Card Packaging: It’s All About the Brand

By Jennifer Kohlhepp, ICMA, Managing Editor

Card packaging is often thought of in the traditional sense—to make sure the card is protected in transit and on display, and also shielded from theft and fraud. However, the use of card packaging has been evolving as issuers realize their brand is a story unfolding across all customer touch points.

Whether the issuer is a small retailer, hotel chain, amusement park or secure institution, those issuing gift cards, access control cards, ID cards, membership cards, security badges and the like are all realizing their cards and card packaging are extensions of their company’s branding and they want to impress their users.

“The packaging is very often the first impression. Being involved up front, knowing what the goals are and a bit about the competitive space, allows us to share options that you may not know exist,” Kristin Kraus, marketing manager, Information Packaging, said. “With so many years in the industry, there are a lot of firsts. Why not engage suppliers directly to take advantage of that expertise? You end up with a much happier client, create a unified impression and can deliver something that looks more valuable than it costs. We continue to innovate—that’s the fun part.”

When card manufacturers and card packaging providers work together to create customer confidence, customers realize they can add value by connecting the packaging to the product. “From a marketing standpoint, it should all be considered as one,” Kraus said. “I think if you asked the marketing department what they would like to see, I believe they would overwhelmingly want a unified view of the card and packaging experience. Brands may be missing out on simple creative options to make them stand out from their competition.”

“Many issuers today want the design of their cards and packaging to connect with what their brand looks like online. Issuers want card users to experience an extension of their brand when using their cards and they want that experience to be unique. We’re using embossing, debossing, foil and lots of uses of unique stocks,” Kraus said. “Depending on the brand, it can range from a bright neon stock for Nike, to something far more subtle or elegant like packaging for Bryan Anthony. Simplicity is a big trend. But that doesn’t mean they are not thinking through the details. They’re crafting a clean uncluttered look that connects with their brand.”

Despite the current emphasis on carrying issuers’ brands throughout card packaging design, card packaging companies still maintain a steadfast focus on providing card security and protection.

“Major security organizations continue to keep a close eye on card security and skimming,” Kraus said, adding “that’s why we developed ArmorShield®, a proprietary alloy-based Tyvek® material that guards against skimming and unauthorized access of contactless cards.”

Innovative card design elements don’t necessarily have to come with the cost of purchasing new equipment. Accessories can be added to equipment already in-house and there are many ways to get current equipment “to do new tricks” by using different materials and being inventive. Packaging companies are always discovering different gluing, folding, embossing and die-cut techniques, as well as new ways to present a card issuer’s information on the card packaging. “Customers have always come to us for unique things they can’t do,” said Dave Young, vice president of sales, Information Packaging. “We brainstorm with them and test things until we get it just right.”

“It’s all about that first impression. We work hard to make the final product stand out,” Kraus said. “We look at what’s important to the audience and make sure we know the demographic. It’s those little details that will delight and surprise—or reassure—and carry that through the packaging.”

Kraus hopes the trend toward manufacturers and packaging suppliers working together gains more steam. “As a marketer, I can’t fathom not looking at this as a unified package,” she said. “We really want to make sure the customer hears all of the great, creative options available to them.”

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