Product packaging is an extremely important element in express a mark. Consumers touch and feel it, they judge it and they form a deeper relationship with the brand through the unboxing experience.
As most business owners and brand managers know, the quality of a product’s packaging can directly impact sales and reflect on the brand image. Premium packaging implies that the product will be of the highest pedigree, while inferior packaging sends a signal that the product will be of lower quality. Studies have shown that 70% of purchasing decisions are influenced by a product’s packaging. Additionally, the quality and type of packaging affects consumer confidence in the product.
Over the past few years, I have witnessed a packaging revolution in the cannabis industry. We’ve come a long way, and much of the industry now has very sophisticated and thoughtful packaging design.
As you develop or refresh your brand, the right visual merchandising can help you impress consumers and compete with major players. Here are some trade secrets and best practices to set you up for success, starting with the three main things to consider in any project: paper, coatings, and finish/decoration.
The lion’s share of all packaging is produced on strong bleached sulfate paper (also known as SBS). It is the industry standard due to its affordable price and good printing surface, suitable for decoration. However, there is also a huge selection of more expensive specialty papers. An uncoated kraft paper can be the perfect choice for a natural markwhile a pearl/shiny paper or metallic cardstock can create a more sophisticated look.
The chosen stock forms the basis of the packaging.
Stratifications and coatings
Coatings are used to protect packages from scratches or shifting and to accent and enhance the container. Adding contrast to the surface of a package creates visual interest that can elicit specific reactions from consumers.
A laminate is a piece of film adhered to the backing, providing the best protection against cracks, fingerprints and scratches. Laminations come in several finishes: matte, matte, glossy and soft to the touch. This type of effect is more expensive than in-line coatings such as aqueous coating (AQ) or UV.
A long time ago, everyone used varnishes to cover and protect projects, but this method required an extra plate on the press and longer drying times, so the aqueous coating was born. AQ is a fast-drying, water-based clear coat used to protect printed parts. It provides a high-gloss, matte or soft-touch surface that deters dirt and fingerprints.
Spot-gloss UV, one of the most popular treatments used in packaging, draws consumers’ attention to treated areas – often a logo, product name or slogan. UV coatings provide a superior gloss finish and provide the highest degree of contrast. UVs are also available in the same variety of finishes: glossy, matte, matte, and soft-touch.
An impressive way to add a tactile and more dramatic effect is to use an embossed UV coating, which adds dimension that can accentuate parts of the package and invite consumers to touch the surface.
A variety of other coatings are used more rarely, including glitter, beads, metals, and crosslinkers. If you want a luxurious, shimmering look, then a pearl coating or UV glitter could be the way to go. Metallic highlights like silver and gold not only convey an image of wealth and sophistication, but also provide a similar look to stamping at a fraction of the cost. One of the most spectacular coatings is achieved through a process called cross-linking, which creates an interesting visual effect by carefully combining both a spot varnish and an overall UV coating.
Textures can also give packaging a unique and distinctive look. Here are a few:
Embossing and debossing: Raised and depressed wrapping areas provide an interesting effect that historically has been used to signify elegance and luxury.
Hot stamping: This amazing effect has been used for hundreds of years. Some ancient manuscripts used real gold leaf to decorate intricate calligraphy, and the finest and most expensive books were often adorned with real gold leaf. The technique produces a highly reflective image with a shiny and attractive metallic appearance.
Cold printing: Unlike hot stamping, which requires a specialized hot stamping machine, this process can be done on a press. The sheet is dispensed from a roll and an ultraviolet lamp cures an adhesive and locks the design in place. Cold foil is the preferred technique for large surfaces and can be customized by applying color to traditional silver or gold leaf.
Digital printing on sheet: Foil digital printing is a bit easier and cheaper to produce, as it is printed directly from a computer file and does not require any dyes. The result is smooth, ultra-shiny, and often raised like an embossed piece but at a fraction of the price.
These are just a few of the many techniques that can take packages from ordinary to extraordinary. Packaging is more than just a way to protect your products. It is an important sales tool and a vital representation of your business and your brand.
Photos: Hippo Premium Packaging
Kary Radestock brings over twenty years of award-winning printing and packaging expertise to some of the world’s leading brands. She launched Hippopotamus Premium Packaging to meet a need for professional and compliant packaging, brand development and graphic design in the emerging cannabis industry.
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