ICYMI: Digital's Impact on Brands and Converters Highlights Fifth-Annual Digital Packaging Summit
An effective package, Lisa Sohanpal said to a room packed with more than 90 executives from leading package printing companies, tells a story, creating an emotional engagement with consumers to deepen their connection to a brand.
Sohanpal, the founder of Nom Noms World Food, a company that specializes in prepackaged meals that reflect cuisines from around the world, shared her brand’s story at the fifth annual Digital Packaging Summit, which was held Nov. 11-13 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Since the Summit’s debut in 2015, each edition has not only created an educational platform for attendees to learn about the latest digital production technology in the packaging industry, it has encompassed the brand perspective, allowing attendees to hear how they can position themselves to serve as partners to brands on the rise, such as Nom Noms.
For Sohanpal, whose packaging includes interactive augmented reality experiences that transport the consumer into a virtual representation of the region each meal represents, a packaging company willing to try new things is one that makes an ideal partner for a forward thinking brand.
“It’s about open mindedness and being willing to innovate,” she said. “We’re really looking for package printing companies that are willing to experiment, are willing to explore the possibilities, and not say ‘no’ in the first [interaction.]”
Digital’s Impact Across the Board
When the Digital Packaging Summit, an event hosted by NAPCO Media and Packaging Impressions, made its debut, it focused specifically on printers of labels and folding cartons, since that is where the majority of digital printing innovation had taken place. However, as digital printing technology has emerged in all packaging segments, the Summit has expanded, first bringing corrugated printers into the fold in 2017, and adding flexible packaging for the first time this year.
Though digital printing is at various points of adoption across the packaging segments, similar driving forces have kept it top of mind for package printers of all kinds.
In an introductory address on the first night of the event, Marco Boer, Digital Packaging Summit co-chair and VP of consulting firm I.T. Strategies, shared some of the top “burning questions” attendees provided in advance. Strategies for handling an influx of short runs was among the most common, and Boer recommended that the audience not view short runs as problematic, but as the reality of the industry’s new direction.
“Don’t think about it as ‘this is disrupting my plant,’” Boer said. “Think about it as where your customers are headed.”
In addition to digital printing’s impact from a production standpoint, the Summit addressed potential challenges it can provide elsewhere in a package printing operation. Because digital’s capabilities vary greatly from conventional printing’s, salespeople have had to adjust their approach when introducing customers to the technology.
Karen Kimerer, director of production services for Keypoint Intelligence, delivered a keynote address on sales strategies for digital package printing. As printing technology has evolved, Kimerer said, so have the ways in which potential customers go about their buying process. She explained that analyzing and understanding the buyer’s journey can provide a baseline for changing how salespeople can go about their work.
For example, Kimerer said that prior to the internet and social media, it was salespeople who were the primary purveyors of information to their prospective clients. However, customers now have the resources at their disposal to conduct their own research and are going into conversations armed with more knowledge than ever before.
“[Salespeople] could go out and say how great we are and why [customers] should buy our product,” Kimerer said. “Today’s buyer does not want to deal with a sales rep until they’ve done 68% of their research.”
Because today’s customers are far more proactive in their research, Kimerer suggested that companies move their sales tactics further upstream, developing their own content that can be discovered online. This content can be delivered in a variety of formats, but Kimerer said it’s becoming increasingly important to develop a strategy.
“You need content,” Kimerer said. “It might be articles, it might be blogs, it might be advertisements, and it might be social media. Sales reps don’t have the luxury of being able to sit down with customers without them already knowing their history.”
In regard to digital printing in particular, Kimerer explained that the sales process should extend beyond merely presenting its benefits. She said that salespeople should be leading their conversations with the benefits digital provides, but to drive the sales pitch home, those benefits need to be quantified.
For example, she said that because customers are reducing their run lengths and are facing increased speed to market pressures, having them understand how digital can eliminate plate and tooling costs, as well as get their product on shelf quicker, can help them grasp its economic impact.
