Nov 4, 2021

Engaging consumers through on-pack storytelling and co-creation

Digital print has unlocked a wide range of opportunities for packaging personalisation. Elisabeth Skoda speaks to Jose Gorbea, HP’s Global Head of Brands, Agencies and Sustainable Innovation, about how storytelling and co-creation can create unique consumer experiences.
Elisabeth Skoda

On a general level, how do you think personalisation can drive consumer engagement?

We started our personalisation journey over ten years ago putting names on bottles with the Share a Coke campaign. At the time, this was the most obvious way to do personalisation – put a person’s name on the bottle and spread the word. Since then, HP has dug deeper into this megatrend. We did research and analysed more than 50 million conversations in social media, to learn why people want to interact with physically personalised items. We learned that human beings want to connect to a bigger purpose and want to have a sense of belonging to that bigger purpose. The name of the game now, more than personalisation, is co-creation. It means that the brand takes on point of view of the consumer and celebrates this point of view through storytelling. There is increasing demand from brands for these types of personalised solutions that we can provide through our software and digital print presses, especially with HP Indigo.

A good example for this is the Cadbury project, where the brand teamed up with Liverpool FC to send limited-edition chocolate bars to 50,000 fans to thank them for their support. Using HP digital printing technologies, each bar was created with a unique design.

Could you tell us a bit more about the collaboration between designer, software and printer to achieve the desired result?

The most important thing is to understand the unlimited creative potential of our innovation platform. The beauty of working with our brands innovation team is that we have leveraged the best of HP across the value chain. At the point of creation and at the design stage, we have our one-of-a-kind HP exclusive design software, HP Smartstream Designer. It empowers creative agencies to use an algorithm within Adobe Illustrator or Adobe InDesign to create stories, beautiful visuals, texts and play with user generated content from social media coming from brands, to then put it on pack at scale. You can delegate the creation of millions of unique stories to the software. It is important to understand who the client is, what the brand is trying to achieve and what the pain points and growth areas are, and we collaborate and cocreate together in that journey against the challenge, against the project brief, and we empower the creative agency and the brand owner in parallel to develop the right idea, such as the Cadbury idea. Once the idea is developed, we connect to a print supplier who has access to our technology to get the job done. The whole process is quite simple, we take our customers by the hand, so they can achieve the best possible result.

How does HP’s process differ from other platforms?

A unique proposition is that we can combine the power of big data and printing at the same time. For example, we did a campaign with Trident chewing gum in Mexico a couple of years ago, called “Mexico in the mouth of everyone.” Trident invited consumers to share their stories from where they live and the places they love across Mexico and to post them on Instagram with a hashtag. Via that hashtag, we can gather all that information, filter it for harmful content and include it into the design of the packaging, in a sequence that is convenient to the brand. Once it is adapted to the packaging of the brand, we sent it to our machines. We can print millions of pictures in just a few days, rather than one or two months, as would be the case with analogue printing methods.

On a broader level, how can good on-pack storytelling help with achieving sustainability goals?

I'm very passionate about this topic on a personal level. I believe that with great power comes great responsibility. Working for an organisation like HP, which also has sustainability at the top of the agenda, we have to be smart and responsible to channel our technology in a way that helps the planet, helps society and helps the whole ecosystem. On that journey, within our digital print innovation services, we have developed a strategic global partnership with a community called Sustainable Brands, which is one of the leading communities to join up companies from all over the world to accelerate their sustainability innovation journey. This has allowed me and my team to start to become experts on sustainability storytelling.

We analysed those previously mentioned 50 million conversations on social media around personalisation, and we defined six emotional drivers for a human being to physically interact with a personalised item. These include Mindful Materialism, Flying your Flag (celebrating communities and sports teams), Bringing Bonds to Life (revolving around gifting), Permission to Indulge, Letting it all Hang out (millennials who like sharing their lives on social media, and Fingerprinting, (the collection of unique items).

Out of these six drivers, Mindful Materialism in particular sits at the intersection of personalisation and sustainability. It encompasses people who want to make the world a better place to live in. The question is, how can that energy be channelled? How do you use the brand's packaging as a canvas to let them unleash that energy and offer the framework where they can develop solutions at scale? As an example, we worked with South African liqueur brand Amarula on a project to save elephants. 400.000 unique pack designs and names were created for all the 400.000 remaining elephants in Africa, helping to save the species from extinction. Amarula as a brand became a canvas to achieve this task.

Mindful Materialism enables a brand to amplify the impact they want to create from a sustainability storytelling point of view. Every time we touch a brand, we educate them on the importance of doing this and the impact it has, not only on the business, but most importantly for society and the planet, using the power of storytelling.

Another example is a campaign with Hershey's in Brazil, bringing together the six emotional drivers from a social impact point of view. Personalisation is the perfect platform to celebrate many things, such as diversity, inclusivity and gender equality, and to get people to vote or support a cause. Hershey's partnered with us a couple of years ago together with creative agency BETC on International Women’s Day. With the hashtag #hershe, the agency split the brand name into two female pronouns and encouraged female artists and influencers to stand up against gender inequality. In the first year, we produced around 350.000 printed chocolate bars celebrating eight stories from women who had overcome obstacles in Brazil to inspire future generations of women. The campaign was well received and was redone this year, and expanded to sixty female influencers, each with her own style. Consumers could scan the chocolate pack with a QR code and gain access to a video that tells more of the story. The brand achieved 100% positive feedback from consumers all over Brazil. Involving consumers in storytelling to motivate, change and have social impact is a key aspect of co-creation. Hershey managed to grow their sales sixfold and also won two Cannes Lions awards for the project.

How do you think personalisation will develop in the years to come?

There are three aspects to the development of personalisation, and the first two are already in the past. Firstly, e-commerce will continue to accelerate, especially in the context of COVID-19. Many brands jumped on the e-commerce trend, and personalisation works very well in that context, so I expect to see continued growth in that area. There will not necessarily be many new developments in that area, other than the much talked about unboxing experience, which uses the box as a canvas to tell the story of the brand at a deeper level. Secondly, demand for sustainable solutions will continue to grow. Sustainably marketed products are growing seven times faster than non-sustainability marketed products.

The third element is the acceleration of the conversion of the “physical” experience. It will be exciting to see how much more the boundaries between physical and digital are going to be blurred. HP sits at the heart of this development, as we are a software and a printing company at the same time. That convergence is becoming stronger. Combining social media and user generated content with digital printing helps to grow business and engage with consumers.

Elisabeth Skoda

Editor of Touchpoints magazine, writer for Packaging Europe magazine and design enthusiast!
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