The right design and decorating process can transform an ordinary tube into a luxe package, help create a better shopping experience, or more clearly convey product benefits
Through the use of different design and decorating techniques, messages are conveyed to consumers about a brand. When a tube is decorated with certain design elements, it can convey information about a product’s benefits or formulation. Subtle color cues can also be used to help a product in a tube be thought of as a more premium item. Dispensing ease can also create consumer demand.
Using a surprising color in an innovative way can transform an ordinary tube, and reinforce a brand’s image. Design elements, when used in the right way, can help any new product stand apart from its competition on store shelves.
“It’s difficult to break through the clutter—especially in the cosmetic or oral care category,” says Nick McGreevy, partner at Swerve design agency in New York City. “But, the right color tube can help any product look sexy,” he adds.
Swerve designed the packaging for Miss Jessie’s hair care line, and one of the styling products is in a tube. The graphic design, including the logo and product descriptor band, were meant to be reminiscent of the world of expensive confectionary and liquor categories, according to the team at Swerve. They further explain that adding a bright shade of green helps convey its premium appeal, segment the range, and allow for future product extensions.
A Surprising Twist for Toothpaste
Theodent is a toothpaste brand that chose surprising colors to convey its enamel-building properties.
“When we were looking for packaging, I noticed how so many toothpaste tubes all looked the same. We expect so much more in every other facet of our lives—but for toothpaste, the design hasn’t been there,” says Arman Sadeghpour, CEO, Theodent. “Just about every brand is white, blue, or green. We needed to stand out,” he says.
Theodent toothpaste contains a cocoa extract as an alternative to fluoride. It has a subtle mint flavor, not chocolate, which one might think when looking at its chocolate brown tube. “We wanted to evoke a ‘rich’ look, and make sure customers made the connection between the brown color and cocoa extract that the toothpaste contains. We feel that the packaging conveys to consumers the fact that this toothpaste is new and different,” Sadeghpour explains.
Theodent 300, which is a more high-end product that is sold through dental offices and the company’s Web site, is packaged in a cream-colored tube. It is also toothpaste, but meant for use as an at-home treatment, since it contains more of the proprietary active ingredient called “Rennou.” Both tubes are decorated with a copper-colored foil hot-stamp decoration.
Theodent’s innovative custom-designed tubes are also a user-friendly design—a cap that pulls off, rather than twists—among other features. It was created and supplied by World Wide Packaging.
(See sidebar “Designing a different toothpaste tube” for more about this tube’s design.)
Tubes are often chosen because they are convenient and promote ease-of-use. When they are beautifully decorated using different printing processes or metallic colors, the one drawback is not being able to show the product inside. Stila Cosmetics uses innovative design elements to help make it easier for shoppers—and users—to see the color of the makeup inside its tubes.
“Professional makeup artists love Stila. Tubes are lighter than bottles, and easier for a makeup artist to carry in their kits, so we use them often,” says Jill Tomandl, vice president of Product Development, Package Design, and Innovation, at Stila Cosmetics. But Tomandl agrees that when a makeup artist is toting around several different shades of makeup—or even when shoppers are looking for the right color—an opaque colored tube is not ideal.
Stila recently repackaged its Sheer Color Tinted Moisturizer with SPF 20 in a tube with a clear window on the front. This window allows users to see the product inside. It’s a handy design feature that will make it easier for a makeup artist, or even the home user with lots of makeup, to find the right color quickly.
The plastic tube is supplied by Compax, and decorated using a 360° flood coat of 877 metallic silver silkscreen, and a second pass of black silkscreen for the copy, according to Tomandl.
“The window is created by knocking out the deco, down to the clear extruded material,” explains Tomandl. “It makes it easier for shoppers to find the correct shade in an open-sell environment. The tube is packaged in a Kraft carton, which also has a window,” she adds.
Stila’s OneStep PrimeColor lip, eye, and cheek color collection, in tubes supplied by PKG Group, solved this issue a little differently. Six different colors were precisely matched to the product shade, and the custom color was created in the top layer of the luxe foil layered tubes. Looking at the tube, shoppers, as well as users, immediately know what color is inside.
Tomlyn, a division of Vétoquinol USA, is another company that often thinks about how to use design features most effectively. The company markets pet products and recently launched three new gel supplements in tubes.
“The pet product market is competitive. When we chose our packaging, we considered how the tube would look standing up on its cap, and on store shelves,” says Peter Trevino, business unit manager, Tomlyn. Bright orange was chosen for this product
“We also designed the graphic to help consumers shop. Color-coded bars highlight product benefits,” he adds.
Tubes were also chosen for these products to help dispense the gel supplements more easily—and the
company even researched the appropriate size to fit into a dog or cat’s mouth.
“Giving a pet a pill—especially a cat—can be a daunting task. We wanted to make sure our product could be administered more easily, and putting a gel formulation in a tube achieves this,” says Trevino.
