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Lessons in sharing from Coca-Cola

The Coca-Cola customization story which leads this issue of Labels & Labeling is a supreme example of the possibilities of networked collaboration on the widest scale.

The ability to bring together a network of eight digital label converters and 10 conventional label converters across Europe to participate in a complex project under conditions of total secrecy shows a very useful model for future brand projects. The result was a highly impactful promotional campaign where consumers could choose bottles with their own or their friends and families’ names in 30 countries across the continent.

Significant challenges had to be overcome.

Firstly, a workflow had to be developed whereby Coca-Cola’s existing label converters – using wide web CI flexo and gravure presses – could leave a panel on the labels which would be overprinted by HP WS6600 digital presses. Labels would have to be slit down to the correct widths for the narrow web press, then sent back to the wide web converters for final inspection, slitting and delivery to the Coca-Cola bottlers dotted around Europe.

This in itself introduced issues of timing, since the digital print would take months longer to produce than the conventional print. All these logistics were managed by Peter Overbeek, managing director at Eshuis, using a specially developed web tool which tracked everything from the delivery of files for platemaking and the digital press RIP, to the final point of delivery, and all to a punishing schedule.

The second major networking challenge was to co-ordinate the key Coca-Cola red color between conventional and digital presses and to ensure the digital presses in eight countries remained properly calibrated across three shifts. This was achieved by making the HP-delivered special color the reference point for the whole project and by developing online calibration and maintenance protocols for the digital presses – a first for HP in the industrial print market on this scale.

All this was achieved due to the vision and hard work of the Coca-Cola Company marketing team, under Marit Kroon, and technical team led by Gregory Bentley, whose stories you can read in this edition.

Read more on the printing of the labels for the Coca-Cola “Share…” campaign here, or in Labels & Labeling issue #3, 2013.


Andy Thomas is strategic director of Labels & Labeling.

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