Digital Presses: Helping small brands think BIG

When the NFL season kicked off in 2018, Bud Light aired a humorous television commercial poking fun at a mysterious beverage called an “autumnal mead.”
The ad featured a king strolling into a pub and declaring, “Bud Lights for everyone!” When one patron said he would prefer a malty and full-bodied mead, the annoyed king sent him to the stockade. The ad closed with the tagline, “Bud Light: For the Many, Not the Few.” What was the not-so-subtle implication of this well-crafted ad?  That premium, small-batch beers are elitist and out-of-touch with everyday American consumers.
What advertising like this suggests is that large brands such as Anheuser-Busch are wisely noting that the rise of small, oftentimes local, insurgent brands — like those in the craft beverage industry — who have become a force to be reckoned with. But how?
We’ve entered what Huffington Post Blogger, Ben Aifkin has called a “Renaissance Period”, wherein small brands, as well as agile established companies,  are transforming the consumer ecosystem by appealing to customers in bespoke ways. One of the most important technologies enabling this trend is the digital printing press.
Consumers today have an increased desire to connect with brands in more personalized, experience-led and interesting ways. Whereas this sort of customization was once a difficult chore for brands of any size, digital technology and nimble print service providers (PSPs) have leveled the playing field, allowing anyone to compete for consumer loyalty.
Much as the birth of the original printing press helped shape the European Renaissance of the 14th century, modern graphics solutions are influencing the Renaissance of the 21st century, enabling dramatically faster time-to-market, more customization and versioning in packaging and higher-quality print jobs.
Small Brands Race to Market
Not long ago, average product lifecycles — the span from an item’s introduction through its growth, maturity and decline — could last quite a while depending on the industry. It remained that way for years. Then, smaller, digital-first companies entered and upended this. They’ve been able to implement user feedback much more quickly and adapt their offerings accordingly. Big brands must forecast and plan for much shorter product life expectancies as a result of this shift.
From a print standpoint, this means tapping the ability of digital presses to churn out large or small runs of packages or labels quickly and affordably. Some large brands are doing this effectively, but interestingly, so are many up-and-coming small brands that are working with digitally-enabled print service providers.

One of the best examples of this in recent history is — as Bud Light noted — is craft beer. For example, Leuven Brewery caught people’s attention when it worked with PSP Indemental Graficos in Brazil to produce a 17,000-label run for its Dragon Beer. The labels were printed on holographic polyester film with a multicolored reflection with gloss lamination. The initial limited run was coupled with an augmented reality app that brought the dragons to life on mobile phone screens.
For smaller breweries, the competition demands that their branding stand out. Amid the rapid growth of this sector, many breweries have tapped into their packaging partners to find ways to be cost-effective and unique as they iterate.
Getting Personal
In a recent Infosys survey (one of many on the subject), 86 percent of consumers said personalization has some bearing on what they purchase and a quarter of them agreed personalization “significantly influences” their buying decisions.
Personalization can occur in many ways, including marketers automatically tracking your browsing habits and presenting related ads as you view other online sites, or a retailer leveraging their loyalty programs by sending someone a direct mail communication after noticing their recent purchase history and offering a special purchase price on a related product.
One of the most common ways brands personalize customer interactions now is through packaging. When Care/of launched, it did so not just with custom vitamin selections but also with personalized packaging — each daily satchel of supplements features a friendly message with the customer’s name. Before launching in 2016, the company amassed $3 million in funding. The following year, that funding ballooned to $14 million, according to Inc. By taking a hyper-custom approach across every touchpoint of their business — including packaging — the small startup helped disrupt the well-established vitamin industry.
Quality Print Jobs
Another advantage smaller brands have today is the ability to access a much wider array of quality materials — something once reserved for mature companies with larger budgets. Today’s digitally-enabled print service providers can leverage digital presses and finishing equipment to combine plastics, foils, adhesives, rubber, liners and amazing colors to create seemingly new products by freshening-up their packages or labels.
For instance, Anstadt Communications, an integrated marketing and graphics communications company in York, Pennsylvania, helped Ellicott & Co., a high-end boutique, appeal to savvy, young consumers. Using digital presses, it printed 16 different multisensory classic cocktail recipe cards made from silver foil and polymer. The gift items were produced on an 80-pound Verso Blazer Digital Satin Cover and embellished with digital technology. They proved so successful the business continued making the cards beyond a limited first run.
As we navigate this new Renaissance Period, it is important to recognize the opportunity modern graphics solutions, supported by digital presses, offer for competitive differentiation. By working with a skilled PSP, even the smallest brand can look like a major player to experience-hungry consumers.


Dave Prezzano is the Vice President and General Manager of the Americas Graphics Solutions Business for HP Inc. He is responsible for the go-to-market strategy, execution and overall financial performance of the business. This includes the sale and delivery of HP’s Graphics Solutions portfolio in North and South American markets, including Large Format printers (Latex, DesignJet and PageWide XL), Indigo digital presses, Scitex industrial presses, PageWide web presses and associated services and supplies.

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