Suppliers’ New Innovations and Printing Capabilities
Thinking about user-friendly design features and the right graphics are all-important first steps. Next, it’s up to suppliers to turn brand owners’ visions into the packages that end up in stores.
“The brand’s presentation on the shelf, at the point-of-purchase, is so critically important to all of our customers. As a result, we have invested a lot in our decorating capabilities,” says Ted Sojourner, vice president, Tubes & Laminates, Americas at Essel Propack.
Bob Almer, director of sales at Intrapac, agrees that decorating capabilities are extremely important right now for a tube suppler. “There is a greater emphasis on creating more-innovative graphics, to make sure a tube will stand out in the retail environment,” he says.
Almer explains that as brands keep trying to differentiate and be noticed first by consumers on store shelves, designs are becoming more complex and demanding. And many suppliers are ready to take on any printing challenge. “Through the use of digital printing technologies, we no longer have to compromise the design for the print technology,” he adds.
In response to the demand by its customers, Intrapac Group has a new digital Indigo HP press. “It helps us achieve designs that are more than 8 colors, as well as respond to customers with smaller order quantities,” says Almer. Intrapac Group was recently acquired by CI Capital Partners and is relocating its manufacturing plant from New Jersey to Lawrenceburg, IN, to a brand new 80,000-sq-ft site.
Doug Jackson, market manager North America, at Albéa, also says that his customers are placing much more emphasis on decorating. “Every brand is trying to compete with graphics that are more visible on store shelves,” he says. Jackson shares a few tricks-of-the-trade: “Thanks to Pixel Graphics, UV white silk screen is applied and dried, on colored or natural tubes behind an image,” he explains. “This is a first step, and it becomes the ‘painter’s canvas.’ Bold and vibrant colors are now possible using flexographic inks, including spot colors or CMYK process colors, which are applied directly on top of the white silk screen.”
Albéa’s new tube, “Re-Flex,” looks “exceptional and brilliant” according to Jackson, especially when decorated with a 360° printing process. “Translucent inks printed on the shiny silver laminate provide brilliant metallic colors and effects,” he adds.
Sojourner predicts the demand for digital printing on tubes will continue to grow. “We will see a lot more digital printing in the future,” he says.
Essel Propack offers digital printing in up to 7 colors. “That’s 97% of the Pantone range, showing how much our decorating capabilities have grown,” Sojourner explains.
Many of Essel Propack’s customers have been using holographic substrates, as well as printing different background images on tubes. “Also, using a printing process to give a tube a different texture or feel is another way to differentiate,” Sojourner says.
James Alexander is now offering new printing capabilities. “Doing our own offset printing on our tubes has allowed us to shorten the lead time for our customers by 2 weeks,” says Carol Gamsby, director of sales, James Alexander.
The supplier also offers new tips that promote ease of use. “We just completed a mold for a new rectangular tip, which fits our plastic ampoule,” says Gamsby.
Ader Enterprises is one if its customers and recently chose James Alexander’s 5-ml polyethylene dropper tube for its “PetVision” Eye Drops. “We supply these dropper tubes in any Pantone color, translucent or opaque, and they can be printed with a 3-color process,” she explains. Ader uses a custom-blend low-density polyethylene tube.
Alfredo Paredes, president of Ader Enterprises, says the dropper tip on its tube has the right volumetric profile necessary for its eye drops. “We also like this tube because it stays hermetically sealed until it is used. The dropper tube is also compatible with our formulation, and is able to sustain gamma sterilization,” he explains.
Ruspak Corp., a supplier that has specialized in metal laminate tubes, now supplies, fills, and seals plastic tubes as well. The supplier has been working with a variety of customers that are marketing all types of products in its new plastic tubes, from pharmaceuticals and cosmetics to baseball glove oil.
“We have also had a lot of interest in specialized tube applications, such as applicator tips for lip gloss,” says Tim Brickle, president, Ruspak Corp.
Sometimes a decoration can cause issues for a supplier, or filler, but a test run will typically solve any challenges. Or, for a design agency, printing prototypes will ensure color accuracy.
“Six months ago, we filled a tube for one customer who did a brilliant see-through label, with many colors,” says Christopher White, CFO, The Filling Station.
“The challenge was to be able to seal through to the end. This tube was unusual, due to the number of different colors,” White explains. “We did a test before filling, but there were no issues.”
As a design agency, Swerve goes to extra lengths to ensure accuracy during printing. The team always makes sure their designs are able to be manufactured as envisioned. “There are never any surprises,” says Peter Johnson, partner at Swerve.
Johnson explains that they always test different colors on different materials, and have prototypes made. “We also go to stores to see how the final prototype looks on shelves under different lighting conditions, and next to the competition,” he says.
Taking these extra measures will help ensure that tubes continually offer heightened shelf appeal.
This article was written by freelance writer Marie Redding.