Sharing a Coke, using Israeli tech

Printing 800 million labels with 5,000 different names proved to be a major challenge for Coca-Cola — but printer technology developed in Israel could do the job

Coke bottles with Hebrew names (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Coke bottles with Hebrew names (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Israeli technology is powering a popular new campaign by Coca-Cola, both in Israel and across Europe. Popular names that appear on hundreds of millions of bottles of the soft drink are all being printed on equipment produced using technology developed by Israel’s Indigo (a division of HP).

The Coke campaign, called “Share a Coke,” was launched May 1, and has already proven to be one of the most popular by Coca-Cola in recent years, a company spokesperson said. The centerpieces of the campaign are the “individualized” bottles consumers can buy, with their names on the label. The bottles are not produced to order; rather, the company said, the bottles use a range of about 150 of the popular first names of residents of each country (mostly in the younger demographics) where the campaign has been running. There are also nicknames, as well as generic titles, like, husband, wife, boyfriend, etc.

The campaign is running in 32 countries, and by the time it ends after the summer, some 800 million “name bottles” will have been distributed, Coke said. Test campaigns ran in Australia (2011) and New Zealand (2012), and were considered big successes by Coke. The campaign includes not just personalized labels, but a whole web campaign, with consumers “sharing” a coke online, and even flashing the names of customers who register at a Coke website on digital billboards in New York’s Times Square.

But the label is the centerpiece of the campaign, and getting those labels printed proved to be a major challenge for Coke. Although the company has been printing labels by the billions for decades, this printing job was different, company officials said. Personalized label printing – meaning, changing the text or design of a label – is different from conventional label printing, in that it requires changes to the print run to be made “on the fly,” without shutting down label production and recalibrating the printing equipment to change the name on the label.

Coke generally handles its own label printing, industry reports quoted company officials as saying, with equipment that is set to print the “normal” labels of Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, and Coke Zero — Coke’s three main offerings. That’s only three labels. But in the new campaign, Coke needed to be able to turn out, on schedule, 150 or so separate labels, for 32 markets – or close to 5,000 different labels.

It was a major challenge for the company, said Marit Kroon, marketing manager of Coca-Cola Europe, and after much experimentation, the company decided to print all the labels on HP Indigo printers, developed in Israel by the Indigo division of HP.

“Packaging plays a critical role in the Share a Coca-Cola campaign because it connects the physical bottle with online communication channels, including social media and user-generated content sites,” said Kroon. “The ability to personalize such a high volume of labels with HP Indigo Digital Presses, while achieving the quality and consistency that Coca-Cola requires, opens up new possibilities for creative campaigns moving forward.” With the success of the European campaign and the assistance of Israeli-developed Indigo equipment, the company now has the confidence to grow the campaign to new shores, Kroon added.

The Indigo presses ran 24 hours per day for approximately three months to produce the 800 million-some labels, the largest job on record for the HP Indigo WS6000 series Digital Presses used for the job. Alon Bar Shani, HP Vice President and General Manager of HP Indigo said, “Indigo’s personalization technology provides a great opportunity for large companies like Coca-Cola to build better relations with their customers. Our digital printers have proven their capabilities for the long haul, providing a solution for such a major project, completing it in time, and maintaining Coca-Cola’s high standards.”

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