Digital Label Printing – The Great Leveler

The rise of digital label printing over the last few years has not come as a surprise to many industry insiders. What has taken many people by surprise is the speed at which this change has taken hold of the market.

We are all familiar with the story of the Share a Coke® campaign, and for many, it is ingrained as the breakthrough success story of digital printing, a project that is constantly referenced and copied. What is incredible is that this campaign only went mainstream less than 2.5 years ago.

It’s not just about size! Digital label printing is accessible for all!

Since then, we have seen the likes of Nutella®, Marmite®, and Heinz® (to name but a few) follow suit. These are all examples of larger companies utilizing digital technology to maximize the connection of their brands with their customers. But what of the smaller, mid-size companies, start-ups, and one-man bands? What can they do to compete? Well, an awful lot actually, and this is where I believe the overlooked power of digital printing really lies.

The Power of Digital Label Printing

During a recent meeting with a large multinational company, I was having difficulty convincing their international board of directors why they should spend more of their budget exploring digital label printing. I explained the pros, such as smaller label inventory, the ability to react to market trends, and of course, personalisation—none of which really seemed to raise much enthusiasm.

After an hour or so going down this route and getting nowhere, I decided to try an alternative approach. A fictional case study. I asked them to imagine a small start-up company in their industry had recently invested in their own desktop digital label printer.

Right from the moment the machines arrived, they were able to use the technology to create their own labels whenever they wanted, play with branding and marketing ideas as much as they liked, and perfect the packaging of the product until they were happy.

Eventually what resulted was a major national contract, usurping the position of the market leader, whose directors I was now sitting in front of. These directors were now slightly more interested in what I had to say but still not sold on the idea of digital. They had lost out to rivals many times before and had always remained on top.

The change in their opinion came when I explained that these “rivals” happened to be two undergraduates who had used the power of digital print to make their products bespoke to a particular region of the country where their products were being sold. Again, I repeated, “two undergraduates”. Not another large multinational, not an established brand that had been in the market for years, simply two undergraduates who had seen the numerous benefits that digital print could bring to their brand through desktop digital label printing and finishing (which were initially set up in a spare room in one of their houses). They were able to obtain access to this technology for a very low expenditure.

Was their end product better than that of the board of directors’ company? No, probably not, but that was not why they had won the contract. It was through the power of digital print. If two undergraduates could use this power to upset the might of a big multinational company that refused to look at digital, how many other small start-up companies could be out there waiting to have a go? In short, thousands! This finally got their attention.

What finally convinced them to authorize the switch to digital was when I revealed my case study was not fictional, they had indeed lost out to two undergraduates who began with their own digital desktop label printers.

The upshot of desktop digital label printing

What I am attempting to highlight is that, for the first time, digital printing and the benefits it brings are accessible to all, not just traditional superpowers such as Unilever, Mondelez, or Coca-Cola. Not just trade print houses or expensive design agencies. For just over £5k it is possible to purchase a good quality digital label printer, and for just over £20K it is possible to own a complete digital solution with finishing.

With this technology anybody can print what they need when it’s needed! Anybody can personalize, reduce overheads, and react in an instant to market trends. All of which opens up the ability to compete with the traditional super-brands when it comes to areas such as shelf space in supermarkets, web space online, or major contracts in almost any industry. No specialized print training is needed. In fact, for the majority of those leaving school today, the necessary IT knowledge and the basic use of graphic design software is ingrained in their conscious.
As such, I strongly believe that digital label printing truly is the great leveler.