Eight seconds. That’s what’s believed to be the average human attention span, and it’s down about 4 seconds from what the average attention span was in 2000. Yes, just 8 seconds — about the same as a goldfish (perhaps even less than a goldfish, depending on the source). 

While a short attention span has its benefits, it can be a big problem for brands looking to move products off of store shelves. That’s why differentiation is so important, and this largely falls on the packaging. 

“When a consumer is walking by that shelf, you have 8 seconds to catch their eye and get them to pick up your packaging,” says Rob Daniels, president of Quality Tape & Label Co. (QTL). “What does your packaging say to them in 8 seconds?”

Though the package format can certainly help a product stand out on the shelf, so can printing. A new automated variable design software, HP’s SmartStream Collage, now permits converters to print thousands of uniquely designed wrappers, labels, shrink sleeves and other items while maintaining overall brand design consistency. QTL was the world’s first to use the software for packaging, which it did for tens of thousands of King of Pops Popsicle wrappers in October 2018 for the brand’s Halloween theme. 

“In this instance with King of Pops, we wanted to have ghosts floating around on it,” Daniels explains. “So we had six or seven different ghosts and you can scale them in different sizes, different quantities. You can put these three ghosts on this side of the wrapper and these four ghosts on this side of the wrapper. It lets brands keep their brand look, but add variable images into it.”

QTL’s initial print run of five SKUs totaled 18,000 wrappers and was performed on an HP Indigo 6900 digital press. An additional 25,000 wrappers run followed. 

Following the Halloween theme, QTL partnered again with King of Pops on Christmas-themed wrappers, and using the Collage software could extend really to any sort of packaging, whether it’s seasonal, promotional or just everyday standard. The differentiation, Daniels says, has the potential to extend that 8 second attention span of the average human.

“If you can stop them and they say ‘Oh wow, this is the same flavor, but look at all these different designs,’ then you just stopped them for more than 8 seconds,” he says. “I think that’s going to be a big aspect to digital, how brands differentiate themselves on the shelf.”

For King of Pops, the benefits are two-fold. While on the one hand it spices up the Popsicle wrappers with different designs, another benefit is that it gets consumers to notice the wrapper. Daniels says that this “training” will come in handy when the brand launches a new, planned healthy Popsicle product line, where the benefits of each individual Popsicle will be noted on the wrapper. 

“It’s always been about the popsicle, people would take off the wrapper and throw it away,” he says. “Now they’re engaging people with the wrapper.”

Daniels see Collage as a software program with more potential for brands than its HP predecessor and sister program, Mosaic. 

“Mosaic is multiple patterns, but basically different views and angles of the same pattern,” he says. “Now with Collage, we can actually do variable data on individual elements. With Mosaic, lots of brands had to change their complete look to fall into it. With Collage, you can move around individual elements within the package without affecting the brand look. I see a lot more that we can do with it, and I’m getting a lot more interaction from brands.”

Georgia-based QTL turns 40 this year and has been transitioning to an all-digital operation for several years now. Currently, Daniels says the company is about 92-93 percent digital with its printing and is continuing along this path. 

“Digital is still going to be a huge process for us with new capabilities coming in,” he says. “Getting to market faster, I see that as a huge opportunity for digital. Speed to market, we’re bringing products to market faster with higher quality and better performance than traditional flexo has been able to do. In this on-demand world we’re living in now where people want instant gratification, I think that’s going to be one of the huge pushers with printing in the next few years.”

Quality Tape & Label


About Quality Tape & Label

Location: Smyrna, Georgia

Employees: 37

Digital Equipment: HP Indigo 6600, 6900, 20000