Brands are tailoring their
packages to niche markets
and, even, markets of one
BY PAULINE TINGAS
T he latest proof that Nike pushes
the marketing envelope is in
Times Square, where the company
has bought a billboard inviting con-
sumers with cell phones to call in
and pick out colors and the parts to
build their own shoes. After the shoe
takes form (in real time) on the sign
some 20 stories above the square, the
new design is sent as an SMS photo
to the creator’s cell phone with details photo labels, savvy marketers in trol to create their own environment.
on how to buy it. nearly every sector are empow- “They want marketing to be more
The promotion reflects ering consumers to design their participatory and personal,” he
Nike’s progressive market- own products, packaging and, explains. And customization, he says,
ing thinking. But, more essentially, their own experi- is one marketing tactic that can make
than that, it demonstrates ences with brands. consumers more receptive to a brand.
that the brand has tapped According to Yankelovich Ask Jones Soda. The brand has
into, and put a big push Partners, a marketing research catapulted into a $30 million bever-
behind, what experts are firm, it’s a practice that can re- age company on the simple concept
calling the customiza- engage consumers who have of customizing soda labels with pho-
tion economy. been turned off by the glut tos submitted by its customers.
From Nike’s per- of aggressive, blanket The brand took that practice a step
sonalized shoes to marketing practices that further in 1999 with its myJones per-
Dell’s build-to-order dominate today. sonalized label service that offers the
computers to Jones “Consumers are ultimate marketing to one. Customers
Soda’s personalized changing what they’re visit www.myjones.com to order
demanding from mar- custom 12-packs of soda with per-
keters,” says Yankelovich sonal photo labels for $34.95
This Coke Light collector’s
bottle was dressed in a president J. Walker (Canadian brewer Labatt makes a
shrink sleeve label tailored Smith. Whether it’s an similar personalized label offer with
for the design sensibilities offshoot of the current 24 bottles of Labatt Blue going for
of Brazil’s Fashion Week media fragmentation or CDN $58.95.)
attendees. the Internet’s on-demand According to Jennifer Cue, COO of
culture, he says, people Jones, a 2002 patent was secured for
want to be more in con- myJones, which works on a digital
6 BRANDPACKAGING MAY/JUNE 2005
printing program developed with the Jones Soda created a unique label series
company’s label supplier. “We’ve got targeting Michigan State University
it down to a science,” she says. “It’s students—a desirable demographic for the
not something that significantly adds progressive beverage brand.
to our costs.”
Digital printing is also playing a role
in recent customized offers by retailers white colors of the school, were
like Walmart.com, who announced a dressed with photos of Sparty and
personalized CD program for online sold in and around the MSU campus
customers in late April. with a portion of proceeds benefiting
Consumers go to the company’s the school’s alumni foundation.
web site and pick songs to be down- Jones is not alone in customizing
loaded onto a CD from a catalogue of its packaging for desirable niches.
more than 400,000 choices. From Coca-Cola Brazil recently introduced
there, they choose from a selection of limited-edition contour glass bottles
12 cover images and tailor the CD of Coca-Cola Light for attendees at
sleeve with copy printed on the pack- the high-profile Fashion Week in
age along with the unique track list. Sao Paulo.
According to Amy Colella, manag- Wrapped in a full-body shrink
er of corporate communications for sleeve label, by Sleever
the online retailer, the personaliza- International, the bottles were digi-
tion service is essentially a con- tally printed and tailored for the
sumer-generated program. She says event with colorful fashion-forward
it resulted directly from the strong graphics and targeted copy that read
performance of physical CD sales on “Official Beverage of Sao Paolo
Walmart.com. Fashion Week”.
“We knew there was an opportu-
nity to provide personalization and Digitize to customize
customization for customers,” she Printers and other suppliers have
says. “We are still in the early stages, been preaching the benefits of cus-
but response has been relatively tomization in recent years, as digital
strong to date.” printing technologies have made
Another brand to announce a similar headway into the packaging realm.
effort is LEGO, with an August 2005 Whether brands lead the personaliza-
launch pending for www.legofactory.com. tion process or whether they turn the
Here, kids can build their own digitally reigns over to consumers, they say,
created models and then name their set the marketing opportunities present-
and submit personal photos to customize ed by digitally printed custom pack-
the package. aging are tremendous.
