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Packaging Brand Management

July 14, 2012

Copy Management: The Future is Now and Dynamic

Dynamic publishing is all around. It's why Amazon always seems to know just what you're looking for, and is able to offer more of the products you want -even if you never realized those products existed. It works because a repository of information assets has been created, validated and tagged. Those assets can then be automatically published whenever they fit a specific user's stated preferences and on-site behaviors. Dynamic publishing has been proven in online marketing, where the ability to serve diverse needs drives commerce. So why not use the same techniques for physical marketing - such as product packaging - when a single product family may have diverse SKUs, images and global messaging? As it turns out, that's a very profitable idea.

One of the most intriguing applications of the dynamic-publishing model today is in the area of product packaging for consumer goods and pharmaceuticals. Across a product line with many SKUs or for a single product with multiple iterations worldwide, there are many opportunities to "template" the package design and "serve up" the contents dynamically into a printable digital file. For instance, a logo on a cereal box can be pulled automatically from a central digital asset library and placed into a layout every time a new box is designed. The same process could apply to an ingredient panel, a warning label, a corporate address and 800-number -any artwork element that is shared across multiple iterations.
The benefits? Speed, accuracy, efficiency, cost-savings - the same benefits Amazon enjoys as a publisher and that you enjoy -incidentally - as a user of the site.

So what is the state of affairs in dynamic publishing in the consumer product and pharma world? Still developing but already paying benefits. Most manufacturers still have designers pull artwork elements manually from Word, Excel or database files. In a dynamic copy management system, by contrast, the elements automatically "populate" the appropriate spot in the design. The brand team only needs to maintain one official version of each asset in a digital library and to tag the design template accurately so that it links to the right assets each time a file is created.

The old way creates a "one-to-one" relationship, where each iteration is subject to human error; in a dynamic system, it's "one-to-many," with errors greatly reduced as long as the single official asset is maintained and up-to-date. Dynamic publishing is all around us. Car dealers, for example, create print-ready PDF files by selecting a pre-build template and then from an assortment of image and copy assets to localize a brochure. Some brands do employ proprietary software that allows for some automation, but often the artwork must be re-built in the software's own toolset, not the industry standard Adobe Illustrator or Adobe InDesign.

Schawk's copy management system does allow brands to use the Adobe software their designers are comfortable with, augmented by Schawk-developed plug-ins. Currently several Schawk clients are using the system for copy automation, according to Jackie Leslie, Senior Business Development Engineer for Schawk Digital Solutions, with more expected in the next 12 months. During this time the company also expects to roll out features for dynamically managing barcodes, tables and images as part of its longstanding BLUE™ brand management technology suite.

For now, the copy element alone offers real benefits. "It opens up a world of new possibilities for any type of consumer goods company," Leslie says. "Companies that have a lot of regulatory copy or a lot of repeatable copy, or even just a lot of SKUs and copy would benefit from a workflow system that enables them to manage copy in a more dynamic way."

And print isn't the only medium where the system works for brands. One global Schawk client uses dynamic copy management for the product copy on its extensive e-commerce site. The takeaway: now is a good time for major brands and pharmas to see what this technology can do for them. It's good, and it's only going to get better.

This article originally appeared in Schawk's "Patterns." Schawk, Inc. is a leading provider of brand development and deployment services, enabling companies of all sizes to connect their brands with consumers.

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