Is it Time for Packaging to get Personal?

April 20th, 2016

By Larry Jackson

Australians have always been early adopters when it comes to technology, and print and packaging companies have been at the forefront as they work with brands who are continually looking for new and unique ways to engage consumers.

What has been firmly entrenched in the domain of luxury brands and high-end gifts is slowly coming to the masses – personalised packaging. Australia was the first to launch the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign, which has now circulated the globe several times. Over the length of the original campaign, 378,000 custom drink cans were created, emblazoned with common names or labels, such as ‘Mate’ and ‘Best Friend’, resulting in an increase of 7% in summer sales. Coca Cola’s Facebook page rose to the number one page in Australia and 23rd globally.

Coca Cola’s success shows personalisation should no longer be restricted to the luxury sector and that it can be hugely popular amongst consumers. In fact, there are a few companies that have capitalised on personalised packaging and followed Coca Cola’s lead such as Jim Beam with its ‘Join the Family’ campaign and more recently Ferrero Australia’s ‘MyNutella’.

But beyond these handful of brand campaigns, personalisation through mass spectrum variable packaging is still in its infancy.

It is important to take into account the barriers to personalisation in packaging. At the forefront of most brands’ mind is cost. The cost of designing and delivering personalised packaging carries a price tag, and has been the deciding factor of why personalisation has been limited to the high-end and luxury side of the sector.

Furthermore, demand for personalised packaging still hasn’t been extensively tested, how much will consumers be prepared to spend to see their name on the front of a product, if not in lights? Being in its infancy this is difficult to quantify in packaging, however, clearly brands can draw some correlation and have identified personalisation is the way to go in mass market direct mail.

Following on from this is the logistical barrier personalised packaging creates. Brands are unaware of how far consumers will go in order to procure something personalised. Previous campaigns, such as those mentioned before, have relied on consumers purchasing the product in-store, sending off for a personalised label or the product being printed on the spot. As in-store printers become more commonplace personalised labels could soon be streamlined.

A final hurdle is demand. While seeing your name on a can of coke or a jar of your favourite spread is a novelty, are today’s consumers really crying out for it?

On the other side of the coin, very few people are searching for products featuring their own name. Instead time-poor consumers are seeking gift items with a personal touch and are willing to pay a premium for that added personalisation on a favourite product.

In this sense, personalisation offers the perfect solution for rushed people buying presents online during busy holidays, such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day or Mother’s and Father’s Day. This is when we can see personalisation having the desired effect. In terms of consumer engagement and campaign impact, personalisation in packaging can work extremely well.

However, in order for personalised packaging to take off, brands must adapt their view of personalisation and see it less of a costly, unwieldy process and more of a clever tactic along the lines of mass customisation.

This means transitioning personalisation from the individual to the distinct. Recent advances in digital printing could soon motivate major brands into becoming more nimble with their packaging – altering pack designs to seasonal or local events, even news stories and figures.

Although personalisation is likely to remain firmly in the luxury and high-end space, or to punctuate a short, sharp, seasonal campaign, forward-looking brands should now be interrogating the latest innovations in digital printing to see how mass customisation can give them an edge over competitors.

Larry Jackson is the CEO of APP business partner Paper Force. Larry has more than 20 years’ experience working in the paper industry in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Canada and took over Paper Force following the announcement of APP’s Forest Conservation Policy.