The Universe is Changing. Again (with Advent of Digital Packaging and Labels)
Although the labels were essentially a large number of short-run batches of a lot of first names, this was not a simple process. Thirty five countries, hundreds of names, four alphabets, a couple dozen languages, and local-country labeling requirements made it a massive undertaking, involving HP customers in several countries running their HP Indigo WS6600 label presses hard. But for Coke, it increased sales and brand recognition, especially among non-Coke drinkers—the target for this campaign. Was it cost-justifiable? Hard to know, but it demonstrates just how far the envelope can be stretched with digital printing for labels and packaging. And the potential is clearly there for much broader uses than selling sugared water.
Consider the aisles in your favorite supermarket. From coffee, chips and other flexographic packaging to the labels on deodorant, juice bottles and laundry detergent, there are 40,000 SKUs in a typical supermarket, with brands and sub-brands in nearly every product category. The labeling must be identifiably different between brands and within each brand. Conventional label and package printing does this well, but for less popular products or regional brands that use less shelf space, shorter print runs increase set-up times and production costs or require maintaining inventories of printed materials that are subject to waste and obsolescence.
On conventional presses, changeover time between shorter run jobs can keep productivity per machine well below 50 percent. By comparison, digital presses like those used in the Coke project can produce labels in short and moderate run lengths—with virtually no on-press changeover time. This can fulfill the needs of big brands, niche products, local brands, regionalized offerings, different languages, test marketing and promotional offers. Digital labels and packaging are effective for virtually any opportunity where a shorter run can reduce the total cost of packaging, increase production efficiencies, take advantage of market opportunities, and enhance brand awareness.