Bridging the Gap: High-Volume, Short-Run Mock-Ups
Product packaging is a brand owner’s strongest asset. It is the best and most consistent vehicle for conveying your brand’s quality and messaging because it is the only brand collateral across all of your assets that consumers constantly interact with from the shelf to final consumption.
In fact, according to a survey by L.E.K., packaging is a key driver of brand growth, noting that “a full 90% of brand owners say that packaging is important to their brand’s success.”
But product packaging is also highly susceptible to fickle consumer demands and market forces. Consumers want a premium look but a personalized experience. They seek convenience but want to minimize environmental impact. They are concerned about maintaining freshness but dislike the use of plastics. And brand owners have other factors to consider, such as its appearance on shelf as well as on e-commerce channels and it’s use in marketing campaigns of all types.
It’s a complicated landscape, one that requires the agility to pivot quickly when consumers’ evolving demands collide with the brand’s marketing initiatives. It requires the ability to test products in market, to create high-volume, short-run samples quickly for marketing events, and to customize packaging seamlessly to your events.
The answer to these challenges is packaging mock-ups, prototypes, and sales samples, which serve a range of purposes from exploratory design and marketing support (produced in small quantities) to retail engagement and large-scale marketing events (produced in large quantities). They allow marketers to test both the form and function of their packaging, personalize brand experiences, and stage targeted marketing events.
However, suppliers must be able to produce a range of quantities, both small and large, to meet brand owners’ various needs. One of the biggest challenges is finding a partner who can produce print-quality packaging in quantities large enough to meet brand owners’ marketing initiatives without the cost or inflexibility of a full-fledged press run.
Producing volumes in the thousands or even tens of thousands can stretch the capabilities of traditional suppliers who are more accustomed to producing a small number of beautiful, highly embellished product prototypes. Their process is highly manual with long lead times and intensive labour. Further, their equipment isn’t able to handle large volumes, resulting in increased billable hours and extra labour to fill the gap. The inability to meet demand for large-quantity, print-quality packaging is not just a matter of technology but also of process.
So how do brands currently navigate this?
Often, they seek the help of the printers themselves. The printers are equipped to deliver the volumes, but asking them to accommodate the tight deadlines of a last-minute marketing initiative is untennable.
Additionally, there is also the risk of significant material waste if these run on the production line, with many printers requiring an extremely high minimum volume order.
Thus, a gap exists between the volumes most mock-up providers are capable of delivering at a palatable price and the feasibility of using a printing plant in place of a mock-up supplier. However, there’s a smarter solution: one of your key supply chain partners has the right process combined with the appropriate technical capabilities to bridge this gap, and it may not be one you have thought of before.
Let’s walk through an example:
A brand’s marketing team must produce sales kits for the national sales force, requiring the creation of 2,000 Doypack pouches each for 3 distinct SKUs, totaling 6,000 units. With only 4 weeks until the project is to begin, the marketing team learns that their usual mock-up supplier’s pricing is unrealistic based on the high volume and tight timeframe. Their production printer indicates it would take 8 – 10 weeks to complete a run of the pouches and has a minimum order of 20,000+, which would delay the product launch and listing opportunities for at least a full fiscal quarter and result in significant waste.
Frustrated by the lack of options, the marketing team engages their artwork/prepress agency to help map out a solution. This agency is familiar with both the printing requirements of the product and is a trusted partner within the brand’s marketing supply chain. They have a deep understanding of the business challenges this brand in particular is facing.
Based on their expertise, they recommend the artwork file as well as the production material specification and colour Epson proofs required to execute the project be sent to their internal mock-up production team. The mock-up team proposes using a combination of either digital printing and commercial finishing equipment or a traditional flexo-press to deliver the volumes in time.
After applying the print profile and creating the printing plates, the mock-up team produces the Doypack pouches using the exact same materials the printer would have used, but they were able to deliver in the 4-week timeframe using only the raw materials required for the project itself. The marketing team receives the required volumes for the product launch, and the project is deemed a success.
So it’s the prepress partner to the rescue?
It’s not as crazy as it may first seem. In fact, it’s the smart solution for your high-volume short runs. Your prepress partner knows your brand standards and guidelines intimately; they have immediate acces to your artwork files and can quickly adapt your assets to a customized SKU; they know how to manage substrates and color to achieve optimal print quality; they can produce the required plates internally; and they have the capacity to manage larger-volume runs that don’t meet the minimums of your printers.
Moreover, your prepress partner bridges the gap between traditional mock-up suppliers and your print partners, offering both the capabilities and the flexibility the others cannot.
A combination of high volumes and short lead times shouldn’t mean disaster for your marketing intiative. It’s just a matter of picking the right partner for your needs, and your prepress partner could be just the hero you need.