They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but the fact is that we often do. So what does your laboratory's packaging say about the work that's inside? While a plain brown box doesn't mean your crown is any less esthetic or that it won't fit properly, attractive packaging is your chance to make a good first impression and present a professional, consistent image to your dentist-clients.
"Hopefully, our packaging tells a dentist that our laboratory is different than any other lab he's used before. It sets him up to expect something better," says Richard Willes, owner of Utah Valley Dental Lab, Provo, Utah.
Paul Vena agrees that a case box's number-one objective is to stand out. "When we designed our new packaging, we thought about the fact that the average dentist uses three or four labs. If four lab boxes are sitting on his shelf waiting for pickup, we wanted ours to be the best-looking one there," says Vena, operations manager of Distinctive Dental Studio, Ltd., Naperville, Illinois.
Does your packaging need a lift? Here are some suggestions:
Keep it consistent. The look of your packaging should tie into that of your other printed materials. This not only makes your box instantly recognizable, but it reinforces your laboratory 'brand' every time a case arrives at a client's office. "We did a new image makeover in 1999 and redesigned our case boxes so they would match everything from our prescription pads to the logo on our building," says Carol Murphy, marketing manager, O'Brien Dental Lab, Corvallis, Oregon. "It adds to the momentum of our other marketing efforts."
Get design input. Consider enlisting the services of a graphic designer or getting design help from the company from which you're ordering the boxes. And then be patient. "Take your time doing the design work to ensure you get what you want," says Vena. "And once you have some ideas, show as many people as possible--your technicians, a few clients, even family members--to get some new perspectives." Vena's box company gave him a three-dimensional proof--a plain box with cutouts of the artwork affixed to it--so he could give others a clear picture of the final product before printing.
Use color. If four-color printing is cost-prohibitive, consider two-color, which will help add some pizazz to a plain white box. Keep in mind that buying in larger quantities can bring down your per-unit price and may make color more affordable. For example, when Distinctive Dental Studio, Ltd. decided to print four-color boxes, Vena discovered that ordering 1,000 would cost $2.23 per box, but increasing the quantity to 5,000 brought the price down to 90 cents each.
Highlight special services/products. Utah Valley Dental Lab uses its over-sized, foam-padded, four-color case boxes exclusively for its high-end cosmetic cases. While the boxes cost $5 to $6 each to print, Willes says it's important because of the price that kind of work commands. "When we send a case back to a customer with an invoice for several thousand dollars, it needs to be in a box that matches the type of product that's inside. Otherwise, it's equivalent to buying an expensive piece of jewelry and having it presented to you in a paper bag."
Another reason to have boxes created for a particular type of case is to promote that product's brand. For example, O'Brien Dental Lab designed special case boxes for its proprietary Thermo-Splint product line. "We've worked hard to create awareness of the Thermo-Splint brand so it's important to keep the packaging consistent with the product's other promotional materials," says Murphy.
Pay attention to the details. Consider special touches that can maximize your packaging's impact. For example, on one of the inside panels of its box, Distinctive Dental Studio, Ltd. includes a list of its value-added services beautifully presented in screened type (see photo at left). "We're not the cheapest lab in the area, but we offer many important benefits and every time a client opens a box, he's reminded of exactly what he's getting from us," says Vena. Another subtle reminder of the laboratory's attention to detail: the boxes are lined with gold and blue tissue paper to match the company's logo.
O'Brien Dental Lab took an extra step when it introduced its newly redesigned packaging. The laboratory sent a new case box full of fortune cookies to each dental office to introduce the new look. The fortune cookies had custom messages inside, thanking customers for their business. "The boxes were part of an overall image update, and that really builds customers' confidence," says Murphy. "They feel like the company is alive, progressive and going places."