What You Need to Know to Get Your Clients' Packaging Noticed
Packaging is a consumer’s first encounter with a brand—and the one most likely to influence purchasing decisions. That’s a nice way of saying whatever houses your client’s product better be on point.
It’s not as simple as just slapping a bow on a box. Technology has moved far beyond that. All kinds of design and branding elements can be built into packaging, making the corrugated box, folding carton, etc. a promotional product on its own that stacks up against whatever is inside. That is, if you can find paper, which has been increasingly problematic across the print and promo industry.
There are ways around that, though, and it all comes down to creativity. We spoke with Kelsey Konrad, marketing and IT manager for Independent Printing & Packaging, De Pere, Wisconsin; and Arsi Seradarian, chief financial officer at Pacobond Inc., Sun Valley, California, about how distributors can use printing techniques to create standout packaging, and how they’re navigating current supply chain issues.
Digital Print’s Expanding Role
Printing technology is always evolving and changing. As pointed out in “Adding Value to Digital Printing,” a research report published by Promo Marketing’s parent company PRINTING United Alliance, embellishments like extended-gamut colors, specialty colors, embossing, foiling and specialty coatings aren’t new. But digital equipment is making them more affordable options for marketers, opening the door for new possibilities. If you’re not paying attention to digital printing techniques, you’re missing out on an extremely viable option for your next packaging project.
“We’ve experienced a large increase in demand for digital-printed packaging over the last 12 months,” Konrad said. “Whether it’s a new hire welcome kit that needs to be self-mailable or a retail-ready folding carton for a new product launch, the versatility of digital printing makes it a great option for most applications. Not only has the quality of digital print gotten astonishingly good over the last few years, options like variable data printing, speed on press and low minimums make it highly desirable in the highly competitive packaging market.”
Piece It All Together
With remote work remaining a viable option across the country, employers need to put in the extra effort to make new hires feel welcome. Some companies are even sending promotional kits to accompany offer letters to prospective employees as a way to stand out among other competing companies.
A package that includes items like a T-shirt, a water bottle and maybe some office supplies can come in a decorated kit, where the branding experience starts when recipients lay eyes on the box. That creates an instant association between the gift and the new employer.
Seradarian also said that companies are sending kits directly to social media influencers in order to get their brand more visibility.
“At the last show that I attended, there was a company that was the liaison between companies and influencers, so that’s a huge thing right now,” she said. “We’re doing a lot of kits to go directly to influencers. They send us the product and we can package it very, very nicely with some inserts and send them directly to influencers.”
Seradarian said that one of the things Pacobond does to create an even more custom experience is designing a special insert to fit whatever products a distributor wants to include in a kit.
“That’s why they come to us,” she said.
With printed products, environmentalism is paramount for a lot of customers. Printers and suppliers like Independent Printing & Packaging and Pacobond have received more demand from distributors and end-users looking for environmentally friendly options, like recycled material or alternative inks.
“It’s not typical for us to work with synthetic substrates, so I wouldn’t say we’ve integrated new materials, but this trend has certainly kept our in-house CAD designers busy,” Konrad said. “We’ve seen countless requests for paper-based solutions to plastic packaging. We’re currently working on an all-paper, child-resistant box for the booming cannabis market.”
Seradarian said that certain products from Pacobond, like e-flute and corrugated packaging, are made with eco-friendly cardboard.
“It’s 100% recycled and recyclable,” she said. “The inks we use, if the customer requires, we use soy-based inks. We offer the customer the choice of having totally eco-friendly packaging or adding embellishments like film lamination. Then, it’s not 100% recyclable. So, we work with the customer and we offer them options. We make sure that everything we do is eco-friendly and environmentally friendly.”
But what about when your options are limited?
Paper Shortage Uncertainty
Right now, printers and suppliers are dealing with a paper shortage in the U.S., and it’s meant they’ve had to change the way they do business with customers.
For Pacobond, that means informing clients that prices are only valid for two days because the market can be so volatile and prices change almost every day.
Additionally, the supply chain issues and slowdowns from China have made things even more complicated.
“Now, it’s whatever is available,” Seradarian said.
Some companies from which they source paper have started rationing supplies to their customers.
“If I need 50,000 sheets, they say, ‘No, we cannot allow 50,000. Your quota is 30,000,’” she said. “So, they’re dividing between all of the manufacturers to supply some paper to each manufacturer. A few months ago, we were in a situation where we had to refuse orders because we couldn’t find paper.”
Konrad said her company being affiliated with Midlothian, Texas-headquartered Ennis Inc. has made things easier, too.
“Being part of the larger Ennis family has certainly allowed us to weather this storm better than others,” she said. “Our purchasing, planning and estimating teams have been rock stars when it comes to finding paper in places we haven’t had to look before. We found that most customers are understanding and willing to pivot to their second or third choice [of] stock if need be.”