INSIGHTS  |  Trends

The Real Cost of Packaging Artworks

Packaging artworks are more than just files you send to a printer...

Brands spend a lot of money, time, and management effort during the design stage on getting the right visual look and colour shades for their packaging only to fritter it all away during the artwork process. Sadly, this comes from a myopic and often, uneducated view of the artwork process. Brand owners lack full appreciation for the time and expertise it takes to build these critical brand assets and what overlooking the right artwork creation procedures actually costs the brand...

Culprit # 1: Poor, Misaligned Business Practices

A common problem is that most brand owners tend to look at a packaging artwork in isolation – one SKU at a time ignoring the fact that each packaging artwork is one element of a brand’s portfolio of SKUs – spanning product line extensions and variants, pack formats and market-specific versions. This practice is typically driven by procurement’s need to meet best-cost goals...

From a brand standpoint however, the core purpose of the artwork process is to translate the approved visual brand identity into consistently reproducible form across the brand portfolio, irrespective of packaging material, print supplier or the geographic market(s) the brand operates in. Each pack format whether it’s a laminate pouch, a carton or a label has different requirements for how artworks need to be built whether it is the number of colours that can be used, post-print finishes they can accommodate, or the way images need to be manipulated to meet printing requirements.

When Multiple Printers Define Your Brand...

Typically, packaging SKUs get distributed across a panel of printers. Often, print run for a single SKU for reasons of volumes and logistics, gets split across multiple print vendors. As a result, final versions of print-ready artworks get prepared and manipulated by multiple printers, each manipulating designs to suit their specific machine and print process requirements… So, brands end up with multiple versions of artworks, multiple artwork build standards and multiple interpretations of design and colours...

Worse, future change & release on these artworks become hostage to each print vendor’s interpretation and implementation of the design. Imagine trying to build a new multi-unit apartment complex where each floor is engineered and constructed by a different contractor… or manufacturing a car where each production batch has an engine from a different OEM with slightly different specifications… And when the next version rolls out in a couple of years, it’s a new set of engine suppliers...

Yet another disastrous business practice is using multiple agencies to originate and edit packaging artworks at various stages of the product lifecycle. While almost all print vendors know how to convert designs to print-ready artworks, a vast majority of agencies do not have the full knowhow, deep-domain technical skills, specialized software tools or data management processes to manage production of brand-consistent print-ready artworks. Most pawn off basic layouts as artworks knowing that some printer will eventually correct the artworks before print...

Culprit # 2: Disorganized Process

Rolling out packaging artworks requires multi-level specialist interventions – organized content such as dielines, pack copy, barcode information, pack materials specifications, printer specifications, and a variety of artwork specifications such as number of colours, printing method and process, approved proofs for colour standards, legal and regulatory mandates to follow etc.,

Not to forget, a consolidated SKU list with names of printers tagged to each SKU and network timelines set for final artwork release.

Ownership of all this information is typically scattered across multiple stakeholders and departments inside the brand owner organization leading to incomplete and sometimes, conflicting inputs for artwork production. More significantly, disorganized content leads to scattered, inefficient and multi-iterative artwork approvals. Such myopic and unprofessional approaches to packaging artwork management badly impacts the brand.

Where Packaging Artworks Really Cost Your Business

While brand owners and their procurement teams believe their job is done with negotiating and commoditizing artwork pricing from agencies, they stay blissfully delusional about the real cost of packaging artworks they carry...

Cost of Delayed Launches:

What is the impact on business of a 2-week delay in go-to-market with a new launch or a promotion? What causes these delays? How many cycles of changes does each artwork go through before its approved? How many rounds of proofs and visits to printers before a design is locked? How many man hours of management time is spent on routing and managing artwork approvals? Did the print vendor make changes to artwork after you approved the artwork that you do not like – and so, you get artworks reworked and re-approved?

Cost of Print Rejections:

How often do artwork errors creep in due to scattered, manual methods of approval that get discovered after printing? Is the artwork you approve print-ready or just content-ready? Did you approve colours/ shades on a screen? Did all stakeholders approve the exact same version of the artwork?...

Cost of Rework:

So, you want to make changes or apply a new promotional message to an existing artwork and release. Where and with whom is the last corrected version of the artwork? Can you locate and retrieve it when you need it? Is the artwork file you received from the print vendor editable? Is it the last approved version and is it built to print-ready standards? Can you share the artwork sourced from a previous print vendor with a new print vendor and ensure it gets reproduced correctly? How often do artworks get re-created and how much time and cost does business incur on such rework? What is your organization’s efficiency with artwork change-and-release?


Cost of Variable Brand Reproduction:

When the new designs were being made, countless hours were spent debating designs, colours and making layout changes. And then, during artwork rollouts, you let each printer define and interpret your brand… Worse, as the brand evolves through time, dozens of agencies and print vendors touch, manipulate, and interpret your brand… Does your packaging carry huge variations in colour shades and print quality across printers, across pack formats, across geographic markets, across the product lifecycles? Is that acceptable? Is that not costly?

If these questions resonate with your reality, its time we talk.

Remember, packaging artworks are not just files you send to print. They are your critical brand assets. They require specialist technical and management interventions to ensure on-cost, on-brand, on-time packaging execution.





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