Innovation in Branding Enhances Consumer Interaction
Attracting customers to choose a product from the shelf has become increasingly challenging and exciting in the digital era. The right brand image is crucial for drawing and retaining customers. Brands are incorporating limited editions, personalization, and innovative flavor combinations in the food market to appeal to the next generation of consumers while building on the core product and brand image.
Nevertheless, there’s a significant obstacle to innovation—the disconnect between brand marketing lead times and the demands of retailers. Retailers, especially in fresh and chilled food, operate on a two- to three-day lead time, adjusting on-shelf product mixes based on intelligent analytics that consider factors like weather, sporting events, and customer demand trends. In contrast, FMCG companies crafting packaging for major sporting events work six to nine months in advance. Brands face the challenge of potential missed opportunities or the risk of product and packaging wastage due to predicting print quantities based on unknown variables, such as sports game outcomes.
In addressing this unprecedented demand volatility during a time when experimentation and product testing are crucial, Lee Metters, Group Business Development Director at Domino Printing Sciences, explains how the convergence of Digital Printing and coding and marking is empowering brand marketing teams to deliver just-in-time innovation that captures consumer attention.
Millennials’ consumer preferences, including a desire for ethically sourced products, plastic-free alternatives, and detailed product information, have compelled retailers to rethink how their offerings resonate with customers. Brands are now tasked with delivering change and meeting increased consumer demands, leading to crucial alterations in production lines. From adopting flexible pack sizes to sustainable packaging and innovative design, brands are adjusting their strategies to align with consumers’ desire for more choices and environmentally optimized packaging.
In response to retailers’ small-order, just-in-time demands, brands are revamping production processes and leveraging advanced printing technology for shorter lead times. The proliferation of pack sizes aims to cater to consumer preferences for variety and smaller options, with a simultaneous focus on minimizing environmental impact. While this flexibility is crucial for retaining contracts and shelf space, it also introduces new challenges.
Although production lines have become more adaptable, the packaging creation process and supply chain remain significant barriers to innovation and constraints for marketing teams. Despite optimizing manufacturing processes for swift responses to consumer and retailer needs, many brands have yet to extend this agility to the product packaging process. For instance, responding to consumer demands for product variety, limited editions, new flavor combinations, and vegan or organic variants may require unique product packaging. Traditional packaging lines for new product launches can lead to substantial wastage, up to 50%, due to demand uncertainty—a practice conflicting with brands’ environmental commitments and causing financial inefficiencies.
In the broader context, digital printing technology has traditionally been utilized at packaging sites rather than production facilities. However, as consumer demands evolve, there is an emerging opportunity to integrate coding, marking, and digital printing technologies within manufacturing sites. This convergence of digital technologies opens the door to late-stage customization of product packaging, offering manufacturers and brands enhanced control and flexibility within the confines of the factory.
A crucial facilitator of this shift is the growing accessibility and cost-effectiveness of digital printing technology for packaging. Manufacturers can now avail themselves of short lead-time packaging production, reducing it from a historical 5–7 days to as little as 12–24 hours at affordable costs, enabling just-in-time delivery.
This advancement allows manufacturers to print critical information such as best before dates, ingredient details, and customized packaging designs, all within a single site. The same digital printing technology can also be implemented in-plant to enable online customization and personalization of packs. Expanding production innovation to include packaging is imperative for companies seeking to make swift design changes within short lead times while maintaining attractive packaging without incurring excessive costs and waste.
The convergence of digital printing and coding and marking not only has the potential to revolutionize the speed of iteration but also opens up additional possibilities beyond the production line. Brands are now exploring how new coded information can be incorporated to enrich interactions, offering more avenues for consumer engagement.
This approach serves to address global legislative requirements for enhanced food safety while meeting the expectations of environmentally conscious consumers seeking clear information about ethical sourcing and food provenance. The capability to share details about a product, including the origin of ingredients, provides an opportunity to directly appeal to those individuals actively seeking to make more informed purchasing decisions.
Looking ahead, there is a significant opportunity for brand owners to establish direct connections with consumers by using codes to create a lasting marketing impact. When and where consumers scan a barcode or QR code could offer new insights into customer behavior, providing an opportunity for ongoing communication. Moreover, analyzing the locations of customers scanning codes can offer brands invaluable insights into consumer purchasing patterns, information that can be leveraged to enhance discussions with retailers and shape future marketing campaigns.
Retailers are exerting considerable effort to offer a more immersive experience in order to captivate a discerning consumer base. Physical products must provide a unique appeal to engage customers and cater to an increasingly diverse audience. While the pressure on brands to innovate extends beyond the product to encompass design and messaging, it also presents compelling opportunities. In 2020, brands transcend mere products, as consumer expectations for engagement and interaction create an exciting prospect for marketers collaborating with production teams to add new dimensions to the product experience.
By restructuring production processes and incorporating digital printing solutions alongside coding and marking technology, brands can achieve an exceptional pace of iteration. This approach allows for the design, production, packaging, and testing of new products on an almost daily basis. With the flexibility of customization, efficient handling of short runs, and shortened lead times, test marketing becomes remarkably swift, facilitating precise targeting and the production of limited editions in small quantities.
Effectively, by embracing this digitized model, brands can shift from one or two annual product launches to a continuous product launch mode, meeting the ever-growing demands of consumers.