Best Practices: Strategic Special Effects
While many consumers can identify a high-end or luxury product by a familiar brand name or recognizable logo, special effects on labels and packaging can also be effective in communicating a premium product. With so many special effects to choose from — running the gamut from foils, metallic inks, holograms and beyond — package printers and converters have several options at their fingertips to give their finished products a visual boost.
A Personal Touch
Though digital printing is climbing the ranks as an important force in the industry, Kevin Abergel, vice president of sales and marketing at MGI, says that finishing technology has largely gone untouched over the years. With processes like spot varnishing, embossing and foiling still primarily being done via analog devices, Abergel says MGI’s digital finishing technology, like its JETvarnish 3D and iFoil, can provide the same type of personalization and variability of digital print to the world of postpress.
Abergel explains that one of the advantages to this technology is that a personalized package will likely not get discarded after it is opened. For example, he says, if someone receives a gift box from a high-end cosmetics company or a top-shelf bottle of scotch with his or her name embossed on it in gold, the consumer no longer looks at that box as a package. Instead, it becomes a display piece and conversation starter.
Among the advantages this brings to the brand owner, Abergel says, is that by turning packaging into a collector’s piece, it can help establish brand loyalty.
“You feel connected to that scotch manufacturer or cosmetic manufacturer,” he says. “So next time you’re out there shopping … you’re going to have in your mind that special connection with that brand that’s able to make that box just for you.”
Above the Noise
With the rise of SKU proliferation and on-shelf crowding, traditional retail shopping requires the consumer to make a more difficult decision than in the past. While these effects are commonly used in the beverage, wine and spirits market, Lon Hanson, graphics and creative manager for Wisconsin-based converter WS Packaging Group, says he has seen special effects successfully implemented in health and beauty, children’s products and even the automotive market.
Hanson explains that WS Packaging offers a full spectrum of special effects, including foils, embossing, debossing, metallic inks, varnishes and prismatic materials. The company has also developed its own patented label stock called PromoPrism, which provides a holographic rainbow effect.
He says that by implementing a more premium look to a label, it helps the product capture consumer eyes first, giving the brand an advantage over its competition.
“Whatever the product or market, brand owners all want their product to be seen first or to have more shelf impact so as to out shine the competition,” Hanson says.
While special effects often have a visual connotation, Abergel says that if a package can appeal to a consumer’s sense of touch, it’s almost always a win for the brand. Abergel explains that adding an embossed or other tactile element entices the consumer to reach out and touch the product, providing a new element of packaging that they may not have expected or experienced before.
“Something about that embossed varnish and foil makes people open up their hands and reach out,” he says. “With the reactions we’ve seen, there’s a personal level of interaction with the pieces. It’s like printed reality. You have virtual reality, but now you have printed reality. What you see printed, you’re not only seeing it, you’re feeling it.”
In some instances, a brand owner will know that he or she wants the packaging to pop off the shelf by standing out visually. But since that customer may not be well-versed in the packaging or printing business, he or she may not fully understand the special effects that are available.
In this situation, Frank Lamas, business development executive at WS Packaging, says that he can help interpret a brand owner’s desires by asking a series of questions.
To illustrate this point, Lamas refers to a prepackaged bag of salad. If he asks a customer what the goal is for the packaging and they respond that they want the image of the salad to appear fresh, Lamas can then suggest a spot tactile varnish with bubble effects, which will add a moisture-type element to the packaging.
By explaining the results of using certain effects, Lamas says brand owners can then get a sense of what is available to them and how it can improve their packaging.
“You can add a 2D or 3D effect,” Lamas says. “If that’s not what they’re looking for, we can find highlights and add a foil to that … If it’s something where they’re interested in adding that type of value to it, I’ll find elements in the imagery or on the label that can be enhanced with a foil or tactile or emboss.”
Security and Authentication
Though decoration and personalization can be enhanced through the use of special effects, they can serve functional purposes as well. Crown Roll Leaf, a manufacturer of foils and holograms, also operates a gravure printing facility that can apply these features as a security or authentication measure.
Ray Cinquino, gravure manager at Crown Roll Leaf, explains that this visually enhanced type of security has been one of the company’s biggest successes. He says manufacturers are seeking holographic elements to authenticate their packaging for everything from officially licensed sports team apparel to electronics.
“Every kind of sports shirt will have a tag on it that will have a hologram,” Cinquino said. “People definitely want brand protection.”
Whether the end result of a special effect is brand protection or visual or tactile enhancement, Abergel says the key for printers offering these effects is to educate brand owners on the value they provide. Once the brand owners understand the value, he says they’ll quickly realize the advantages these capabilities will have on shelf.
“I think once the brand understands the value the printer is going to bring to them, it can easily translate into the value that it will be able to bring to their own customers down the road,” Abergel says.