By Melissa Donovan
Adopting digital print into an organization, whether in their own facility or through a print provider, changes the way a business runs. The technology impacts new marketing channels, opening doors for the introduction of new products. Labels particularly benefit from this.
While analog technologies like flexography are still advantageous for longer runs of labels, brands with variations of one product might look to digital to focus on smaller runs of each type. If this works well, the adoption of digital creates a trickle effect, creating the opportunity for shorter runs, as small as one with even more personalization or customization depending on the request.
Transforming an Original
The Yankee Candle Company, Inc., with corporate headquarters in South Deerfield, MA, has been in business since 1969. The company is part of Newell Brands and employs thousands of people worldwide. It offers scented candles, home fragrances, auto fragrances, and home décor through a wholesale customer network of close to 35,000 store locations, with more than 500 company owned and operated retail stores.
Candles come in a variety of jar sizes and fragrance options. In an average month Yankee Candle produces almost 600,000 candles, each of which requires a polyurethane label. The company started testing digital print into its label production in 1998.
According to Dana Springfield, GM of consumer direct, Yankee Candle, the ability to print on demand and avoid plate charges contributed to the attractiveness of transferring its print processes to digital. The technology was finally at a point where it could offer high-quality output at an efficient pace. By 2006, digital was a significant print method in the production of the company’s candle labels.
Direct to Consumer
Also in 2012, in addition to its products offered in the store, Yankee Candle offered personalized votive candles for weddings, birthdays, and other events. The graphics were static—meaning customers could pick from a few select images, and then add text. In response to multiple requests, an employee in the customer service center suggested offering the option of adding photographs to these labels.
Yankee Candle researched digital printers that could match the quality of the labels found on candles in stores, unfortunately at that time, the cost was still too high to commit to a machine of that caliber. Farming out the work wasn’t a favorable alternative. “We didn’t want to outsource these types of requests, as the customers ordering them wanted them quickly,” explains Springfield.
Despite its concerns, the company decided to outsource. It found a printer in Tulsa, OK that was willing to work with them through a once-per-week batch program. Due to the nature of the turnaround, the candle manufacturer only took orders for these requests over the phone and didn’t heavily promote the service. It was up front that the orders would take two weeks and although the customers loved the quality, they became frustrated with how long it took to receive the final product.
Six years later, in 2014, the consumer direct group team revisited possible digital printers for consumer direct orders. This time it found Primera Technology, Inc., specifically the manufacturer’s CX1200 Digital Color Label Press and FX1200 Digital Finishing System. The output mimicked the production environment of the traditional candles at a reasonable cost.
The CX1200 features 1,200×1,200 dpi print resolution at print speeds of 16.25 feet per minute. According to Primera, a user can print up to 1,250 feet at a time, which equals a 12-inch diameter roll. Labels up to 8.5 inches wide are possible. The FX1200 is the ideal complement to the CX1200. The offline finisher offers laminating, die cutting, slitting, and rewinding of finished rolls.
Purchased in early 2015, the Primera CX1200 and FX1200 presented the team with a few challenges, like working with temperatures to get the ink adhesion on the label material just right. By Summer 2015 the product was ready to offer to customers and the company launched its online ordering platform in September 2015. Six Primera systems support Yankee Candle’s consumer direct business today.
The online tool is user friendly. Customers select one of the fragrances available—some are offered year round, whereas others are seasonal options. Then they upload a personal photo and add a unique message. The infrastructure is similar to what was set up back in 2012 for the personalized votive orders.
Personalized candles are offered in price breaks dependent on quantity—one to five, six to 11, 12 to 23, and over 24. Springfield has had orders come in as large as 5,000 for companies looking to gift a customized candle with their logo at a retreat or event. Sometimes orders in that range may get switched over to one of the digital presses at Yankee Candle’s print supplier—Dow Industries, located in Wilmington, MA. Here the labels are printed on an HP, Inc. Indigo.
To the Stores
Business exploded online in 2015 and Yankee Candle immediately began discussions on how to introduce on demand, small run, personalized printing into its retail store locations. Again, it would wait two years until the cost of the printers came down.
“The quality was there, but we needed to print on a poly-substrate, label-like material and still achieve a toner adherence similar to the labels found on the candles purchased in store—all cost effectively,” admits Springfield.
That breakthrough came in 2017, when it found the OKI Data Americas’ C532dn color printer. The device offers the flexibility to print on heavier and larger stocks with a scalable paper capacity up to 1,410 sheets. For Yankee Candle’s retail locations, blank labels—material with a white base and already coated—are mailed in 4×6-inch sheets and pre-die cut to the correct label size. A store employee places the label material in the printer tray and presses print.
In-store label personalization launched in April 2017. At press time, 90 percent of the Yankee Candle retail stores offer the service. Response has been favorable. “We are very pleased with both the sales and positive response from our customers. They are thrilled to be able to walk in with a gift idea and within minutes have a personal and unique gift,” shares Springfield.
Yankee Candle succeeded in implementing digital printed labels across its brand, starting at the top with its traditional candle offerings and allowing the benefits of digital to influence its consumer direct side online. From there, the company introduced personalized labels same day, in store and continues to look for new ways to use digital in its product offerings. “We are exploring other products where digital printing technology can apply and are excited about the opportunities to provide unique offerings to our customers,” concludes Springfield.
Aug2017, Industrial Print Magazine