Product packaging does more than contain a product. It also attracts customers if it well done.   It is the printing that is done on a package that makes it attractive, differentiates if from other products and motivates a customer to choose it over competing brands.


Getting the first step right

The first step in the direction of attractive retail packaging printing right is getting the design right. The design has to fulfill important criteria. It should:

  • have a name that is distinct and different from other brands

–     have the manufacturer’s name and address or link to a website or social media page. A customer care phone line should also be included

–      include an image that represents the product or its use such as soapy suds on a bar of soap or bottle of detergent

–       have text that explains what the product is for such as dishwashing liquid, toilet bar soap and so on. The text should be very brief and highlight why this product is better than competing brands. For instance, a personal care product like a body cream or lotion can have details like, fragrance, quickly absorbed without greasy residue and non-allergic.

–        a date of manufacture and expiry date which is mandated by law.

–        the weight of the product in grams, kilograms, millimeters or liters as is applicable.

–        have a list of ingredients and a breakdown of nutrients in the case of edible products.


The Printing Options

Having made a decision about the design, you can decide on the specifics of the printing as follows;

1) The shape and form of the package

Solid items are typically packed in boxes. The box may be as small as one that holds a bar of soap or a large one that holds a kilogram of breakfast cereal or 10 kg of pet food. Apart from being customized with a design, retail packaging boxes and bottles can also be customized with different shapes to make them stand out.  This is done with special die cuts.


Die cuts can be done to effect so that they make a product stand out even more. One example of this is the boxes that are made to hold toilet fresheners. Some are small triangle-shaped boxes that have a window that allow a buyer to experience the scent of the freshener while it still in the box. This definitely gives such a brand an edge over similar products in ordinary box. Die-cuts and windows are also effective for selling edible products such as sweets and products for children who are curious and prefer items they can get a peek of. This works well for products like toys and stationery such as crayons and coloring pencils.


2) Secondary packaging

Secondary packaging is another way to ensure that you have retail packaging that stands out. Typically, boxes are made to hold a product securely. However, one box can be made to hold more than one product which is what is known as secondary packaging. This is where a box has trays, box dividers, cardboard partitions or special die cuts to hold other products inside. Sometimes, a box can be divided to hold more than one product.

Secondary packaging can be customized with printing. Take the example of a box of assorted chocolates that are arranged in a foil package that holds each one separately. A chocolate manufacturer can make their batch stand out by printing a message on the secondary packaging. Perhaps the foil underneath can have a single letter under each piece of chocolate to spell out a message like I love you, I’m sorry, Please forgive me or other message that one would want to give with a box of chocolates.


3) Embossing and foil packaging

Retail packages can also be customized with embossing and foil.  One or two of these touches add a touch of elegance to a product and is ideal for up market or premium products like designer fragrances and premium cosmetics. An embossed package raises a graphic element like an image or text above the surface of the paper. The opposite of this is debossing which depresses the image. The result is an image than can be felt and seen.


With foils, a very thin metallic image of gold or silver foil is stamped onto the box. The resulting foil creates an accent and highlight unique to metal and it reflects light very attractively.  To make a product stand out even more, foiling can include an image but also some text like a brand logo or motto.


4) UV finishes

UV coating or finishing refers to the application of a glossy or semi-glossy coat which is done using a clear liquid that is applied to the printed surface. This coating is then immediately dried or cured under a UV light which is why the coating is so-named. For uniqueness and for the sake of capturing consumer attention, there is the option to do spot coating rather than flood or full-surface coating.


You can spot coat the name of the product, the manufacturer, the product image or other detail that you want to stand out and for consumers to always remember.  Spot UV can also be used to create a touch and feel because spot-coated areas have a slightly raised surface. Depending on the type of coating you choose to do, an image can be not only seen but also felt. For instance, a box of orange juice powder can be spot-coated to have the look and feel of an orange peel.


UV coating can be done in several finishes. A popular choice for printed boxes is a glossy finish. It makes a pack appear sleek which gives it a luxurious look and feel. This can be enhanced with tint such as rose or sepia. Matte is the other common UV finish. It gives a package a natural-looking finish. Various abrasives may be added to give a package a tactile, uncommon feel such as the feel of very fine sand paper. If not sand paper, matte paper can have a soft touch finishing that is as the name suggests, very soft.


Another UV finishing option is glitter such as the type used on greeting cards. It can also be used selectively and attractively on a package such as on make-up boxes or art and craft products for children. There is also the option of glow-in-the-dark which as the name explains, glows in the dark.


5) Color options

In printing retail packages, there is the choice to print in full color, spot color or black and white. Full color printing is the best option for the sake of having a package that is bright and attractive. Consumers usually just see different colors on a package but there are differences.


Full color printing or process printing is done with black, yellow, cyan and magenta (CYMK) which are mixed to get all the other colors. Every one of the four colors is printed in a dot mosaic in proportions that convince the eye that there are more colors present than there actually are.  If you look very closely at a package that has been printed this way, you can actually see the dots.


Then there are Pantone Matching System (PMS) colors developed by Pantone, a company that manufactures printing ink. The company came up with a standard set of colors that that numbered and which are matched to recreate that set. Printers look at a book that has a swatch of colors and they order the swatch of ink they want.  PMS colors are custom mixed unlike in process printing. With process printing, there may be slight differences in the different print runs which does not happen with PMS colors. PMS colors are also much more vibrant than process printed colors. Also, special colors like neon and metallics can only be printed with PMS colors. It is the better option overall.


6)  Barcodes

Another aspect to think of with retail packaging printing is the barcode. Barcodes are actually a generic name that refers to a host of machine-readable codes that are used to track items. In actuality, they have many applications in various industries from hospital identity bands to driver’s licenses.


Today, the most popular barcode is a two-dimensional one that was created by Toyota to track car parts. Since this QR code was created, it has been adopted by a lot of businesses, more so the mobile phone industry. It allows users to scan a QR code using their Smartphone so they can have websites displaying quickly.


For retailing and merchandise packaging in general, the Uniform Product Code, Version A (UPC_A) is the barcode that is most commonly used. It is the 12-character code that is used in retail shops to track products. They are also used to keep product inventory which automates product re-ordering. It is can also be used to compare the sale of similar or competing products which gives insight into consumer preferences which can be used to create targeted product promotions.


There is the option to have customized barcodes on a product. As long as the machine-readable bar images are maintained in size and spacing, it can be customized to effect and the top goal of attracting consumer attention.


Getting it right

All the aspects above determine the final look of your package will be. Get each one right and you get product that catches the attention of a consumer and retains it even as they look at competing products. Result- a loyal customer.

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