Brands Represent BLUE Ocean for Esko

Ryan McAbee
Jul 25, 2018

Last week Esko announced its acquisition of BLUE Software, LLC, a label and artwork management software company headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. We had the opportunity to speak with Heidi Larsen, VP, Brand Integration Leader, who is directing the integration of the two companies, to get Esko’s perspective.

BLUE will join other Esko acquisitions, Enfocus and MediaBeacon, and sit under Danaher’s Product Identification platform of companies. In the issuing statement, Esko President Udo Panenka, said “We are relentlessly seeking to reduce time to market, cost and quality risk in the end-to-end packaging value chain. The acquisition of BLUE enhances Esko’s unique set of tools to enable brand owners and their partners to improve all three.”

Global brands continually need to flatten and speed up their supply chains so they can respond more quickly to marketing opportunities, different consumer segmentations, and ever-changing consumer preferences. The difficulty is that the industry averages 198 days to produce a label change, as cited at this year’s EskoWorld event. The challenge is further compounded considering brand’s refresh nearly a third of their SKUs every year according to a Keypoint Intelligence-InfoTrends study. The BLUE acquisition will further strengthen Esko’s product portfolio to support their growing and significant business supporting the packaging and identification needs of global brands.

BLUE’s software solutions, along with others already in the Esko portfolio, streamline and the interactions between brand, agencies, premedia, and packaging converters, to ensure timely collaboration, execution, and brand consistency and quality. BLUE solutions are SaaS-based and match well with Esko’s more recent entrance into subscription pricing models, whether delivered via the cloud or installed on-premise.

InfoTrends Take

As with any acquisition, there are challenges and opportunities ahead. BLUE’s three-tiered solution set offers four core areas of functionality: workflow management [more project management than workflow management as with Esko’s Automation Engine], online proofing, digital asset management (DAM), and business intelligence. These four core functions overlap other existing solutions within Esko’s product portfolios, especially for MediaBeacon and WebCenter.

MediaBeacon is a leading DAM solution but its definition, focus, and use cases are broader than BLUE’s singular mission for packaging. The overlap with WebCenter, however, is more significant as the target audiences are similar. WebCenter’s development in recent years has added task, product, and content management in addition to the existing view, annotation, and approval capabilities. While the execution of features and functionality are not exactly the same, their purpose and goals are. In the near-term, this may introduce a bit of confusion for customers and prospects as to which solutions are the best fit for their needs but can be addressed during the discovery and sales process.

The acquisition and current trajectory of the brand business still offers a lot of blue ocean opportunity for Esko. The company understands the packaging industry and its constituents. Esko now has the opportunity to develop a purpose-built, online platform to help brands plan, execute, and deliver a consistent packaging story offline and increasing online by combining the best from BLUE, Digital Shelf Relay1, MediaBeacon, and WebCenter. The brand and packaging communities are eager for such solutions that speed time to market under the proper cost, quality, and consistency controls.

[1] A tool that brands can use to ingest, manage, and distribute their product content (copy, images, 3D rendering) to their retail channels with the added capability of monitoring for use and conformance across e-commerce sites such as Amazon, Jet, and Walmart.

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