Brands are choosing digital printing to disrupt packaging graphics consistency and to respond to the growing consumer interest in customization and acknowledgment of their unique personalities. There are many examples, especially in food and drink categories, with brands customizing packaging to allow them to target specific demographic groups.
In beauty and personal care, consumers are responding positively to the ability to customize beauty products that fit their unique needs, but this often relates to product formulation, not packaging.
For example, according to Mintel's Anti-Aging Skincare U.S. 2014 report, 76% of U.S. anti-aging skin care product users are interested in products designed specifically for their life stage. Similarly 39% of U.S. nail product users aged 18-24 would like the ability to customize their nail polish color.
Brands that choose to respond to these consumers’ needs do not currently add packaging customization to the offer. For example, Ioma Ma Crème offers more than 40,257 possible formulas to adapt to specific skin types, but uses the same package design for all of the thousands of formulations.
Beauty brands are certainly striving to offer consumers one-of-a kind products by producing limited editions, but do not always leverage digital printing to create these.
One of the rare examples, Japonesque, used a hand injected gel technique, making each package unique for its color cosmetics range. L'Oréal used digitally printed shrink sleeves for its limited edition kids’ shampoos some years ago, but there have not been many other uses of digital technologies in beauty categories.
Yet among many other beauty and personal care ranges, there is a noticeable consistency in packaging design and graphics. Since many beauty products are based on a regimen that needs to be followed, coordinated consistency in packaging creates more memorable brand presence on shelf. Unlike many food brands that can introduce a unique flavor for one or two products or put a customized label on their one most popular product, beauty products are usually launched as part of a wider offer that creates a beauty range that fits all steps of the regimen.
This does not mean that digital printing will be completely ignored by beauty brands and will cause disruption rather than solution in the category. Beyond the ability to customize packs, there are many other benefits of using digital printing.
To assist new product development and increase speed to market, brands can use digital technologies to print the minimum volume for the new product launch and replenish later for specific SKUs.
Digital printing can help test new products on the market without printing large quantities of packaging. Indeed, we are seeing packaging players in the beauty industry invest in digital printing to boost flexibility, production capacity and to reduce lead times.
The connection between digital printing and customization might have put some of the other benefits in the background, pushing the boundaries of how personalized packaging should really be.
Beauty and personal care brands do not have to create packaging to address consumers’ needs for personalization as product formulation is already offering this. Perhaps digital printing used in these categories can find different positioning such as being more environmentally friendly.
According to HP Indigo Labels and Packaging, digital printing can make an impact in brands’ sustainability initiatives. For example, to print an average five-color label, a conventional flexo printing press may use about 900 to 1000 feet of substrate to get the five inks in registration and target the color. With HP Indigo digital press, it would take about 30 feet.
That is a waste stream reduction that can have a big impact on sustainability. In addition to that, with digital printing allowing smaller runs, companies can benefit from packaging waste reduction of unused labels when using conventional printing.