Customization is also a smart strat- “It’s one way for big companies to
egy for brands looking to reach small- keep their finger on the pulse of the
er and smaller (but highly desirable) consumer,” says Bob Scherer, vice
audiences. Jones Soda has worked president of CL&D Digital, a fast
with a range of companies—from package and label printer in
Pixar and Nintendo to Starbucks and Delafield, Wisc.
the Panera Bread Company—to more He says that by closely watching
effectively segment their consumer the choices customers make in the It’s a benefit Scherer saw first-
marketing efforts. customization process, or by moni- hand in his work with Reflect.com.
Most recently, the brand reached toring their reaction to custom pack- Backed by Procter & Gamble, the
an agreement with Michigan State aging in a test marketing phase, a online health and beauty retailer
University to create a customized brand can identify developing trends allows consumers to build their
bottle series featuring Sparty, the and use that info to market other own beauty products and cus-
school mascot. Some 30,000 bottles sides of its business. tomize the labels and packaging
of green apple and cream soda fla- “It’s like holding an ongoing focus to house them.
vors, which reflect the green and group,” he says. C O N T I N U E D O N PA G E 8
MAY/JUNE 2005 www.brandpackaging.com BRANDPACKAGING 7
C O N T I N U E D F R O M PA G E 7 Walmart.com's new customized CD
Scherer worked with Reflect.com program lets consumers design their own
to develop and manage a digital playlists, select their own cover art and
process that could accommodate write their own copy.
unique products and label sizes; lip-
stick labels for the online retailer are
a half-inch in diameter, while the Brand owners
conditioner labels are two inches holding back
across. It was also important to And while
develop processes to manage data companies like
flow from the web site to the point Reflect.com have fully
where labels are cut and laminated had much success embrace the
on through to the time when the with personalized potential of
product and package go out the offerings (according to digital custom
door. Scherer even worked with the Hoover’s, the retailer has packaging.
company when, after four years, it sold 10 million+ customized Scherer says that,
wanted to bring the digital custom products since its 1999 launch), Scherer since digital printing has only
packaging process in house. says many brand owners have yet to recently been introduced into the
packaging realm, sometimes it’s the
perception of risk that holds a
GETTING CUSTOMERS FOR LIFE: brand back. In other instances, he
says, it’s a lack of time or a lack of
FOUR TIPS ON EXPLORING DIGITAL CUSTOM PACKAGING understanding on how to manage
the process that keeps companies
1. Think long-term sustained growth — 4. Expect to be amazed by your from taking full advantage. But the
a change in mindset and workflow. return-on-investment. biggest misconception marketers
You’re moving from making a million of one “What we’ve learned about our cus- have, according to Scherer, is when
product, to making a million individualized tomers is unbelievable,” is what surpris- they only look at the increased
products and developing a closer relation- ingly large, well-known companies that costs (compared to traditional
ship with each buyer. Along the way you regularly customize products are saying. printing technologies) and don’t
will learn consumer preferences that may Take custom-blended coffee for “John consider usage.
allow you to mass-customize, but this takes Smith,” for example. The company now Take a company that paid five cents
time. Your mindset has to be on long-term knows his preference on aroma, flavor for each of 100,000 of conventionally
growth and gaining customers for life. and color because he has provided printed labels. Scherer makes the case
answers to a series of in-depth ques- that if a brand only uses half of the
2. Do your homework before going live. labels, its actual cost becomes a dime
tions on its web site. With this feedback,
Be prepared. To be sure you can handle each. “And, now,” he says, “they have
you might learn that not only John—but
the volume and ship out orders quickly, a warehouse full of labels to manage.”
also a good majority of the Southwest—
do a test run of your data flow process. With digital printing, he explains,
prefers his coffee dark, bitter and with a
Don’t underestimate the level of interest you get what you need when you
strong aroma. 1) You’ve gotten closer to
in your product—it might take off better need it. And, you get it fast.
