Innovation in digital print is offering a wealth of opportunity…for challenger brands.

Though digital print hasn’t been as rapidly adopted as initially expected, the technology is still having a great impact on how brands behave and interact with consumers, opening up new opportunities for instant connection and gratification. Digital print enables brands to optimize time, energy and rewards and create more tailored experiences for their consumers by creating print that sits seamlessly within an integrated world.

Coke’s 2013 ‘Share a Coke’ campaign is one of the most well known examples of digital print used in a large-scale brand effort. Those infamous named bottles are back for a second summer, this time with over 1,000 popular consumer names replacing the Coke brand name and the opportunity for consumers to customize mini Coke cans at pop-up stops across the U.S. And the success of this initiative is a great indicator of how digital print could affect brand behaviour in the years to come.

Digital print offers enormous potential for all brands. It’s not just technology designed for the brand giants. In fact, right now, innovation in digital print is offering a wealth of opportunity for the smaller, challenger brands. Due to the prohibitive cost of large print runs, the smaller brands are actually the ones leading the way. Using digital print, they can be creative; they can experiment; they can iterate quickly.

Some of my favourite uses of digital print are actually within the craft and micro-brew community right now. Bonfire Brewing Co., for example, uses digital print to create specialized designs and frequently update their packs. Instead of printing runs in mass, they can use digital print to shrink-wrap blank cans as they go, altering the design with the season and the brew. Beer aside, the benefits of digital print for brands is obvious. Digital print can help reduce production time, material waste, can offer similar or comparable quality to more traditional print methods and, in smaller runs, can be quite cost effective. Digital print also gives brands the power to try new things, innovate and take more risks, changing the mindset from large scale print runs to shorter, more frequent runs which allows for more special, nimble packs on shelf. And, as evidenced by Coke, the real beauty of digital print is that it allows brands to create more bespoke design and campaigns, providing their consumers with tailored brand experiences.

It’s certain that digital print is not just a passing fad; it’s a valuable technological innovation with great power to impact on consumer behavior. With that in mind, the important thing is for brands to use the flexibility of digital print to create new and meaningful connections with their consumers. And until digital print becomes affordable on a larger scale, it affords a rare opportunity for challenger brands to lead the way. So for now, we’ve got our eyes on the little guys to create new and meaningful brand expressions for consumers. Icons, take note!

Originally published on The Dieline.