Wristband promotion is latest Coca-Cola innovation

By Andy Thomas | Read later

The Coca-Cola technical team behind Share-a-Coke and Bow Label have brought to market an innovation that allows festival goers to turn a label into a wristband.

The latest in a string of innovations from Coca-Cola sees music fans in Romania using labels as entry tickets to some of the country’s leading concert events.

Coca-Cola Romania and McCann Bucharest developed detachable Coca-Cola labels that double as music festival wristbands for some of the country’s main music events, including Transylvania’s ‘Untold’ festival. Fans scan a promotional barcode on the label with a smartphone app to see if their bottle is a valid ticket.

The multi-colored wristbands also have an after-life, tapping into the trend among Romanian teens to collect festival wristbands as fashionable souvenirs.

Coca-Cola Romania – led by Iuliana Nedelcu, senior brand manager, My Coke Romania and Moldova, and Daria Gonta, brand manager, Coca-Cola flavors – came up with the idea to turn Coca-Cola bottles into ‘tickets to summer experiences’.

The idea was given practical form by Coca-Cola’s packaging innovations manager Gregory Bentley, working closely with the engineers at Coca-Cola Romania. Bentley has previously driven a range of Coca-Cola label innovations including Share-a-Coke and Bow Label.

Bentley explains that Coca-Cola’s Packaging R&D team had been kicking around the concept of a label wristband for a few years, but the project gained momentum when Marco Beggiora, packaging manager for Coca-Cola Central and Eastern Europe, requested support for festival promotions in Romania.

‘Initially, the idea was for a fabric wristband incorporated into the label, but this proved too time consuming, expensive and complex to create,’ says Bentley. ‘That is how we started developing the wristband made from our label and hotmelt glue.’

Continues Bentley, ’This solution seems obvious now, but you have to understand nothing like this has been done before, and we needed to investigate many alternatives before deciding on the most viable.’

Lessons

Working closely with the engineering and operations teams at the local bottler, CCHBC Romania, and label supplier Rodata, the team quickly agreed on a printing method and conversion techniques, drawing lessons from the award-winning Bow Label project. Rodata had also worked with Bentley on the Share-A-Coke campaign.

As with the Share-a-Coke project, it was vital there should be no change in the bottler’s workflow – for example in the format of the wraparound label and the slip coefficient of the varnish. The key design concept was a perforation which goes part way through the label; the depth of that score is Rodata’s IP. ‘This meant we had to use a solid film,’ explains Bentley. ‘A cavitated film is not oriented, so you can’t put a tear in it.’

The wraparound label is printed in three colors front and back via a turnbar, with space left for a digitally printed barcode on  a white patch on the inside of the label. The labels were printed by Rodata on a 1.2m-wide gravure press then slit to 330mm rolls for digital printing on an HP Indigo WS6800 press.

‘Rodata already had an HP Indigo press in-house because of Share-A-Coke,’ says Bentley. ‘They wanted to do the whole operation in-house, which was much better. Sadly, the process is not in-line. We are still looking at ways to make it more efficient to produce – for example attaching a digital head to the gravure press.’

An advantage of the 645mm-wide repeat length on the gravure press was that multiple lanes of different designs could be printed, allowing Bentley to create a good mix without having to use digital print for the main print process.

On the bottling line, a simple but clever modification to the applicator saw the bottom cut off a pad on the glue drum. This means when the consumer tears off the strip there is glue on one end only, allowing it to be secured round the wrist. CCHBC Romania launched an initial trial within weeks of the initial concept, then made small modifications to the design and the project took off.

‘When I tried on the first sample for a quality check, the wristband stayed on for over three weeks in which time I ran the equivalent of nearly two marathons and travelled to Japan for a business trip,’ says Bentley.

In the first year of the promotion it was run from this one factory in two versions and three sizes. ‘The factory team were amazing,’ recalls Bentley. ‘I had worked with them on Bow Label, I knew them and they trusted me.’

Autonomy

The franchise structure of Coca-Cola gives each bottler a wide degree of autonomy. ‘It’s not part of our company and we have to build up these relationships. Along with Coca-Cola’s CEE packaging manager, they are the heroes of this project. They also had  a great relationship with Rodata and worked really hard on the project together even when we weren’t there.’

This excellent working relationship saw the project completed at unprecedented speed – just 6-8 months from start of discussions to commercial launch.

‘In terms of label technology, this was the easiest of all the projects we’ve done,’ concludes Bentley. ‘And it was made easier because we have built the know-how. We had learned the perforation techniques from Bow Label – including not using cavitated film – and we had learned to use digital from Share-A-Coke.’

One notable aspect of the project was its security element. Because each winning label is so valuable, people needed to be prevented from removing the labels in-store and scanning them to see if they had won. So the  consumer cannot enter the competition without entering a digitally printed code concealed in the cap. Also important, once the wristband is removed, all legal information is still readable on the label.

The project was a huge success, with Coca-Cola estimating that the wristband labels reached most teens in Romania.

Concludes Bentley: ‘My job is to scale this globally. I have produced a tool kit for all projects I have done and they are on the system on the Coca-Cola Cloud, so anyone in Coke globally can activate those campaigns.’

*Photography by Hannah Payne