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5 Ways Packaging Codes and Markings Benefit Consumers and Brands

Posted By: SGK July 05, 2016

In our recent BrandSquare webinar, Lyndsey Farrow, marketing communications specialist at Matthews Marking Systems, takes a look at five ways packaging codes and markings can benefit consumers, producers, retailers and the brand itself.

Watch the entire webinar: 5 Ways Packaging Codes and Markings Benefit Consumers and Brands 

It’s easy to think of variable marking, coding and identification requirements as a necessary evil, but the truth is they’re a necessary good. Markings on packages and labels can benefit brands in many ways, from meeting requirements for traceability, to assuring consumers of product authenticity and freshness, to delivering a customized experience that builds loyalty.

But for some brand managers, variable printing carries a stigma of being costly, difficult to manage and error-prone. It doesn’t have to be that way. Learn how variable coding can support high-quality production while helping your brand stand apart in the marketplace.

Marking and coding is the method of printing information, such as variable data and barcodes, on different surfaces and materials. This can be achieved through multiple print technologies, like permanent marking, or laser marking, continuous ink jet marking, and many more. Some common examples include expiration dates, barcodes, 2D code, and industry certifications. This is a large industry, expected to reach $7 billion by 2021.

“With new legislation being introduced to increase customer engagement and awareness, marking and coding is an important industry to anyone dealing with packaging or supply chain management,” says Lyndsey Farrow.

There are three top industries that utilize marking and coding:

  1. Consumer packaged goods
  2. Pharmaceutical
  3. Industrial

These are the products many of us touch on a daily basis – some of which you may not even realize have a marking or code on them!

Consumer packaged goods companies require marking and coding systems to be extremely high-speed and must have the ability to change messaging quickly without interrupting production.

The pharmaceutical industry is a highly counterfeiting industry, and uses marking and coding to ensure authenticity, while being unobtrusive to product packaging and design. They also require very high-speed marking and a very legible code, often using 2D and Data Matrix codes that have a lot of code content in them for visibility purposes.

The industrial market – the lumber that built your house or the tires you have on your car – most of these are heavily manufactured industries that require printers that can work in harsh environments that may be wet, experience high humidity, or that are dirtier in general. These require robust, reliable printers for their marking and coding purposes.

Each industry faces challenges like changing packaging design, an increase in SKUs, shorter product shelf life, and increased production change of which marking and coding can affect.

Documentation of origin and freshness. We all look at the expiration dates and sell-by dates on a package upon preparation to ensure products are fresh and safe to consume – otherwise these will likely be thrown out. Also, the location of production and packaging is increasingly important to the modern shopper, although this is a controversial topic.

Recently, there was new legislation introduced to simplify expiration date and best by coding to two descriptive terms: “best if used by” and “expired on”. The reason these two terms were brought to light is because consumers are looking to reduce food waste and will need this information when determining whether to dispose or keep a product.

Authenticity and safety data to brands and consumers. This is especially important for the pharmaceutical industry, as it is heavily pirated and is the most regulated. Required by the FDA, each product must be labeled with a universal product identifier, which is a 10-digit code that identifies:

  • Vendor 
  • Product 
  • Package size
  • Strength of medicine
  • Dosage
  • Formula

Barcodes and serialization codes are used to identify individual lots, shipments, and packaging with drugs, cosmetics, and other products for the purpose of authentication and visibility.

Traceability. Serialization codes are essential for supply chain management, as they provide the ability to track products and gives the ability to recall products quickly in the instance of a product issue. These marks and codes support compliance with local and federal regulations, such as varying tax codes, and disclosure requirements in different jurisdictions. These codes also ensure the supply chain is efficient and accountable, and give the consumers confidence that the products they consume are safe.

Delivering a better experience. Markings and coding can also be used to track consumer habits. These codes can be printed directly onto products, loyalty and rewards cards. This encourages consumers to engage with the brand through things like contests or to claim a discount or perk. The data gathered by companies can be used to create marketing or promotional programs, tailored to consumers. It tells where the consumers are buying products, which retailers are the most successful, and if promotions are meeting specific targets.

Strengthening and protecting brands. Marking and coding is all about trust. Each code tells a story about the product – where it has been and how fresh it is. Codes are not just data that needs to be printed; they’re also a reassurance that the product is safe to consume. This is important to consumers and for brands to convey.

“While there is currently no legislation requiring the best by date, most manufacturers choose to include it because they know consumers respond to that information and want to know that information, and because it implies a level of safety,” says Lyndsey Farrow.

If a code isn’t present and trustworthy, shoppers may not only abandon the purchase, they may abandon the brand altogether. It takes one bad experience with a poorly coded product for consumers to reevaluate that purchase.

Codes that are legible and reliable benefit everyone who touches the brands, from supply chain managers, to marketers, to retailers, and ultimately the shoppers who determine brand success.

To learn more, download this whitepaper: Variable Marking and Coding: Making the Best of a Necessary Good