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Personalisation with purpose: Why personalised packaging needs to move beyond names

Packaging Solutions

Richard Askam, FESPA’s personalisation ambassador explains.

Since Coca-Cola’s Share-a-Coke campaign put consumers’ names on cans and bottles more than ten years ago, personalisation has largely become stuck on just that – a name on a product. That campaign showed the packaging industry what was possible and sparked interest in personalisation but, since then, the industry seems to have stalled at what should have been the jumping off point for the next evolution in packaging.

Don’t ask how; ask why?

As a brand owner, the question should no longer be about whether you can personalise something. The technology is there and has been for some time. Personalisation in packaging is enabled by digital print, a technology that has grown dramatically over the past 15 years and continues to do so. While this growth is being driven partially by shifts toward lower inventories and just in time production, it is increasingly also being guided by the variable printing capabilities that allow versioning, customisation and personalisation in packaging.

We have already reached the point at which you can personalise packaging to the nth degree if you wish to. However, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Personalisation needs to have a purpose, so the question you should be asking is not whether you can personalise, but rather what story you want the packaging to tell about the brand, the product or the customer themselves. The answer to that question should, in turn, be what dictates the personalisation tactics you deploy.

Going beyond hello

Personalisation is impactful because it makes an emotional connection. Yet, while someone’s name may be an identifier, it really is one of the least personal and emotive things about them. This is why brands and retailers need to move beyond names. While some campaigns enabling people to put names or images on bottles and boxes may still have value from a brand awareness point of view, or even as an additional revenue stream in the form of personalised gifts, real engagement demands personalisation that uses more insight into the customer’s preferences or identity.

Human beings are hardwired for ego, and personalisation plays into that by demonstrating a company’s recognition of our individuality. By using their understanding of their customers – from specific customer information and demographics through to buying behaviour and motivations for purchase – brands can deploy surprise and delight with personalised packaging that taps into customers’ desire to feel special.

Create memorable experiences

At a time when many marketers are having to rethink their approach to customer data and when consumers are growing increasingly cynical about what data they share, packaging presents an opportunity to use understanding of customers in a way that they are more likely to be receptive to – by adding a personal touch to a purchase they have already made.

The unboxing experience can be an opportunity to validate the customer’s purchase decision and begin to build loyalty. By adding personalisation, brands and retailers can enhance this further by turning this experience into an emotional touchpoint on the customer experience journey. Research shows that consumers are more receptive to personalisation in the latter stages of the customer lifecycle. As a result, personalised packaging may go much further toward engendering loyalty and building long term customer relationships than investments in personalisation at the point of customer acquisition.

Make it premium with personalisation

Good packaging tells a story about the brand before it has even been opened, so it is no surprise that luxury packaging is forecast to grow at around 5.5% (CAGR) over the next decade. The use of personalisation and customisation to make an emotional connection with consumers is one of the drivers of this growth.

Personalised gifts have been particularly successful, with chocolate and premium alcohol brands, for example, offering customisation options ranging from messages on packaging right through to the products inside. The beauty, fragrance and jewellery sectors are also increasingly looking for ways to use packaging to enhance and add a personal touch to the overall brand experience – from engraved perfume bottles to personalised foiling on jewellery boxes.

Stand out with minimalism

Alongside the many motivators for making packaging part of the personalised customer experience, another trend increasing personalisation’s appeal is the shift toward more minimalist and environmentally friendly packaging. When less is more, packaging needs to work even harder to stand out, and personalisation can be an impactful way to achieve this.

The opportunities in personalised packaging are plentiful but aren’t necessarily joined up yet. Personalisation Experience, co-located with FESPA Global Print Expo 2023 (Munich, 23 to 26 May 2023), aims to address this. By bringing together creative agencies, brand owners and retailers with packaging and print businesses, the event will catalyse conversations and establish the connections businesses need to capitalise on the personalisation opportunity. With a line up that includes pioneers in personalised packaging, retail experts and consumer behaviourists, the Personalisation Experience conference will provide valuable insight into the future of personalisation and inspire delegates with ideas and applications they hadn’t even imagined were possible.


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