your customer, and 2) you can move to
than you expect.
mass customization. And as a consumer Diverse needs for customization
3. Printing your packaging: Not much of a product that was made just for you, Beyond consumer-created pack-
different than the conventional process. why wouldn’t you keep coming back? aging, customization can also be
Send a sample test file and furnish color That’s the ultimate way to build products valuable for sales samples, for test-
targets and sample packages or containers to meet the needs of your customer— marketing, for packaging proto-
to your digital printer—and request a proof and keep them for life. types displayed at a trade show;
just as you would in conventional printing. and even for packaging that is
Bob Scherer is vice president and partner
The only difference? Instead of sending at CL&D Digital, a fast package and label printed in small runs and tailored
over a static file to print thousands of the printer in Delafield, Wisc. He can be for different geographic markets.
same packaging, you’ll need a template reached at 800.777.1114 or The market for customized packag-
email@example.com. ing geared to bilingual audiences is
where individual names will be dropped in.
also expected to grow.
C O N T I N U E D O N PA G E 1 0
8 BRANDPACKAGING www.brandpackaging.com MAY/JUNE 2005
The Pira survey of end users and
suppliers revealed that 98 percent
COKE CANS GO CUSTOM of respondents believed the overall
market for digital printing for pack-
aging would grow over the next five
In recent years, Coca-Cola Belgium has been introducing a series of custom years. Surely, as the marketing con-
Coke Light cans featuring the art of some of the country’s most promising artists. cept of customization matures, digi-
The customized packaging effort supports tal printing will take greater hold in
Coca-Cola’s “think local, act local” mar- helping brand owners deliver cus-
keting strategy and serves as a platform tom versions of their packages to
to broaden awareness of the country’s profitable niches.
thriving domestic art scene. But there will be challenges.
The most recent incarnation of the pro- According to Barbara Kahn, director
motion is a series of seven of The Wharton School’s undergrad-
limited-edition uate division at the University of
Pennsylvania, among the biggest
challenges will be in creating cus-
tomized packaging that holds value
for an individual without driving up
the costs for a brand. The key, says
sleeve labels with
Kahn, is in standardizing what you
images created by can and only customizing what the
emerging Belgian consumer says is valuable.
photographers. Last It’s also a strategy that will help
October, the cans brand owners find a balance where
were distributed at their offer doesn’t overwhelm the
large cultural events consumer with too many choices, she
and institutions through- says. “The goal for the marketer is to
out Belgium and present variety in such a way that it
Luxembourg. creates value, not confusion.” BP
The author, Pauline Tingas, is the Senior
the company, the Editor of BRANDPACKAGING.
aging represents a
technological innova- Where to go for more information...
tion in the beverage sec-
tor, with the high-quality N Personalized soda labels. At
“Seduction” photo labels Jones Soda, visit www.myjones.com or
standing as the first to ever be call 800.656.6050.
placed on a can. N Custom shrink sleeves. At Sleever
Since then, the company has taken the customization International, contact Marina André at
These “Seduction” photo cans are the concept public, inviting consumers to submit
third phase in Coca-Cola Belgium’s their own photos through the web site N Marketing research and consulting.
customized art can promotion, which www.seduction.be/lu in a contest that will At Yankelovich Partners, contact
seeks to elevate the work of the award the winner with their very own J.Walker Smith at 404.808.5057 or
country's emerging artists. firstname.lastname@example.org.
personalized photography cans.
N Fast package and label printing.
At CL&D Digital contact Bob Scherer at
C O N T I N U E D F R O M PA G E 8 packaging in different languages and 800.777.1114 or email@example.com.
According to “The Future of different text in greater numbers in
Digital Printing for Packaging,” a pri- the years to come. The report N Primary research on digital printing
for packaging. At Pira International,
mary research report by Pira projects that by 2008, 11 percent of
contact Stephen Hill at +44 (0) 1372 80205
International (available through such packaging will be customized or firstname.lastname@example.org.
www.piranet.com), global branding and that, by 2012, the figure will
and distribution demands will require jump to 23 percent.
10 BRANDPACKAGING www.brandpackaging.com MAY/JUNE 2005