Five Things Every New Brand Manager Should Know About Comps

by Susan Arnold, VP, Growth & Client Engagement at 3D Color

Procuring packaging comps (short for “comprehensive mockups”) is just one among hundreds of essential steps in the long journey from product idea to market launch. For those new to brand management and product development, this stage of the process can be a moment to simply check a box. Or, it can present a unique opportunity to champion your product, gain valuable insight and set yourself up for breakthrough success.

Here’s all you need to know to get the most from your comp experience:

1. A GREAT COMP SMOOTHLY ADVANCES YOUR IDEA; A BAD ONE CAN KILL IT.
You can think of comps as the silent heroes of a successful product launch. When they’re produced to top standards, nobody really notices their quality. Stakeholders from executives to retail partners to consumer research participants simply accept the mockup as “real,” allowing conversation to remain focused where it should be: on the business opportunity. A shoddy comp with low production quality or poor color accuracy, in contrast, will often derail a conversation before it gets started, and can even cause an organization to lose faith in your initiative. It’s well worth your time to seek out a comp provider whose standards match your own, and who’s willing to work with you to achieve a flawless finished product.

2. GREAT COMPS CALL FOR COLLABORATION.
Amid the timing pressures of a product launch, a comp supplier offering the simplest, fastest delivery may seem like the best choice. You’ll find greater value, however, working with a partner who moves beyond turnkey transactions to thoughtfully assess your package’s design intent with an expert eye to structural considerations, materials, graphic treatment, color management and more.

A high-value supplier will act as a collaborative partner, filling gaps in technical production expertise to produce a best-in-class comp in the near term, and inform best practices for scaled production down the road. Expect your supplier to raise questions, suggest options and always provide an advance sample to ensure your deliverable lives up to its promise.

3. VOLUME PRICING IS VARIABLE — ALWAYS ASK!
Comps are highly custom by nature, so volume-based pricing advantages vary significantly from one project to the next. You may find that it’s cost effective to increase your comp order, which can create valuable opportunities such as bringing comps to regional sales meetings or upgrading flat renderings to 3D mockups for focus groups. Keep in mind that it’s always much more expensive to go back for a second round of comp production than to just order extra the first time.

4. COMPS ARE KEY IN EARLY PHOTO ASSET PRODUCTION.
Those newer to the process of bringing a product to market may not be aware that comps play a secret starring role in your pre-launch photo shoots. For a smooth sell-in and marketing launch, true-to-life photo assets are needed long before actual packaging samples come off the production line. That’s why it’s essential to coordinate your comp timing with the creative partners responsible for early product photography.

In the same vein, remember that the ever-growing e-commerce market demands more than just a hero shot of a pack’s primary display panel to satisfy A+ content requirements. Whenever possible, create your comps with 360-degree all-panel accuracy.

5. COMPS ACTIVATE A MARKETER’S STRONG TOOL: EMOTION.
Consumer packaged goods are, and forever will be, a hands-on proposition. Even as our lives and shopping habits grow more screen-centric every day, we continue to pour our orange juice from the bottle in the morning and squeeze our toothpaste from the tube at night. Today we can render almost anything on screen with tremendous accuracy and relative ease, and we can gather data to inform our go-to-market strategies with unprecedented sophistication. Yet despite all of these advantages, there is still no substitute for the impact of holding a product in one’s hand and experiencing its attributes with all senses engaged.

We saw this play out powerfully at 3D Color when we were approached by a major kitchen appliance manufacturer that was considering a new range of products and fashion finishes. In theory, these product ideas could have been conceived, visualized, researched and approved based on 2D renderings alone. But more than a year into the project, the brand’s Head of Design remained unconvinced. Only after interacting with the team at 3D Color and experiencing the product first-hand through vivid, lifelike comps did she fully appreciate its potential, become its champion and convince management to make the necessary investments for full-scale production.

At 3D Color, we like to think of comps as transformative artifacts that tap into consumer insights and prove out winning strategy through the intangible power of emotional response. We come to work every day inspired to create precisely this type of enduring, business-driving impression for our clients. If you’d like to learn more, please reach out at susan.arnold@3dcolor.com or clientsuccess@3dcolor.com.

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