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How Contrast is the Key to Promo Print Success

  • January 14, 2020
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When UK-based InterFlex was tasked with printing a high impact promotion, operations director Mike Adams knew striking contrast would be the key to success. Here he shares how flexo helped him turn a tricky brief into an award-winner.

Promotional packaging relies on images that really catch the eye. Something that shouts novelty from the shelf and can, in a split-second, convince a passing shopper to stop, look, and engage with the product. Yet when it comes to grabbing attention, all were not created equal. Take yoghurt. Uniformly white and with no hard edges, it doesn’t so much leap off the shelf as sink back into it.

InterFlex, a flexo printer from Sunderland, UK, was briefed to print a limited edition run of yoghurt packs carrying a party dress promotion. While the pack had to feature an image of the product, operations director Mike Adams knew he’d need to achieve strong definition to make the promotion sing.

“To really catch the eye you need a range in contrast,” he says. “Lots of highlight areas, but with a lot of density in other areas. If you have everything on a pack with very low ink coverage, there's not a lot going on there. But if you have a product against a very dark background, with strong vignettes and high density colors around it, then it suddenly stands out a lot better.”

For this particular design, Mike credits his client for employing designers who “really pushed the boundaries”. Their creation boasted incredibly strong contrast, with subtle highlight areas in the images of the yoghurt, but a lot of density – dark purples and a sparkling star effect – in the area carrying the party dress promotion.

But even the best design in the world is no use if you can’t pull it off perfectly in print. Using KODAK FLEXCEL NX technology, supplied by Reproflex3, InterFlex stepped up to that task. In fact, Mike says flexo proved essential in delivering the range of contrast he needed to do so.

“Historically if you wanted to achieve that contrast effect, you’d have used gravure,” says Mike. “With gravure, you could engrave dots smaller than what it was possible to image on a flexo plate. But with the latest KODAK FLEXCEL NX plate technology, today you can hold a dot as small as – some would say smaller than – gravure can engrave a cell. The contrast range in flexo has probably grown by 15-20%. So we can now print much finer dots, offering excellent highlights, while delivering more ink in the solid areas at the top end too. Flexo is now offering a strong challenge to gravure. It’s typically more cost effective”

This is invaluable for a company like InterFlex which, typical for print firms of its type, is now handling a lot of short-run, fast turnover promotional work, whether to tie in with the sporting calendar – Mike is gearing up for the Olympics coming up next year, for example – or with the latest movie releases. Mike says he’s found himself manufacturing more and more one-off designs that tend not to repeat. And the stakes are getting higher.

“We can now print much finer dots. Flexo is now offering a strong challenge to gravure. It’s typically more cost effective too”

“In promotional print jobs, everything is close to the wire,” he says. “Deadlines are always tight, and as promotions always have an end date, with brands needing to get maximum exposure, they want it on the shelves in front of consumers as long as possible. So there’s not really any opportunity for a second attempt. It has to work, and it has to work first time. Each and every time.”

He’s noticed another trend too: Increasingly ambitious customers. “Having a matt and gloss effect is a favorite effect of the industry at the moment, for example,” says Mike.

And when it comes to meeting these demands, it’s not just gravure that flexo is out-performing. Despite how long digital has been threatening to challenge flexo, Mike remains unconvinced. “There are still concerns around how you print whites with digital, and how you do metallized colors, like golds and silvers,” he says. “And take the volume that you can produce in an hour or a day with digital. Flexo’s run speeds can knock that out the park. At Interflex, we’ve found that once your batch size gets above 3000m2, flexo becomes the more viable option.”

Flexo certainly worked its magic on the yoghurt party dress promotion: it won gold awards for InterFlex at Drupa and EFIA that year. So in the end the pack didn’t just adeptly promote yoghurt and party dresses; it threw InterFlex’s printing prowess in stark relief too.

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Find out more about how flexo aces contrast with our whitepaper on edge definition or our blog post on measuring flexo print contrast.