Social media and the internet have made it easier for people to present themselves as individuals, and brands are using these mediums to make products personalized as well.
Filip Weymans, director of marketing and business development (labels and packaging), Xeikon, said packaging has previously been through an ‘age of information’ (where the role of packaging was to display details) and an ‘age of attraction’ (where image became more important).
“Now what we’re going to see is packaging has to trigger emotions in us,” he said.
Your face on a beer bottle, your name on a Nutella jar
“The big reason is we, as each person, are able to express our identity today. As a consumer, an individual, we are important. We have the ability in various ways to express who we are, by the way we dress, and the media and internet and other channels.
“We see that brands start to experiment with this.”
Weymans’ first example is the Belgium beer brand Vedett, which invites consumers to submit a photo of themselves via the website. Each person has the chance that their face will be printed on a batch of beer bottles. The website also gives consumers the chance to order a ‘fully personalized’ case of beer, with their picture on every bottle.
Chocolate spread Nutella launched a Facebook campaign in the Netherlands, Belgium and France last year. Consumers could request to have a personalized label posted to them.
Having stuck the label on the jar, consumers were then encouraged to share images of their personalized product on social media. The project won the brand nearly 160,000 Facebook fans in Belgium.
A third example is the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign, where Coca-Cola prints people’s names on its products.
Brands – especially local products – also play on the idea of individuality, Weymans said. They might use their packaging to highlight a personal story or history of the company: stating the product is made from a family recipe, or explaining how the company started.
Personalised products call for greater variety and flexibility in printing, Weymans said.
For printing technologies, an age of emotion means greater variety of runlengths, less predictability of volumes, and much faster turnaround times, he added.
He also sees the need for ‘digital production’, where all steps are digitalized and understanding each job and stock levels. It is necessary to optimize the production environment and remove any surplus stages.
A new age offers value
One of the drivers of developments has been the competition between brands and private labels, with each seeing a need to diversify.
“There has been a time when packaging clearly had to inform," said Weymans. "And that’s still important, don’t get me wrong. It’s a given.
“Next to that there was a time when packaging had to be attractive. What I forecast now, the next growth, driven by the challenges that brand holders are facing, is there will be an age of emotion. That is where, for sure, there is a lot of value.”