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Building a Superior Artwork Process to Strengthen Your Brand

Posted By: SGK October 23, 2014

Most packaged-goods marketers will identify with this statement: “I have too many rounds of package artwork revisions and it takes too long to get my packaging approved.” And they know it harms brand performance: it reduces speed-to-market and sales, and increases expenses across the board. Now, with new EU and impending U.S. regulations on labeling accuracy, this kind of inefficiency will be even more costly because it leads to mistakes. 

Some companies accept packaging headaches, but others will wisely dig in and solve them. They start by looking at root causes. There are two, and they are as cultural as they are technical. 

The first one goes like this: “I have a new package (maybe a full redesign or just an ingredient change). And we have a deadline. I don’t have all of the data I need (could be as critical as a nutrition statement or something discretionary, such as romance copy), but there’s too much pressure so we might as well get started. Just go!”

Problem: This may work every once in a while, but when a major brand is executing, say, 5000 packaging changes a year, it’s not sustainable. Pretty soon you’re driving more rounds of revisions and people are desperately looking for information that should have been there when production began. This costs money and it’s how costly mistakes happen on shelf. 

Solution: There is a practical solution to this, but the change has to be cultural. The company has to say, “We’re not going to do this anymore. We’re going to figure out what data we need at each stage-gate and we’re going to going move forward until we get that data.” This can be a difficult point to reach, but it is crucial. 

The second cultural issue is packaging data and how it’s handled; whether a brand manages its packaging in-house or uses vendors. The most efficient brands understand that package data is diverse and it’s coming from everywhere: nutrition facts, ingredients, net weight, barcode, and logos to name a few. They can also come from marketing, design, legal, packaging R&D and more. 

Problem: As logical as it sounds, there are manufacturers and brands that have a different system for every division. It’s confusing, inefficient and it makes automation impossible for packaging as well as for related items such as coupons, circular artwork and direct mail. And it contributes to our first root cause of saying “Just go!” before all the inputs are gathered, organized and approved. 

Solution: Efficient brands standardize the way this data is gathered and stored. Whether they use carefully curated and protected spreadsheets or a more sophisticated digital database, every stakeholder contributes to a standardized, secure data platform.

Once a company has addressed these two root causes, then it can standardize according to Six Sigma principles. It can optimize according to lean manufacturing principles. And it can automate by tying the optimized database directly to package design functions. 

What if the proposed U.S. regulations are significantly watered down in the coming year? Brands are free to hope for this, but their issues will remain.  Yes, implementing data collection and management best practices is a challenge and may require new technology. And it will require cultural change, which is can be difficult. But it’s hard work that pays off permanently.

Learn more in our latest issues of Patterns – The New Label: Responsibilities + Opportunities.