By Melissa Donovan
In business since 1947, Igloo began as a metalworking shop with the goal of transporting clean water to a worksite in what would be the first beverage cooler. The manufacturer quickly gained notoriety by producing functional plastic ice chests or coolers in the 1960s. As its website states, “Igloo products made the family outdoor recreation movement of the 20th century possible. Suddenly, taking your kids camping on the weekend became easy and cross country road trips became a summer vacation staple.”
Above: Igloo digitally prints licensed graphics on its classic Playmate coolers.
Today, with the help of 1,200 employees, the cooler manufacturer offers over 500 products sold directly and through hundreds of retailers worldwide. The company is based in a 1.8 million square foot, three building campus in Katy, TX. It proudly admits to not losing sight of its original goal, “to create products that enable the pursuit of happiness—however you define it. That’s why we’re still working hard every day to innovate, create, and make it easier for you to get out, work hard, and play even harder,” notes its website.
New Technology Achieves Same Goals
Igloo offers a range of hard and soft coolers or ice chests. Many of them require decorative graphics to some extent from basic Igloo branding to more elaborate collaborations. Common practices to achieve this include in-mold labeling, heat transfer, screen printing, pad printing, and laser etching.
Looking to expand its decorating capabilities, Igloo familiarized itself with digital printing. Brian Garofalow, VP, marketing and ecommerce, Igloo, explains that prior to owning a device, some of the company’s leading digital printing vendors had shared their capabilities with them. “We were interested in the technology for the ability to get quality work created quickly and at a low cost. The ability to print on demand helps us achieve time and budget goals,” he shares.
Realizing digital print’s potential, Igloo purchased its first digital printer several years ago and has added to the portfolio since. The technology is proprietary and each device is used for different business needs. These include communications materials—in-store signage and catalogs, multiple prototyping purposes, and product customization.
Other decorative technologies are still used, but the decision to print with a heat transfer over digital is based on the customer, intended use case, and economics, according to Garofalow.
For the team involved with running the digital printers in house, Garofalow admits they experienced a bit of a learning curve with the introduction of every new device. “Each piece of equipment is different as it relates to standard operating procedures, maintenance, and operation,” he says. However, as printers are added to the beverage cooler manufacturer’s facility, Garofalow finds that “the more practices become applicable from machine to machine.”
A direct result of building on prior knowledge is creating graphics and designs for jobs that the printers were initially not considered for. “We can run output of a printer through a plotter and customize graphics for a series of unique size and shape applications we had not initially set out to use one of our printers for,” explains Garofalow.
Igloo’s Playmate product line launched in 1971. The trademarked tent-top design offers ease in carrying, a push-button lid provides convenient one-handed operation, the lid swings open on either side for easy access, and the molded-in handle offers one-handed carrying capability. Referred to as “the original personal cooler,” it benefits from digital print technologies.
In 2019, Igloo took its Playmate line and running parallel with its heritage brand’s mottos and values, it created COOLaborations. Through this partnership, the company digitally prints licensed graphics from big names in pop culture such as Disney and Scooby Doo to artists like Andy Davis and Sam Larson on the classic cooler that everyone knows and loves.
Digital print enables special projects like the one launched in April 2020 between Igloo and professional basketball player Alex Caruso. They created a limited edition Playmate cooler—referred to as the Carushow—to benefit the CDC Foundation’s Coronavirus Response Fund. Decked out in purple and gold, 100 percent of the profits from the cooler were donated to provide personal protective equipment to the Houston Department of Health.
Making it More Personal
Igloo continues to build on its digital printing capabilities. As demand for certain product lines grows and distribution simultaneously expands, the manufacturer realizes that to support this it will need to add more digital printing equipment to the mix.
“I’m personally a big fan of digital printing. Its influence on manufacturing is significant, giving us the flexibility in process, ability to change output quickly, and deliver a more compelling product offering within time and budget constraints,” admits Garofalow.
For example, to make its personal cooler even more customizable for the consumer, Igloo enjoys working with digital printing capabilities to create capsule collections with big name brands and iconic characters to limited edition runs that benefit non-profit organizations. The technology enables the manufacturer to uphold its motto “live, work, and play.” IPM
Oct2020, Industrial Print Magazine