Using Digital Print and Data to Personalize Consumer Packaged Goods

June 19, 2019

Packaging is more dynamic than ever. Shorter runs with custom designs for limited time offers (LTOs), seasons, regions and campaigns are common and cost-effective thanks to digital print technology. This agility makes personalization possible for any package, even at a 1-to-1 level.

Brands must use their data to design in a way that makes sense, though. A combination of technology, consumer data and print know-how boosts sales — applying it to packaging just makes sense. A tailored customer experience is more valuable than the status quo.

Personalized Packaging Performs

In a recent survey, a clear majority of brand owners, agencies, retailers, suppliers and other industry pros said that personalized packaging boosts KPIs:

  • Increases consumer engagement (87.9%)
  • Grows brand awareness (86.1%)
  • Directly improves sales (63.7%)
  • Positively impacts customer loyalty (52.8%)

Personalized packaging doesn’t necessarily refer to hyper-targeted 1-to-1 messaging on a cereal box. Brands have degrees of personalization to work with. Using consumer data to actively target your audience matters most.

Personalization Maturity Journey

In the past, long-run presses that churned out millions of identical labels, boxes or wraps worked fine in consumer marketing. Today’s digital variable printing offers more options for consumers who expect personalization.

We’ve all seen digital print in high-profile programs. It gives us a variety of names on Coca-Cola bottles, customizable Nutella jars and different moods on Snickers wrappers. What those brands do with data is recognizable, memorable and sharable, appealing broadly to consumers. But those examples only hint at new possibilities for personalization.

Which level of personalization do you need for each channel?

It must be more than a tactic

Packaging includes cartons, labels, cans, wraps, envelopes, tags, inserts and other pieces that come with a product. One customer could buy an item off the shelf in retail, another could get it online to pick up in-store, a third orders it for delivery. Brands have multiple touchpoints across every buyer’s journey.

Marketers must integrate all channels to personalize packaging. Until recent years, it was nearly impossible to incorporate individual’s data into print. Now short runs with blank fields can use content from lists and other assets to customize packaging.

Technology makes it both possible and necessary for packaging to attract, convert and retain individual buyers on their journey.

With data, technology and print solutions in place, personalized packaging is most effective if you take these steps to start:

Know yourself — and your audience. Your story is the foundation for your strategy. Don’t lose your positioning by personalizing, and be clear who you’re customizing for. Your passion and mission matter most to those who share your interests and will benefit from what you offer. Don’t compromise your story by bending it to fit just anyone.

Get cross-functional buy-in — and collaboration. Your CFO wants to know how much print personalization costs (it scales). The CMO asks if it makes sense for you (by then you know it does). Operations questions how you’ll pull it off, and Project Management has to get everyone on the same page. With consensus from the top, it’s easier to coordinate teams for an impactful, data-driven solution.

Be yourself — but learn from others. Whether or not PepsiCo’s marketers saw what Coca-Cola did, they personalized bottles their own way, with emojis. And it wasn’t reactionary. The brand tested #pepsiMoji in smaller markets, then rolled out the campaign widely once it knew what worked. Pepsi cut down on risk by taking its time, got the program right and the best possible results.

Bring it back to digital

Personalization isn’t a tactic – it’s a customer experience that helps marketers realize each channel’s full potential.

Personalized packaging can even build stronger customer profiles and databases. Coca-Cola labels invite consumers to submit names on its site for #ShareaCoke consideration. The #pepsiMoji program incorporates a stand-alone mobile app. Lay’s, M&Ms, Oreo and other brands put interactive package design tools or contests online, each with forms to complete.

QR codes, Pincodes and short URLs on packaging send consumers to digital properties so brands can gather more data and learnings. This further incorporates packaging into larger multichannel marketing initiatives.

What’s next?

Marketing’s already rapid pace of change is accelerating. No one person or team can be expert in everything.

New initiatives like personalized packaging should follow a scalable crawl-walk-run mentality. Start small so stakes are lower as you learn what works. Align your budget with new technology. Honestly assess what your brand wants to achieve.

Watch Quad’s AdWeek webinar for much more on how to navigate marketing’s new frontier. It arms you with information to help decide if you’re ready to make your packaging stronger with personalization.

With the technology, data and people in place, personalized packaging is simply good marketing — be yourself, follow the data and tell your story.