Imagine walking down an aisle at a local grocery store. As you’re wandering through a sea of colorful packaging, one item stops you in your tracks. It catches the light just right and you’re enticed to pick it up. This is the dream scenario for a consumer facing brand.
Sydney Willis, director of sales & marketing, LSINC, explains that if a consumer picks a product off the shelf to touch it, they’re more likely to put it in their cart, and in turn, more likely to complete the purchase.
“Once someone touches an item in a store, they have perceived ownership,” she says. “Embellishments like raised UV engage the consumer on a different level than a flat printed piece — whether it be a label or a box.”
It’s no secret that by adding embellishments to packaging, a brand can engage consumers on multiple levels. Whether it’s adding foil touches, metallic ink, embossing, debossing, diecutting, or making use of unusual substrates, there are many opportunities to increase the impact a brand has on shelf. When a consumer walks into a store, they are first greeted by the visual aspect of a package; by adding some sort of enhanced visual or tactile element, a brand can amplify its impact. So, what are the true benefits and considerations to make when offering embellishment capabilities? The first benefit is being able to keep up with the competition and adding revenue by offering a service customers want.
Embellishments as a Revenue Boost
Although not every business decision is driven by customer demand, Jenny Johnson Wolf, of Louisville, Kentucky-based Label Specialties, suggests that if clients are demanding embellishment services, it would be wise to invest in the right technology to meet their needs.
“If it’s something your clients want and you can provide it, you better figure out how to do it,” she says. “And that’s what embellishments have meant for us.”
It’s also been an added revenue stream for Label Specialties, which was the first company in the U.S. to add a Kurz DM-Jetliner digital cold foil device in early 2020. The device is in-line with the company’s HP Indigo 6900.
Adding the technology “allows us to sell more labels to brands who want that higher-end look and feel, especially in those short runs. So, in those sub-10,000 runs, we’re really able to add a lot of work to our portfolio.”
A shift in print demand has also opened the embellishment opportunity, specifically to diversify offerings and add revenue streams, Willis explains.
“Over the last 10 to 15 years, we’ve seen a decrease in the amount of pieces printed by corporate marketing departments. The projects that still get printed are typically more special and are often embellished in some way,” she says.
Personalization and customization have ballooned. For example, for printers who can personalize a wine bottle or tumbler with technology like direct-to-object, Willis says, “it can add a revenue stream that was unheard of even a few years ago.”
“It provides printers with another revenue stream,” she says, “printers who have lost out on some of their large offset print runs may have gained some of it back through digital laser or inkjet printing. They can now add even more revenue through direct-to-object — something they may not have considered before.”
Consider the Design
For Jamie Meadows, president of Chicopee, Massachusetts-based AM Packaging, the reason to move into more embellishment is “obvious,” but one of the things you have to focus on is the design.
“When you’re really dressing up a package, it’s all about the embellishments,” he says. “It’s the graphics and the embellishments that are going to make your product or package stand out from the competition.”
Design and prepress, though, becomes a major consideration in the world of embellishments.
Meadows continues, “Design is a huge play. You can do spot coatings, but if it’s not with the proper graphics, it’s going to get lost on the box.”
He explains that it’s the same thing with embossing or debossing. If the package doesn’t have a good design, it’s not going to show well.
“Embellishments are important,” he says, “but I think the design, the artwork, is equally important because they do go hand in hand.”
However, design isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind for most printers, according to Christine Yardley, president and co-owner of Oakville, Ontario’s Print Panther Direct, which runs both a Konica Minolta MGI JETvarnish 3DS & iFoil and a Xerox Iridesse for its embellishments.
“Design is so important,” she says. “You start with a good design and move forward, and I think printers miss that. They take what their client gives them, and they print it. It must be more than ink on paper. Studies have proven retention rates and engagement is so much higher with embellished or personalized print.”
Depending on the desired effect, learning the correct way to prep files, or helping clients to prep their files, ensures the result is what the client wanted or envisioned. A strong prepress department is a bonus when working with embellishments.
Yardley explains that print is a presentation of who a company is, what they’re trying to sell, or what a product is. It is reinforcing their brand.
“Embellished packaging evokes a sense of quality. It elevates the print, but it also gives a sense of quality for the product that’s in the box. You convey a message that this is a quality brand, which was once only geared to luxury brands. But now all brands can achieve that to some degree.”
Stylish Yet Functional
Not only should packaging look good, it also should remain functional.
“I always tell folks, labels are the part of print that have a job to do,” Wolf says. “They don’t just look pretty. … They have to stick, they have to stick when it’s cold, they have to stick when it’s wet, they have to stick in the heat — they have a job to do. So that’s first and foremost, but if you can do that and look good, then you have something special. And embellishments bring that ‘shine’ and feel of high-end to a label.”
