This is a fascinating exchange (if not clash) of viewpoints from two highly qualified commentators. Just one question from a less expert but no less interested onlooker:

Is the real issue the value of personalization in the first place?

Variable-data printing is now more than 20 years old. It’s a mature technology, and mature technologies are seldom the ones that capture the imaginations of contemporary marketers.

When VDP was born, the popular Internet was still wet behind the ears, and the social media didn’t exist. In print, static content was still king. The technical ability to break out of the mold with one-to-one messaging was undeniably cool, and some early adopters made innovative uses of it.

Today, personalized communication in print or any other medium doesn’t feel nearly as cutting-edge.

We’re all doing it through our self-branded posts, pins, likes, and tweets. Marketers and their IT wizards vacuum it all up and turn it into micro-targeted messages that follow us wherever we venture in cyberspace. At online retailers like Amazon, we let our shopping be guided by recommendations from algorithms that seem to know us better than we know ourselves.

In all of these ways, we’re routinely trading privacy for convenience. When we devalue privacy, we devalue personalization. It may have been different 20 years ago, but the thought of a one-to-one penetration into our private space simply doesn’t surprise us any more.

Back then, I might have found the image showing “Patrick” traced in the foam of a latté pretty compelling, but not now. Would something similar on or in a package make me more eager to buy the product? I suppose I’d have to see such a package on a shelf where I shop to know the answer.

Jan and Gordon have different ideas about how personalization in packaging can be implemented, and by whom. It’s a great debate, but I’m wondering if it misses the point.

Yes, we can personalize packaging—but does anybody out there in Consumerland really want us to?

 

By Gordon Pritchard on Aug 18, 2015

RE: Patrick Henry wrote:

"Jan and Gordon have different ideas about how personalization in packaging can be implemented, and by whom. It’s a great debate, but I’m wondering if it misses the point.
Yes, we can personalize packaging—but does anybody out there in Consumerland really want us to?"

Actually I don't think personalization in packaging can be implemented in the marketplace - which is what I was trying to say in too many words. I'll have to add your point about personalized communication in print or any other medium doesn’t feel nearly as cutting-edge. Also that the barrage of "personalized" web ads has resulted in their becoming either invisible or blocked by apps and hence of limited value.

Basically, you can't do it (personalized/customerized communication in print) but even if you could it wouldn't have value to the provider (the printer/converter) because it doesn't have value/impact to the consumer and as a result the brand owner who's funding the initiative.

This decades-old story of personalized/customerized communication in print being an opportunity - even "new" opportunity - for the printer/converter just doesn't make business sense for the vast majority of printer/converters (and brand owners).

The opportunity is for the vendors who are trying to create an unassailable revenue stream from the highly profitable consumables if they can convince the market to convert from conventional printing to digital in order to take advantage of this so-called trend.

 

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