Connecting With Consumers Via Digital Embellishments
When visual and tactile effects combine on a label or package, they can form one of the most powerful tools in the product marketing arsenal, triggering multiple points of engagement with a consumer. Store shelves are crowded and busy, and the products they contain only have a few seconds to capture a consumer’s attention. When a product is visually appealing enough to entice a consumer to touch it and pick it up, the multi-sensory experience increases the chances of that consumer purchasing the product.
According to a research study conducted by retail-industry publication Chain Store Age, which tracked consumer behavior across six different U.S.-based retailers, 30% of products that were held were purchased, and that purchasing increased to 60% or more when more than one item was held by the consumer. With this evidence of how consumers connect with products via touch, brand managers and packaging producers should be thinking about this key component to product marketing.
Conventional and Digital Embellishments
One of the most prevalent and effective ways of enticing a consumer to reach out and pick up a product on shelf is through the implementation of embellishments. These embellishments can include visual special effects, such as gloss and matte coatings, and tactile effects like embossing, debossing, and dimensional varnish. All of these effects can be applied using conventional processes, but many can also be applied using digital technologies. With the advent of digital embellishment, many new opportunities have presented themselves to converters and brand owners. Digital technology minimizes setup costs, making the application less expensive, which is important for shorter runs. Additionally, much like with digital printing, variable data embellishments can be applied via digital technologies.
Digital Embellishment Effects
White and clear toner. White toner can add interesting and creative effects when printed directly on a colored substrate. White solids can also be printed on colored substrates with process color printed on top of white, creating another unique visual effect. Clear toner can be printed on solids or as a spot (on images, for example), to create visual impact or provide more protection for pieces. Note that clear toner cannot add dimension, only a gloss effect, and only spot and dimensional UV can add both gloss and dimension.
Spot and dimensional UV. Digital spot UV can be added to a final printed piece to increase its visual impact. Dimensional spot UV is typically applied to specific images or graphic elements to add physical dimension, or a raised, tactile feel to the substrate. The thickness of the UV coating can vary from 15 microns to 100 microns or more to create a dimensional, embossed effect, engaging both visual and tactile senses.
Spot foil. Traditionally, these foil effects were created using a letterpress and a hot metal die to transfer a thin layer of metallic foil to the printed sheet’s surface. These foil effects can be applied digitally, which allows for faster turnaround and lower production costs. And because it is applied digitally, it allows for variable data printing of these foil effects, something that was impossible just a few years ago. The most common colors of foil are silver and gold, but a wide variety of other metallic colors and tones are also available.
CMYK toner over foil. This effect is achieved by blending CMYK toner and the reflective qualities of foil. First, a solid foil is applied to the paper. Next, a CMYK image is printed on top of the solid foil, which creates an iridescent effect. The result is a spectrum of hues with a shimmery, metallic appearance.
How are Digital Embellishments Applied?
Digital embellishments can be applied to packaging that has been printed using any printing process spanning conventional and digital technologies. They can also be applied in-line or offline, after printing, depending on the production platform.
Some digital embellishment systems are capable of combining effects, incorporating dimensional varnish and foil all in one pass. The effects can also be applied as a spot, meaning printers can control precisely where the varnish or foil is included on the printed piece. With some systems, the thickness of the varnish can be controlled and adjusted, giving the final printed piece a more exciting and engaging tactile feel.
End Goal: Consumer Response
These embellishment options are opportunities to cut through the marketing noise and clutter on store shelves. According to A Communicator’s Guide to the Neuroscience of Touch from packaging paper provider Sappi, more than half the brain is devoted to processing sensory experience, and much of that sensory receptivity focuses on touch. There’s real power behind combining both visual and tactile senses in product packaging. It’s all about getting consumer attention, then making a connection. The connection becomes ownership — the experience of both seeing and touching an object increases perceived ownership of a product. The higher the perceived ownership, the more likely a consumer will make a purchase.