The forum, titled “Innovation in Marketing through Packaging Technology,” was sponsored by Exopack, a service provider in the flexible packaging industry. Participants at the event represented many of Exopack’s largest customers, key members of the Exopack executive team, and faculty from Cal Poly’s Graphic Communication and Industrial Technology departments.
Carl Joachim, Cal Poly GrCI associate and expert in digital printing, worked with Exopack to develop the forum, which was built around one over-arching theme: the intersection between brand marketing, packaging and emerging trends in graphic communication technology.
“In working with converters such as Exopack, it’s becoming increasingly clear there is a need to bring together key players in the value chain and to leverage emerging graphic communication technology in packaging’s role in the marketing mix,” Joachim says. “Our objective at Cal Poly was to bring in speakers with deep-rooted experience in packaging and academia to generate discussion and customer insights to help Exopack evolve its offerings.”
Cal Poly faculty presented research and forecasts for packaging innovation in three primary areas: print processes, including flexo, digital and 3-D; electronically enabled packaging with topics such as augmented reality and near-field communication; and a consumer’s point of view on the role of packaging in the marketing mix. The university’s packaging program faculty focused on marketing issues related to the design of package forms and graphics; the specifications of materials and machinery; the evaluation of package systems; and planning and coordinating packaging requirements.
Specific topics covered included micro-market segmentation leading to SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) proliferation; time to market; promotional packaging; brand and consumer interaction enabled by the rapid increase in smartphone adoption; and the role of the package in marketing. Also discussed were QR codes and other applications that enable the consumer to interact with packaging, including near-field communication, augmented reality, printed electronics, and digital printing.
GrCI director Harvey Levenson recognizes the role of packaging in commerce today and prospects for the future. “The need for creative and competitive packaging has grown because of new digital media, and this will continue in the future,” he says. “We have resources and programs to prepare people to enter this field and to provide training and development opportunities for professionals already engaged in packaging.”
The partnership between Cal Poly and Exopack proved to be beneficial for both parties. Jack Knott, president and chief executive officer of Exopack, says, “Cal Poly developed the perfect approach to help us educate our customers and create a highly engaging discussion. This was truly a creative learning event for all of us, and we’ll look for ways to expand the program in the future so that all Exopack customers can become part of this educational process.”