What is Variable Data Printing & How Is It Beneficial For Customer Engagement?

Of the many challenges facing new, up-and-coming CPG brands, standing out from the crowd to avoid being a commodity is one of the top concerns.

From focusing on clean, organic ingredients, to experimenting with unique flavors and new markets, you’re always looking for an edge.

Variable Data Printing can be another tool in your box of differentiation strategies, thanks to the benefits of modern digital printing technology and the beautiful designs you can apply to flexible packaging.

Variable Data Printing, or VDP: The Power and Possibilities

Unlike conventional printing methods, VDP doesn’t churn out identical outputs. Instead, it offers the power to individualize each package. This personal touch transforms an ordinary package into a targeted, memorable experience.

And it also provides unique authentication and traceability capabilities to cater to consumers’ growing demand for transparency and social & environmental responsibility from their favorite brands.

In the flexible packaging industry, this means more than just aesthetic appeal. It’s about elevating brand interaction, enhancing traceability, and creating packages that resonate with specific audiences. 

Imagine a snack pouch that changes its design with every batch, or a package that displays nutritional information based on regional preferences – that’s the power of VDP in flexible packaging.

The implications are vast. In a market flooded with choices, personalized flexible packaging stands out, capturing attention and fostering brand loyalty. 

VDP isn’t just the future; it’s the present tool for brands aiming to create a lasting impression in a digitally-driven world.

Definition and Basics of VDP

Variable Data Printing (VDP) is a form of digital printing that allows elements like text, graphics, and images to change from one printed piece to the next without stopping or slowing down the printing process. 

It leverages technology to individualize print jobs in a manner that traditional print methods can’t.

In traditional printing, a static design is applied uniformly across all prints. Whether you’re printing 100 or 10,000 copies, each one will be identical. VDP shifts this paradigm. 

While the general design remains consistent, specific elements can vary. For instance, a brand could print 10,000 packages, each with a different customer name, graphic, or personalized message. 

What enables this variation? The answer lies in the technology. VDP is driven by database-driven print files and digital printing equipment. Before the print job starts, a database containing the variable information (like names, codes, or images) is prepared. 

Software then integrates this database with the print design, instructing the printer on what data to pull for each print. This seamless integration allows for rapid, on-the-fly changes during the printing process.

In essence, VDP marries data with design, making each printed piece unique. This not only offers unprecedented customization capabilities but also introduces efficiency, reducing waste by allowing for targeted and specific print runs.

Benefits of VDP for Customer Engagement

1. Personalization

Personalization is at the forefront of VDP’s allure. By crafting unique, tailored content, businesses can make consumers feel individually acknowledged. Instead of receiving a generic package or message, they get something crafted seemingly just for them.

Think about what Coke did with the personalized names on each can, for example.

2. Unique Design Variations

Diverse design solutions exist that allow each package to showcase a distinct design, providing a one-of-a-kind experience for the consumer. 

The mosaic technique utilizes a single foundational pattern (or file). This pattern is then algorithmically altered – through rotation, scaling, and color transposition – to generate a unique design for every package. 

A testament to this technology’s potential is seen in our collaboration with Skratch Labs, a nutritional supplement brand based in Boulder. Together, we employed the HP Mosaic technology to craft 10,000 distinctive pouches in honor of the EF Education First Cycling Team’s participation in The Tour. Dive deeper into this collaboration by reading the complete story here.

3. Enhanced Brand Loyalty

A direct result of this heightened engagement is enhanced brand loyalty. VDP helps in fostering a deeper connection between brands and consumers. Personalized experiences often translate into memorable ones, ensuring customers return time and again.

Application in the Flexible Packaging Industry

Marrying VDP with flexible packaging is a contemporary innovation. VDP introduces a level of individualization, making the already versatile flexible packaging even more tailored to specific customer segments or even individual consumers.

  • Personalized Campaigns: With VDP, brands can roll out personalized campaigns directly on the packaging. A chocolate brand, for example, might release limited-edition wrappers with popular names. 
  • Traceability: Traceability is another benefit, with serialized QR codes which can aid in supply chain tracking.
  • Variable Imagery: Variable imagery, like the Skratch Labs mosaic project,  lets brands alter graphics, such as changing designs for a festive season. 
  • Regional Customizations: If you want to modify information or designs based on local preferences or languages, VDP allows you to do that easily.

However, integrating VDP with flexible packaging isn’t without challenges. The primary concern is ensuring print quality and consistency on varying materials.

The cost implications of using VDP on large scales are another concern, along with the need for sophisticated tech infrastructure can be barriers for smaller businesses.

Leveraging VDP for Enhanced Customer Engagement

Interactive packaging takes center stage in the modern age. Through VDP, QR codes can be uniquely printed on each package, linking consumers to personalized offers, video content, or even Augmented Reality experiences. This not only dazzles the consumer but also bridges the gap between physical and digital brand interactions.

Limited editions and collectibles become feasible with VDP. Brands can introduce short-run designs or messages that create a sense of exclusivity, driving consumers to make repeat purchases and share their finds, thus amplifying word-of-mouth marketing.

With user-driven customization, brands hand the reins over to consumers. Imagine allowing customers to design their packaging or choose the graphics they want. VDP makes such collaborative brand-consumer initiatives possible, deepening the brand’s relationship with its audience.

Storytelling and educational content find a new medium with VDP. Brands can rotate narratives, facts, or stories on their packaging, turning every purchase into an enlightening experience and adding value beyond the product itself.

By integrating loyalty and rewards programs with VDP, brands can print unique codes or offers, incentivizing consumers to return, engage, and potentially earn rewards.

Lastly, regional and cultural customization enhances relatability. A brand can alter messages, designs, or even languages based on where the product is sold, ensuring it resonates deeply within each community or culture.


The transformative power of Variable Data Printing (VDP) in the realm of customer engagement is undeniable. As we’ve journeyed through its nuances, it’s clear that VDP stands as a beacon of innovation, promising brands a level of interaction with consumers that transcends traditional methods. 

By personalizing and tailoring content down to individual preferences, VDP elevates the very essence of brand messaging, ensuring it resonates more deeply and meaningfully.

Beyond its present implications, the future of VDP is replete with potential. As technology continues to evolve, so too will the capabilities of VDP. 

We can anticipate even more seamless integrations, where real-time data from digital interactions can be translated into print, offering a dynamic, responsive brand experience. With augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and other technological advancements becoming intertwined with VDP, the horizon promises a blend of the tangible and digital like never before.

VDP is not just a tool; it’s a paradigm shift in how brands and customers relate. In an era where genuine connections are coveted, VDP provides the bridge between impersonal mass marketing and personalized brand experiences. 

As brands venture further into this territory, they will not only redefine customer engagement but also solidify their place in the hearts and minds of consumers for the foreseeable future.