Part of its functionality is also the message the product or item is trying to convey with its packaging. Yardley explains that a printed piece is a presentation of who a company is, what they’re trying to sell, or what a product is.
“People don’t think of it that way,” Yardley explains. “Embellished print gives a sense of quality. It does elevate the print, but it gives a sense of quality for the product that’s in the box. You instantly convey a message that this is a high-end piece, which was only before luxury brand coveted. But now everybody can do that.”
Meadows suggests thinking about the sustainability aspect of embellished print, as well, since many consumers are interested in the carbon footprint of their packaging.
“Some of the stocks that we use are FSC-certified board, which is a house stock for us now,” he says.
As a customer of Hazen Paper, Meadows explains that there are environmentally friendly and 100% recyclable options available.
“[Hazen Paper has] a really premium metallized product,” he says. “So even if you choose to use foil materials, where in the past there would be a film applied to it and it wouldn’t be environmentally friendly, they found ways around it to give you the same look, feel, and effect, but remove the film aspect. So, it’s still sustainable and recyclable.”
One of the most prominent examples of sustainable embellishments for AM Packaging is a high-end liquor box the company produced for a Finnish gin company, Meadows says. The carton had foil embellishments, as well as special graphic applications. The carton was designed to mimic the Northern Lights, with the face of the carton shifting in appearance as the box is moved in a consumer’s hand.
“Typically, in years past it would have had a film on it,” he explains. “It would not have been a sustainable or recyclable project, but with some new technology that we’re using … it’s 100% recyclable. It’s printed on FSC board with some really unique metallization technology.”
Print Panther Direct does a lot of prototyping and specialty packaging, which is a capability of digital embellishment devices. One example Yardley describes was a high-end chocolate box sample produced on the Iridesse press. The design included a red illustration with gold detail. Print Panther Direct originally foiled the gold, but since foil is opaque, it covered the image and definition needed to nail the design.
“We put it on the Iridesse with a mix of metallic inks and a pink, fluorescent underlay, and it was transformed into this amazing translucent rosy gold, it kept all of the definition,” she says.
Sometimes though, the best job is simple. One of Yardley’s favorite jobs, which was completed on the KM MGI JETvarnish 3DS & iFoil, was a label produced for a honey brand.
“Raw Honey is an artisan honey, and the brand is all about quality,” she says. “The label is a soft touch, black with white type and a bold, matte, gold foil logo. I think one of the things with foil is, simple is better. Don’t overload your foil.”
One of the things that Wolf points out is an advantage to Label Specialties’ DM-Jetliner digital cold foil device is that the color choices are nearly limitless, which has been a big hit with clients.
“We can overprint with a number of colors,” she says. “So, we now have pretty much unlimited cold foil colors. … Instead of handing somebody a book [to] pick their favorite color for foil, they actually send us an art swatch that has CMYK values in it and we can overprint those CMYK values over printable foil, and they get any colors. So yeah, people love it.”
One of the samples Wolf shares is a holiday candle that the company gave to its clients. It was a sample that had individual clients’ names in foil on the candle. She explains that it wasn’t only a high-end label at that point, but a custom gift label.
The Drive to Offer Embellishments
For packaging print service providers that aren’t already offering embellishments to customers, Yardley says it’s time to “wake up!”
“Honestly, if you don’t have embellished print today and you’re selling a commodity sheet, I don’t know how you do it,” she said. “I think of it as the future. Remember those huge cell phones people carried around? And now we have little ones. For me, print that’s embellished is that great a thing. Ordinary ink on paper is not going to be the future.”
One of the implications of adding new services is the fact that it could increase the complexity of offerings
“In some ways, it’s increased the complexity because we have so many options,” Wolf says. “We can accomplish ‘shiny’ in a slew of ways in the label world. This is just one of them. So, we’ve done a lot more sampling and showing people what their label could look like if they added this to it. … That’s increased our complexity.”
Meadows explains that AM Packaging likes to be able to control the outcome of its jobs from a quality and timing standpoint, so it was imperative that the company bring embossing, foil stamping, and more, in-house and make sure its workforce was adequately equipped to do the job right.
“I think it’s a really hard thing to get into now,” he says, “just because the industry has changed so much where there’s not as many printers and packaging companies as there were 20 to 40 years ago. Finding experienced help is challenging. So, we train from within, and it takes time.”
No matter which embellishment route a package printing company decides to invest in and offer to enhance the brand experience, it’s key to know that it’s a service that is
“It’s trendy, it’s kind of like fashion,” Wolf says. “Are embellishments going to be in style in the next year or five years? I certainly don’t have a crystal ball, but I can tell you right now … they’re having a moment.”