When we walk in front of the shop shelves of any big retail store, it is observed that each time there is an urge to lift a product off the shelf it is because of the label that we establish the first eye contact with the product as a consumer. The label is the most communicative part of a package as it stirs the initial impulse to lift and read it. The label establishes the identity of the product, and it is the direct link between the product and the consumer. Once the consumer has taken the product in hand there is an instant desire to read the label and know more about the product. A good label makes the product identifiable and delivers the desired communication from the manufacturer to the targeted consumer. It is the unique selling tool once the product is in the buyer’s hand and delivers more value than a salesperson may by having the consumers focused attention while perusing the label. Consider any product, let us say two liquor bottles or shampoo bottles. Put them on a shop shelf without any label. We can be sure there will be hardly any person who will pick the product. Even if people do reach out for them, they are likely to go back on to the place where they were sitting. Today’s consumer is very well informed even in countries like India where still large number of consumer durables is sold unpacked. With the advent of television and mobile phones information is reaching out to smaller towns and villages in the remotest parts of every country. This situation has given a boost to the organized retail and with that as I explained, the importance of label has escalated.
In urban organized retailing the package itself plays a very vital and sensitive role. Every housewife now wishes nice looking packages containing sauces, juices, milk, and other food item to adorn the shelves of her kitchen and the refrigerator. Designers continue to innovate and create packaging to catch the shopper’s fancy. I cite an example of changes in the packaging of shampoo in India. Initially it was glass bottles or shampoo bottles. In an endeavour to increase the reach of the product to rural areas and make it affordable, someone decided to package the one-use shampoo in a small, printed plastic sachet to retail at just Rupee one(1.1 cent Euro) per piece. The product was an instant hit and marketers were talking about it and felt it was the brightest of ideas. It did not take long for people to realize that they were tasting shampoo each time they tried to open the sachet. Try opening one in a shower, it is a nightmare! Invariably you will end up using your teeth to cut open the pack and will taste some of the shampoo. Health concerns came to the fore with changing lifestyles and fancy shampoo bottles with highly decorated fancy labels were back in the bathrooms across the nation. Indians across the nation, make their local bread “ROTI” fresh each time they sit for a meal. The dough is kneaded fresh and the rotis come fluffy and blown to the table while they are hot! The floor for the bread or ROTI, locally called, “ATTA” used to be a passion to source at one time. Each household used to buy whole wheat from farms and take to the local colony floor mill to get freshly ground. They used to tell their guests with pride that their ROTIs were fresh and healthy! With a burgeoning literate middle class, all that is changed, the atta comes nicely packed and for the busy working executives. Pre-rolled semi-cooked rotis come vaccum packed and labeled with enhanced shelf life. They are available on shop shelves of retail stores. One could go on writing about packaging developments and innovations, but all these products need to be well labeled to deliver information to the consumer. An urban consumer today decides the quality of the product by perusing the packaging, its aesthetics and finally by reading the label. Growing health awareness makes them ascertain the manufacturing date, expiry date, contents, quality certification, brand authentication and calories, before they make a buying decision. A discussion and study on the package remain incomplete if the label is not discussed in same line of thought hence having dwelled on the package we now move on to labels.
I have in the preceding paragraphs emphasized the role that label plays as an important part of the package. Before we dwell on the construction and development of labels, we need to understand the types of labels. We have wet glue labels, wrap around labels, shrink sleeves, in-mold labels and Self-adhesive labels. The subject of labels is quite exhaustive but for this series of articles I will try to restrict myself to self adhesive labels. Self adhesive labels or pressure sensitive adhesive labels as the name suggests are pre-gummed labels. These labels have contact adhesive that is sensitive to pressure and get activated on application with normal pressure. When manually applied, thumb pressure is adequate. The labels are broadly spread into three main sub-categories.
1. Paper labels
2. Filmic Labels
3. Other special labels
The paper labels could be diverse types of papers like Matt uncoated, Coated semi-gloss, High gloss, Coloured papers and Textured papers. The selection primarily depends on the product and application. We shall discuss in detail as we move on to the designing of labels. Filmic labels find application for cosmetic and toiletries where high level of decoration is imperative. Transparent film labels are used for applications that call for a clear no-label look. The special labels can be anything that is coming out of a designer’s mind. One could have a cork sheet as a label material for a wine or liquor bottle. Other label face materials employed could be textile, aluminum foil, foam, multiple layered laminates, etc.
In the following parts of this series, I will dwell on construction of labelstocks, important inputs needed before designing the package and label, the final label design and innovations in labels with examples.