Let’s get digital

Let’s get digital

Myths of short runs and poor quality are in the past when it comes to digital labelling. Simon Smith, MD of CS Labels, discusses the benefits of digital printing…

We live in a world of constant change, with the labelling and packaging market being of no exception. Consumers in the food market want products quickly, at a high quality and, increasingly, with a personal touch. If you are a manufacturer or brand owner of a leading food product, creatively applying digital labelling to your brand can be the missing link that will transform you dynamically to get that real market edge.

Not short, just sweet
We still hear a lot of myths surrounding the technology. That digital ‘hasn’t yet arrived properly’ or that it’s still only for quick orders of a few thousand labels. Combined with a nervousness that printers just aren’t large enough to cope, I’m anxious to set the record straight once and for all. Speaking from personal experience, at CS Labels, we are currently printing quantities of labels never thought possible before, and definitely outside the realms of what is considered normal in digital printing.

Adhering to tradition
In terms of the adhesives market, digital labelling is one area where options are actually very similar to traditional print methods. Choosing the right option, however, is another challenge and clients value the expertise you have to offer. Our customers in the food industry have varying requirements when it comes to their labels; the issue of specifying adhesives generally comes up if the label is to come into contact with actual food, or if the product is to be stored in a more challenging environment. Your printer should be able to offer a diverse range of adhesives, whether it is permanent, removable, food grade, suitable for freezers, peelable or even ultra peelable.
Food producers are concerned with ink migration, and this also extends to adhesives. They want to be confident that the chemicals are not going to leech into the product, so suitable adhesives are available to cover that. In addition, we are seeing clients in the food market increasingly asking for environmentally friendly adhesives in the midst of a general desire to work with a greener printer. Digital label printing is, overall, much greener than traditional methods as it uses less raw materials, energy and water.

Peel back the magic
A major advancement in digital of late has been the concept of ‘peel and reveal’ labelling; labels which are multi-layered or peelable to show information underneath. The technology has come on leaps and bounds and we ourselves have just invested a six-figure sum into another machine that produces labels which adhere, and then peel and reveal.
In food, you can capture two major angles. Firstly, the process is ideal for promotional campaigns and adding in variable data for competitions is quick and easy when you harness the power of digital; variable data is incorporated in the same print run – no second pass required. Secondly, a label that requires extra information on it (perhaps by law) is easily accommodated, particularly when the product has limited space, or when you need the information printed ‘inside’ so it doesn’t detract from the saleability of the product.

What’s in a name?
I think Coca-Cola has said it all with this concept. The power of personalisation and versioning can help you to not only stand head and shoulders above your competitors, but also in an entire market. Digital obviously offers easy personalisation as a simple file is imported into the print job.
If you want to capitalise on the success of ‘Share a Coke’ and need a way to get your brand out there, then perhaps digital could be the route. Effectively, you can change your label output based on sales, popular varieties, new limited edition flavours, regionalised versions and special events/occasions. Jumping feet first into a highly creative campaign doesn’t seem that scary now, does it? You can react quickly with the help of a capable digital printer.
One of our clients offers meals sent through the post; it has 40 sets of artwork currently and its label orders fit with what is popular – if one flavour doesn’t perform then the client orders less, and vice versa. Cost-wise, this is a no brainer.

Do it on your ‘own’
The own label brand sector was valued at £37 billion in 2011, with this predicted to rise to £46 billion in two years’ time. Tesco is losing market share as we know, and it sees own brand as a way forward. The products are becoming more prevalent and, in some cases, even an eagle eye would struggle to spot the difference.
Digital can help to make an own brand premium and competitive. You can mirror your rival quickly without having to over-invest in labels and packaging.
Also, when you consider that consumers are often confused with exactly what they are buying (38% of surveyed consumers accidentally bought the own label in a survey by consumer group Which?), it starts to make sense to go one step further.

A different kind of reality
Augmented reality (AR) quite simply brings print and mobile devices together in a way never seen before. Argos is the latest retailer to embrace it – so much so that it has recently reported the largest ever use of it in the UK. A simple branded app enables your customers to point their mobile or tablet at your product label and immediately interact with video content, games, competitions, coupons, etc – you are only limited by your imagination.
It’s a real tool for increasing sales and fostering consumer engagement, and can be applied to your existing logo without changing the artwork. The app has recently been used at the Commonwealth Games, where people with smart phones or tablets could connect to a world of information about the games and athletes just by scanning the back of their seat on local buses.

Try before you buy
If you are sceptical or simply just unaware of what digital label printing really offers, then I suggest that you take a small amount of time to understand the technology – site visits are an excellent way for you to see what you are considering purchasing and really apply your product marketing knowledge to the digital process. Any good label printer will relish the opportunity to show off their skills, and printers themselves are usually very passionate about what comes off the press.

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