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Applications: The New Face of Coppertone
Upfront consultation and planning by Schering-Plough and its packaging partners brought dramatic new packaging to the marketplace.By William Makely
Coppertone (Memphis) has been an iconic brand in the sun care product marketplace for more than 65 years. A leading brand in the category, it maintains that position by continually researching and developing new sun care products to meet the needs of all ages, lifestyles, and skin types. Simultaneously, Coppertone has been a leader in delivering its innovative products in convenient functional packaging, and is a firm believer that an attractive, contemporary package will deliver its beneficial products to a wider audience. To accomplish that goal, the brand has developed cooperative interactive relationships with its packaging partners.
In 2006, a cross-functional team from Coppertone, which is a business unit of Schering-Plough HealthCare Products Inc., met with its primary bottle designer and molder Silgan Plastics (Chesterfield, MO) and closure manufacturer Seaquist Closures (Mukwonago, WI). They began revising Coppertone’s packaging with an eye to modernizing both the functionality of Coppertone’s sunscreen containers and the projection of the Coppertone brand image to reflect the 21st-century quality of its products. That meeting brought together both marketing and technical people from all three companies in a conference room at Silgan Plastics’ commercial development center in Norcross, GA.
Present were Coppertone marketing personnel, as well as Schering-Plough packaging engineer Heidi Graham; Silgan Plastics marketing manager of personal care products Stacy Sheridan, account manager Caroline Budd, and package design engineer Laura Kent; and Seaquist Closures senior account manager Becky Hasselbeck and packaging valve specialist Darcy Wright.
“That two-day informational and brainstorming meeting laid the groundwork for the development of the new packaging,” says Budd.
The Coppertone marketing group began the meeting by emphasizing that Coppertone’s primary objectives were to modernize the packages’ shelf appeal and enhance their convenience.
The company wanted to give the packaging a contemporary look and offer better dispensing control. At the same time, they planned to make it slimmer and easier to hold and use, especially for consumers with smaller hands, to reinforce its appeal to women.
The existing package’s disc-top closure was vulnerable to accidental opening in a user’s purse or beach bag. Coppertone wanted to replace it with a closure that would make the product secure yet easy to use. It also wanted to allow the bottle to be inverted and ensure product was always immediately available.
Next, Silgan’s Stacy Sheridan reviewed the competitive bottles that were currently in the marketplace and showed samples of labeling and silk-screening options that were being used.
“Then the brainstorming began,” says Sheridan, “with two days of conceptual drawings on the white board, feedback from Coppertone, and generally a free exchange of design ideas.”
First Things First
Following the initial meeting, Silgan Plastics’ product designer Laura Kent took the team’s design ideas and created a range of computer-aided designs based on Coppertone’s objectives. She paid particular attention to making the bottle slimmer and easier to grip by adding a finger grip area (a feature specifically requested by Coppertone).
These 3-D designs were sent to Coppertone electronically, utilizing E-Drawing software that enables viewers to see a package design from any angle. Over the next few months, those initial shapes were reviewed, revised, and refined until several semifinalists were left.
Next, Kent made solid prototype models of the finalists using fused deposition modeling (FDM), a process that creates a full-scale model that designers, engineers, and customers can handle, evaluate, and even present to focus groups for their reaction.
The Sleeve Solution
What eventually became the final decorating solution for the new package—a full-body shrink-sleeve label—came into the mix at a later date.
Though the Coppertone marketing team from the beginning had wanted the new packaging to have strong shelf appeal and a contemporary look, it had not considered a shrink-sleeve label. After reviewing the FDM models with its operations team, Coppertone realized that the new bottle design would offer limited decoration area based on the available label application equipment. Coppertone needed more real estate for branding and dramatic shelf presence than a pressure-sensitive label could provide.
A shrink-sleeve option was explored to enhance shelf impact. To demonstrate the graphic impact, sleeves were printed digitally and applied by hand. Coppertone liked the result and chose to go with it.
“The biggest challenge we faced—that any manufacturer would face—was the full-body shrink sleeve,” points out Caroline Budd. “The application of a shrink sleeve over a blown snap bead was tricky, since the dimensional stability of the bead is extremely sensitive to the heat and moisture environmental factors of the shrink process.”
“But the sleeve is also a major success point of the package. It gives Coppertone a significant advantage over the competitors on the shelf.”
WS Packaging manufactures the sleeves in its Salem, OH, facility and ships them to Silgan Plastics’ Ottawa, OH, plant, where they are applied.
Topping the redesigned Coppertone bottle is a Seaquist Closures Large Gemini Snap-top closure. Its shape complements the slim shape of the new bottle. It snaps firmly closed when not in use, and it features a cleaning stub that clears product from the dispensing orifice as it closes.
It also provides controlled dispensing of the sunscreen lotion through a narrow orifice. Its flat top allows the bottle to be inverted, keeping product always near the closure for immediate use.
The new packaging was launched for this year’s sun care season.
William Makely is a freelance writer specializing in packaging machinery, materials, and industry trends.