The State of Packaging Graphics Management in Latin America and Beyond

There’s no denying it, the prospect of “no cost” or “free” services can be extremely enticing. But when it comes to protecting brand standards and the integrity of your products’ printed packaging, marketers and brand owners must fully consider how the “free prepress” myth could impact brand integrity and your bottom line.

By believing that there is no cost for prepress, consumer products companies in Mexico, for example, are missing out on some big opportunities says Bill Farrisee, VP, Managing Director, Latin America. This commodity purchasing strategy, which was intended to save money actually costs more in the long run. And it prevents marketers and brand owners throughout Latin America from modernizing their packaging graphics management process. 

The reality is prepress is never free. You will be paying for it no matter what a vendor tells you. With over 60 years of helping the world’s most loved brands prepare their products for store shelves, we’ve observed problematic assumptions about the cost of prepress, which lead to big problems for marketers and the brands they manage. Things like: 

•    Package printing expertise not being seen as a requirement.
•    Marketers’ lack of control throughout the package printing process. 
•    Lower standards create lower expectations. 
•    Revisions are needed and standards are set by accident. 
•    The best price may not deliver consistent quality.
These challenges, common to many large consumer products companies, present serious consequences to the company’s package printing and to the brand as a whole. Let’s examine some of the effects of subscribing to the “no cost” for prepress myth.

“Bundled fees” mean marketers pay more.
This might not be much of a problem if a package prints only once and only at one printer. But what if that package prints twice or three times or 10 times? Then the costs of prepress are being paid for as part of the packaging price each time that package prints. So when costs are included in the price of the packaging, this often means the marketer is not saving at all. In fact, they’re paying many times over for prepress with potentially compromised quality because a benchmark standard was never properly established. 

Different printers, different results.
Consider what happens when package printing is moved from one supplier to another. The original printer probably won’t be happy that they’ve lost business to a competitor. How likely is it that they will send their prepress work to another printers? If anything it sent, it’s most likely the original artwork that was sent from their client – not the actual artwork that was used to print the package. Remember: the “final artwork” was modified to fit the particular situation at the original printer. The new printer receives the artwork and starts the entire prepress process over again. 

Who’s got the final artwork? 
The design and artwork that marketing approved from the designers will eventually be passed to purchasing and on to printers and the printer’s prepress suppliers. Suddenly marketing needs their current artwork. Where is it? It isn’t what the design firm produced because that was changed by Printer A. It isn’t Printer A’s prepress work because that was passed to Printer B when Printer A lost the business. And it isn’t at Printer B because they had to modify the design for their conditions, which are different form Printer A. The hard truth is that nobody has the final artwork that actually produced the packaging in the market! Or, even worse, there are multiple versions of the artwork, depending on how many suppliers were involved. Either way, you’re back at square one.

As you can see, the “no-cost” myth actually has very high cost consequences. And these costs far outweigh the perceived benefits of saving some money in the short-term. In order to optimize your packaging graphics management process and protect the quality of your branded materials, here are four things you must do:

1. Maintain design integrity.
Marketing departments already have budgets for the design work that is required for developing packaging graphics and images. It’s a natural extension of the design phase to assure that the design is executed all the way to the consumer the way it was intended to by the designers. It’s the details that are responsible for maintaining the integrity of the design so that the package communicates as powerfully as it can to consumers.

2. Develop a realistic budget.
In order for marketing to take over the complete management of the graphics reproduction for its packages, marketers must develop a budget that includes all the work that is necessary between the time the design firm is developing concepts to the time the job is printed. Once you acknowledge that prepress is never free, this becomes easier. Remember, prepress may be communicated to you as “no cost” and it may appear to be the lowest cost, but neither is true.

3. Involve the right groups.
A system that includes the CPG company or retailer, the designers and a packaging prepress company is the best solution. By bringing the three operations together, the quality of the brand image can be developed and maintained throughout the process. Each operation can have various responsibilities but the team approach has proven successful for many consumer products companies in the United States, Canada and Asia, as well as Latin America, where a few leading CPG companies have already adopted this process.

4. Let the experts help.
An experienced and specialized packaging prepress company brings unique value to the supply chain. The right packaging prepress company works with all the major packaging printing methods and packaging materials. It understands the print process limitations and can bring that information for the team during the design process so that the selected design can be reproduced effectively across a wide range of packaging styles and print methods.

Your brand deserves the very best. Learn more about how to overcome the complex logistics and outdated practices that are impeding brand integrity and keeping consumers from experiencing your products the way they should.