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Christmas Seasonals: Packaging Enhancement & Gift Value

Tobias Kredel
8 min readSep 24, 2020


♦ Strategic Packaging Insights ♦

This is the one time of the year when you can find all different ways to have gold on a folding box in the same corner of the same supermarket. Now you have the chance to collect some great samples for your own archive. Compare the different effects of foil lamination and application of cold foil or hot foil (maybe even with micro-embossing) with acrylic (anilox), offset or gravure gold printing.

Now is the time of the year to buy finishing samples!

If you are planning to work on Christmas Seasonals, you are saving these Artwork & Enhancement samples for later, of course. When are these packs made? The structural development should have been done some time the year before (probably started in summer, when there is no chance to get samples) — it had to be finalised and approved before the artwork could be done. The artwork (including the definition of finishing effects), might have been done around Easter (or rather re-used and updated around Easter) and the printing and finishing in summer. Folding box converters who specialise in high-quality finishing have their high season then. The rest of the year, they are often struggling to get enough jobs in Limited Editions, Travel Retail Editions, Cosmetics & Fragrances and Spirits or Tobacco.

Enhancements, Fancy Shapes and Structural Features

There are also all kinds of other enhancements, like ribbons, bows and name tags that mark a packaging as gift packaging. And there are fancy shapes and structural features, usually right for the season with trees, stars and Santa Claus all over the place. If you are wondering why these special shapes only seem to be possible for Seasonals: most of the packs that you see on secondary displays at this time have been hand-packed. This means that pre-glued cut-outs are folded, filled and closed manually — and with such a low Production Efficiency, this is much more expensive than machine packing. And these fancy shapes usually also do not have a very good Material Efficiency — they are using much more material to encase the same volume compared to a standard pack. But this is the time of the year when shaped cartons with tree or star contours but very little product content can be sold at ridiculously high prices.

This all seems to be a little out of balance. Out of season, the same products have not been worth the little investment required for a simple matt / gloss varnish combination or a better gold effect than offset can deliver (or are even using a so-called CMYK ‘simulation’ of gold). Now it looks like there is something like an arms race going on to achieve the highest Luxury Impression and Gift Value. All kinds of finishing effects are used, decreasing both Production Efficiency and Material Efficiency at the converter. We can now also witness all levels of quality and sophistication, since really everybody needs to have maximum finishing effects for Christmas, even if they cannot afford a good printer or do not have the right brand for it. And it does not look like there is a lot of strategy behind this, since nobody is standing out with their effects any more. Everybody is just swimming with the rest of the flashy, sparkling swarm.

A Christmas Gift Shopper’s Mind

When looking for a Christmas gift, a shopper’s mind works completely different compared to a normal shopping tour. At Christmas, the Gift Value of a pack is more important than the actual product content while the actual price seems to be of minor interest, at least as long as it is below 10.- EUR or below 5.- EUR for a pack that is emptied in one go.

This has several reasons:

  • Christmas shoppers usually have to cover a lot of presentees for this one occasion, so the product selection time per presentee is very limited. A clear code in Artwork & Enhancement telling the shopper ‘Christmas’ and ‘Gift Value’ can let a pack wander into a basket without even a glance at the price tag.
  • For the same reason of limited time for many presentees, the willingness to accept branded gift wrap and name tags is much higher than it would be for a ‘real’ present (‘really’ coming from the heart). Being ready-to-give can be key as well when it comes to triggering an unreflected purchase decision.
  • The gustatory taste preferences of many presentees are unknown — for these subjects, the outer presentation is even more important. As actual products, low-risk mass market brands are chosen. In Germany, this must be a very profitable large chunk for Ferrero and Lindt especially.
  • People are spending loads of money at Christmas and even very cost-sensitive people seem to be just working from a different budget now. People know that they are paying for the packaging and they accept it. After all, packed and wrapped gifts are an integral part of Christmas. We should not forget that at Christmas, people are also spending quite some money for packaging materials themselves. Very often, they are using wrapping paper that is enhanced with metallic finishing effects, also not caring a lot about Material Efficiency — as long as the right Luxury Impression is achieved .
Image by Roberto Nickson

Gift Value and Target Group

Depending on the age group, there is obviously a difference in what makes a gift presentable. For kids, presents most often are toys of some kind, so it is very reasonable to have a good Play Value along with the Gift Value. Both can come from a special shape or Artwork & Enhancement, connected to Christmas. Some brands create happy memories here that can remain for the rest of a lifetime.

Festive consumer involvement can further be generated by offering small treats that also act as Christmas tree decorations (these little things, by the way, contentwise mark the far end of value for money). For kids, however, who are still learning all this, it is of highest importance that the gifts look right for the season — so that the game is played in the right way. And this also for them includes quite some — especially metallic — finishing effects. As everything at Christmas is somehow glistening — candles, tinsel, ribbons, wrapping paper…

If it looks like a Christmas gift, it is a Christmas gift.

Grown-ups still function similar to some degree, but here, the quality of the product itself and the sophistication of the overall gift (maybe even a personal connection or story) is more important. And also the Luxury Impression that is achieved through Artwork & Enhancement, of course. A pack of totally standard mass-market brand chocolates will not be frowned upon if they are packed as a richly finished Christmas Edition. You take what you get…

Once learned, never forgotten. The glittering and sparkling of metallic hot foil, the flash of high gloss varnish, the special packaging formats and features — in our minds, they all have a connection to reward and getting gifts from friends and family. As a marketer, you can profit from this by using the right codes on your own product packaging to achieve a great Gift Value and Luxury Impression. And — good news — you can do this all year long, even if your product is not primarily marketed as a gift.

Why not use more finishing effects all year long?

When it comes to sophistication and individuality for a presentee you really know (and like), it can be better to choose something that is not so very ‘Christmassy’ — but still very giftworthy, of course. Maybe the whole category of non-seasonal Gifting Editions deserves more attention — and those packs can also be equipped with seasonal add-ons like an additional panel or bow & ribbon. Most of the year, it is hard to find classy pre-gift-wrapped praliné assortments. But are all these unwrapped packs really bought by people who do not wrap them and give them as a present but rather eat the content themselves? I do not want to believe that, even if I assume they are sharing…

What I would really like to achieve is to inspire You to use some more finishing effects on non-seasonal products. Packaging is the superior marketing tool and deserves a lot more investment than it currently gets. I would also like to add that a lot can be done with coatings alone, including good metallic effects.

If You would like to learn more about Coatings and what Coating is right for what Category and End-Use, contact ACTEGA for a Coating Wheel° Set.

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