Diet Coke: 4 of the 2 million unique label designs available courtesy of digital printing

Digital Printing technology has evolved to cater to the retail landscape and opened up many possibilities for brand marketers. It is an efficient printing process for marketers to introduce a new brand, test new markets and execute more frequent and locally targeted campaigns with customization, all while improving the time to market and reducing production costs.

Digital printing technology has come a long way since its early days 12 to 15 years ago. This print method, whether large format or small format, has overcome many of its initial limitations:

  • Quality. Today’s technology offers print quality that competes with offset.
  • Color Matching. Digital color matching is now highly accurate with the addition of hexachrome colors like orange and green.
  • Color Gradations.  Now, smooth gradations and flesh tones are possible with the addition of a suite of light cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks.
  • Dot Gain. The newest presses have little to no dot gain and can reproduce type as small as 4 pt.
  • Production Costs. While flexography, offset and screen printing methods are typically less expensive on longer press runs, the break-even points between those technologies and digital printing has gone up considerably.
  • Speed. The overall printing process has always required fewer steps because there is no need for screens, plates and special inks. The ability to print direct to substrate via flatbed presses is a huge time saver, as well as automated front and back end substrate loaders.
  • Lightfast. Today’s UV inks not only last longer outdoors, they also open the gamut for more unique and creative substrate material choices.

What are the Specific Benefits of Digital Printing?

We have seen the use of digital printing methods on the rise in about every facet of the retail environment: signage, graphics, point-of-purchase (POP) materials and even packaging. Marketing Execs, Print Buyers and Store Planners are in a great position to tap into this technology as a tool for addressing the need to create an awesome “customer experience” at the retail level. 

New Product Testing

Retailers are dedicating more shelf space to private labels and CPG companies are under increased pressure to launch new products and, at the same time, differentiate their products to stand out at the shelf. Digital printing allows CPG’s to test new products in multiple markets and experiment with new packaging concepts more frequently and with greater speed and flexibility.

Customization for Target Markets and Events

To be considered relevant with consumers, customized campaigns are needed to support local demographics. Beyond simple copy changes, variations in language, imagery, and compliance with local regulations are requiring brands to completely rethink POP materials and even packaging for each market they support.

Personalization and Variable Data

Personalized label printing via digital printing technology made it possible for Coca-Cola to launch their very successful, personalized brand campaign, “Share a Coke”  which involved over 800 million personalized contoured bottle labels distributed across 32 countries with the 250 most popular first names substituted for the iconic Coca-Cola logo.

They also ran a successful campaign in which Diet Coke created 2 million unique bottle labels, in bright vibrant colors and modern designs. They used an algorithm to create the varied designs, which could then be printed digitally (on an HP Indigo press). This campaign focused on individuality and personalization of their customers, giving them the ability to purchase a Diet Coke as extraordinary as they are. 

Improvements in Supply Chain Management

Digital printing allows brands to take advantage of just-in-time manufacturing, producing only what is needed, when it is needed. This allows them to minimize their up-front investment and minimize waste. In a business where speed-to-market is critical, this can be a significant competitive advantage.

Blending Print with Technology to Create Interactive Experience

With the proliferation of smart devices, brands have new opportunities to engage their consumers. QR codes, near-field communication (NFC), and augmented reality, among others, are helping marketers bridge the gap between their in-store and online presence. Digital printing provides the opportunity to create multiple, unique interactive experiences. Whether used as part of a promotion, to foster loyalty, or for another purpose, varying the experience can help drive engagement.