“[Salespeople] should start with the benefits and quantify what that benefit looks like,” Kimerer said. “That’s the missing link in sales. People have a hard time quantifying the value they bring to the table. If they can quantify it, they can get to the next meeting.”
The Peer Perspective
In addition to the insights brought to the Summit by brand owners and industry analysts, the event provided a platform for peer learning, as converters experienced in digital shared their experiences with the audience.
In a user panel that featured representatives from the label, folding carton, and corrugated segments, attendees benefited from a variety of insights, learning how different digital technologies can be utilized in different packaging segments. The panel, which was moderated by Summit Co-Chair Kevin Karstedt, CEO of consulting and research firm Karstedt Partners, featured Tom Staib, owner and president of DWS Printing Associates, Bill Pope, director of graphic reproduction excellence for Greif, and John Perullo, CEO of Corrugated Synergies International.
Though the panelists represented different packaging segments, they each shared similarities in their implementation experiences and how they are educating their customers about digital’s capabilities. For DWS Printing Associates, a label and shrink sleeve printer in Deer Park N.Y., installing its hybrid MPS EF SYMJET Powered by Domino has provided multiple ways to communicate the value digital printing brings to the table, Staib said.
In some instances, he said the speed to market capabilities digital provides due to its removal of plates from the printing process can be the key value proposition for customers in highly competitive market segments. Other times however, he said that the in-line embellishment opportunities the press’s hybrid configuration provides, can be the most enticing element of the technology.
Pope meanwhile, explained that with Greif’s addition of the HP Indigo 30000 digital press for folding carton production, the company has been able to provide a platform for smaller companies to access high-quality packaging at a cost and quantity that makes sense. Because Greif also maintains a robust sheetfed offset operation, Pope explained that the company can provide a print solution to these small brands as they grow.
“When you find a startup that wants small quantities, putting them on sheetfed raises the piece price,” Pope said. “So we’ve been able to have success starting them [on digital] and maybe as they grow move them to offset.”
On the corrugated side, Perullo said that one area where digital printing and converting technology has been particularly exciting has been in ecommerce. As consumers, brands, and retailers continue to embrace online shopping, the opportunities for corrugated packaging have exploded.
Corrugated Synergies International, Perullo explained, has embraced a fully-digital workflow with the EFI Nozomi C18000 digital press and Highcon Euclid IIIC digital cutting and creasing system. On the converting side, he said the flexibility digital provides in its ability to cut in various sizes and formats lends itself to ecommerce.
“For us it’s an exciting aspect and an area where the volumes are starting to grow,” he said.
Coming on the heels of the busy fall tradeshow season, part of what makes the Digital Packaging Summit stand out is its intimate setting and scheduling format, which allows for converters to have individualized conversations with suppliers.
Each day of the Summit, converter attendees are divided into small groups based on their packaging segment, as suppliers rotate through and deliver case study presentations on their specific solutions. Additionally, each supplier is provided with a tabletop at the event, and can schedule meetings with attendees to meet one-on-one.
Unlike a tradeshow, where there are busy booths and limited time constraints, this format allows converters and suppliers to discuss that converter’s specific business in a casual setting, and talk in specifics about how digital equipment could benefit their company.
On the final evening of the Summit, the suppliers who delivered the best case study presentations, as voted on by attendees, were recognized with the following awards:
- Best Case Study Presentation for the Label Segment: Xeikon
- Best Case Study Presentation for the Folding Carton Segment: HP
- Best Case Study Presentation for the Flexible Packaging Segment: S-One Labels & Packaging and Charter NEX Films
- Best Case Study Presentation for the Corrugated Segment: EFI
Attendees also voted on a company to receive the “Company to Watch” award, giving the honor this year to Koenig & Bauer.
Bill Pope meanwhile, received the “Most Engaged Attendee” award from the event organizers, for his outstanding participation throughout the event.
The Digital Packaging Summit will return to Ponte Vedra Beach for its sixth annual edition from Nov. 16 to 18, 2020.