Packaging can open doors at the point of sale. To allow customers to really 'feel' the premium product line of exclusive hosiery and shapewear brand ITEM m6 from high-tech German manufacturer medi, the rlc | packaging group developed an ingenious concept. The silky touch of Sappi's bright white carton material Algro Design and a practical click closure make the premium quality of the contents clear from the outside. The result: an award-winning packaging solution!
With its audible click closure and silky touch, the elegant packaging concept for premium legwear from Bayreuth-based German manufacturer medi doesn't just appeal to customers in stores: it has also won over two important award committees. At this year's Red Dot Design Award gala, the packaging for the exclusive hosiery and shapewear brand ITEM m6 was crowned a winner. And at the Pro Carton ECMA Awards 2015, the resealable packaging with the soft touch was a finalist in the non-food category.
In both visual and tactile terms, the packaging makes an instant impression, conveying the qualities of the product inside. Products for women are packaged in brilliant white – for which Sappi's bright white carton material Algro Design, with a weight of 350 gs/m2, was chosen – while men's products catch the eye in intense black. In both cases, high ink coverage is achieved with UV printing. Combined with a soft-touch coating, this creates a silky surface finish that reflects the comfort of the products when worn.
Awakening curiosity about the product
German company medi is one of the leading manufacturers of medical aids, primarily known for its compression garments, braces and orthopaedic supports. Four years ago, the manufacturer launched its first fashion brand under the name ITEM m6. The label combines stylish, elegant hosiery for women and men with the company's expertise in compression technology, ensuring comfort for hard-working legs on the job, at events or while travelling.
medi's criterion for the new packaging solution was clear: it had to show the customer exactly what they were getting. This might sound easy at first glance, but on closer inspection it's a challenging task. The packaging not only had to make the customer curious about the product, but it also needed to help them understand what they were holding. It had to convey the accurately defined compression effect of the socks and tights, achieved by a specially developed high-tech form-fit thread. In addition to providing a comfortable fit around the leg, the hosiery also stimulates circulation.
Crucial to the design, the packaging is not conventionally shrink-wrapped but can be opened like a book. This allows the customer to examine the product in the store and easily close the packaging again with the optimised resealable closure. The side closure audibly 'clicks' to indicate that the carton is resealed without causing any damage to the packaging or the product. "The resealable closure was adapted from a confectionery design," explains Andreas Brohm, sales manager at LEUNISMAN, the beauty and healthcare division of rlc | packaging group in Hannover. The click fastening that allows the ITEM m6 box to be fully opened and closed over and over again was originally developed for rlc's 'to go' packaging ZetKLIK, which is primarily used for candies.
The ITEM m6 packaging also features PET windows on the front and back to reveal the insert inside the box, which varies depending on the type of product. The smaller packaging variants also have a PET window insert with a hanger that can be slid outwards if required. This allows the product to be hung up rather than presented standing up at the POS.
The perfect material for the job
The choice of carton material shows how a smooth, bright white surface, flexural rigidity, protective functions and deformability impact the finished result. Algro Design from Sappi is one of the most popular coated carton types on the market. The product range impresses with its extreme whiteness, consistent surface finish, very high light resistance and a silky smooth touch. It is also very easy to process using standard finishing techniques. Brohm confirms, "First you have the unsurpassed whiteness of Algro Design. This gives the white packaging its exceptional brilliance. The click closure shows the flexibility and strength of the material. It can be opened and closed numerous times without losing its tension."
For the white packaging, Algro Design sheets were carefully printed using a UV printing process: in silver and double black for the text and graphic elements. The soft-touch UV coating, giving the box its silky-smooth feel and protecting it from scratches, was applied over the entire surface. After the sheets were die-cut, the die-cut PET window films, produced at the same time, were joined using a special pick-and-place process at the rlc factory in Switzerland. Because the windows on the front are printed and hot foil-embossed, this method is the best choice to avoid damaging the previously finished lid of the packaging during assembly.
Teamwork: the recipe for success
The packaging concept and design were developed in close collaboration between Leo Burnett in Berlin and rlc | packaging group in Hannover. "Because of our complete system approach and the wide range of technologies available to us, we were able to develop the optimum packaging solution for ITEM m6 – from the first design drafts to printing, the client gets everything they need from one provider," Brohm explains.
The individual packaging parts are manufactured at LEUNISMAN in Hannover (Germany) and LIMMATDRUCK | ZEILER in Spreitenbach (Switzerland) before being supplied to Bayreuth for assembly. Here, the folding boxes for ITEM m6 are assembled by employees at a workshop for people with disabilities run by a social welfare organisation in Bayreuth. The inserts for the many different colours and materials are then digitally printed by medi on an on-demand basis and inserted, together with the products, into the folding box, complete with windows. Each product is illustrated in the relevant colour on the back of the packaging, so the consumer can see the contents at a glance.
Packaging as brand ambassador
The resealable closure was a key requirement for the ITEM m6 packaging . First it was necessary to design the optimum closure mechanism. It needed to be easy to operate and add value to the packaging. Secondly, it was necessary to find a carton material that not only offered brilliant whiteness but also had sufficient rigidity and bending characteristics to withstand frequent opening and closing without damage. The choice of Sappi's bright white carton material for the women's range was the obvious one for Leo Burnett and rlc | packaging group.
"The desire to find new solutions was foremost, and everyone involved in developing and creating the packaging was inspired by it," says Brohm, describing the enthusiasm for the project among the team, made up of professionals from all areas of the company. The result is a unique, attractive, functional and deservedly award-winning packaging solution that engages the senses. In practice, it has significantly exceeded sales forecasts. It conveys the technology and comfort of the product with packaging that is more than simply a protective box but rather, a multisensory complete presentation, giving pleasure to the consumer even before the purchase is made.