The life of a label – Part III
Part one of this series of articles referred to the general importance of labels and the second part picked up on the issue of the imperative, that the label design has to be a parallel creation when the package is being designed. The final deals with the converting process and how labels support the promotion and protection of brands.
The converting process
Creating a label is a designer’s job which requires passion and creative indulgence, but converting it to a label that will deliver the envisaged results of communicating with the consumer, is the job of a converter. If the designer has taken care of the converters capabilities and challenges, the result is close to being as desired. However if at the design stage the eventual converting process is not revisited, converting may become a nightmare and may call for more time and involvement to make changes in the design.
Let us consider a label that is not one of the regular shapes like a square, a rectangle or a circle. If it is like a star, a flower or an odd shape with sharp corners, it will be a challenge at the die-cutting stage and will greatly slowdown label conversion bringing up the cost of label production. In such a situation label dispensing may also become erratic. I am not suggesting that such shapes should not be considered, but if the product and its marketing warrant’s it and can support a higher conversion cost, it may even become a necessity to create such complex labels. Also when new products are created for a specific customer segment, the challenges in conversion speed sometimes have to take a back seat.
Be very strong and bold in branding!
Labels are one part of the package that contributes to brand promotion. While the aesthetics and decoration of the label tempts the consumer, to impulsively lift the product off the shop shelf. It is the brand promotion in-built into labels that will bring customers back to make a repeat purchase. A product may have been created with lot of skill and effort and may also be the best buy for the discerning consumer. Its commercial success will depend not only on repeated purchases by the buyer but by his spreading the message by word-of-mouth to others about the product.
The information on the labels should communicate the strength and reliability of the manufacturer offering the product. It should also deliver a message that the brand is value for money. Labels need to communicate the research and effort being put into creating the product to meet the emotional and aspirational requirements of the users. The message on labels in the shortest form, is required to do its job emphatically as space on the label, is a commodity in short supply. The content on labels is necessarily required to create a certain aura and add to the level of brand recall when the customer is ready for a repeat purchase. One has to be mindful of the preferences and sensitivities of the target audience whether it is children, young people, males, females or the elderly.
Each segment of users needs to be addressed in a different manner. The brand promotion capabilities of labels will create a communication link between the product and its consumer thereby establishing a channel for successful sale of the product on an ongoing basis. Often sales promotion is also incorporated in the label like free extra quantity or freebies with each purchase but here a word of caution is to be remembered, one should not confuse brand promotion with sales promotion. Brand promotion is a priority for building stature and value of a brand in the customers mind while sales promotion is a temporary step to give an intermittent boost to sales. While brand promotion brings long term gains, sales promotion gives shorter gain.
As brands attain popularity and grow in value driving revenue for brand owners, other people want to make quick money by cashing in on the value of these brands by starting to create lookalikes, duplicates and counterfeits. The innocent user can fall prey to these unscrupulous elements by buying these non standard products. In addition, consumers are exposed to dangers of being harmed by usage of such spurious products. In such times the consumer is unaware whether the product is a duplicate or if the original product sold by the brand owner is of inferior quality. The brand is likely to suffer in value and reliability through no fault of their owns.
The menace of counterfeits in recent times has reached gigantic proportions. Therefore, besides other measures, it has become imperative to build-in security features in the label and the package as a part of brand protection. It also becomes necessary to keep in mind that all brand protection features need to facilitate brand authentication as well. What good is a security feature if the user cannot verify its authenticity?
The topic of security is large and needs to be considered separately, however I still emphasize that security features also need to be in mind when designing labels for leading brands. These may be tamper evident labels or labels provided with micro texting, thermo chromic inks, invisible inks and holograms that help in brand protection. Building-in security or anti counterfeiting features in labels and also in the package is an exercise that needs to be revisited by brand owners and by label designers from time to time. If the label security features have not been reviewed for a long time, it is possible that the counterfeiters will develop something resembling it. It is a known fact when referring to duplicators, “If someone can make it, there is someone who can fake it”
Consumer is the king maker!
“Consumer is the king!” is a famous quote. I would modify it a little to “Consumer is the king maker!” If consumers approve of a product, it could deliver fortunes to the brand owners. So to reach out to these king makers, the brand owner has to innovate both in the package and the label design.
A small patch of label that carries the brand and its information can be decorated with e.g. foiling, embossing, varnishing, and lamination. However, to catch the consumers attention, label makers have started to innovate depending on the market segment they cater to. A food product label is created with a natural effect where you can see and feel the texture of the label as if the original product is popping out of it. Portraying freshness a leaf or a flower may exhibit water droplets. Such effects are accomplished by printers using diverse printing and processing technologies on their combination presses. The development of such labels is the outcome of creative capabilities of innovative label printing companies. I quote some of the innovations that I have seen in recent times.
Consider a wine label; it is common knowledge that a wine enthusiast will like to know a lot about the wine before buying it. They wish to know the grapes, the region and the terrain where the grapes came from with which the wine was made and when it was made. As this information cannot be put on a single label, often there are labels available that are like a small booklet affixed to the wine bottle.
The hazards of using infected syringes, has been highlighted for a long time. There seem to be a pressing need to dispose-off the used needles effectively so that they are not used again on other patients spreading infections. For example, the German company Schreiner offers a label where after use a plastic cover is broken on to the needle thus protecting it and this forms a part of the label which is then sent for safe treatment and disposal.
Another interesting example is the label created for the Heinz tomato ketchup pack. If the pack is opened on the side, the ketchup can be squeezed out as it is done from a regular bottle. However, if there is need to use the ketchup as a dip, the entire label can be peeled off by pulling the tab at the other end.
In this three part series, one can see the journey of the label from concept to its life on the product after application. It goes through a technical life cycle interacting with various technologies from design, to printing, converting, dispensing and life thereafter. Each of the technologies that the label encounters in its life cycle including the chemical, mechanical and physical properties is a science in itself. The whole chain of persons who contribute to the life of a label are a team who eventually rejoices in the success of a product that is adorned by a label they created.