Designing a label is a designer’s job, passion and creative indulgence, but converting it into a label that will deliver the envisaged results of communicating with the consumer, is the job of a label converter. If, as I mentioned in the earlier two parts of this series, the designer has taken care of the converters capabilities and challenges, the result is close to being as desired. However, if at the designing 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 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 a like a star or an odd shape with sharp corners, it will be a challenge to die cut the labels slowing down label conversion, bringing up the cost of label. In such a situation label dispensing may also become erratic. Such label presses are now available with many label printers that die-cut and remove waste matrix of complex shaped labels while converting but then these options are not available with all venders. The designers need to consider ease of conversion and dispensing. Sometimes designers tend to create labels in the shape of objects like a flower, a dumbbell, a butterfly, a bird or even like a falling drop. These shapes will either be difficult to die cut and will substantially slow down the label press during conversion. I am not suggesting that such shapes should not be indulged in, but on the contrary if the product and its marketing warrant’s it so and can support a higher conversion cost, it may even become a necessity to create such complex labels. At times when it is an innovation being created to reach out to a specific customer segment, the challenges in conversion and speed must take a back seat. Die-cutting in label conversion in-itself is a very exhaustive topic and an intricate technology which is beyond the purview of this article as we are dealing with the life of a label from concept, design, and conversion to its final resting on the product and its performance there from.
Any brand from inception onwards, in its journey to success keeps gaining value as it reaches out to the product’s targeted audience. Label is one part of the package that contributes towards the brand promotion from the word go! The aesthetics and the decoration part have been dwelled upon earlier in this series, yet a very important part of the label is brand promotion. While the aesthetics and decoration of the label tempts the consumer, to impulsively lift the product off the shop shelf but it is the brand promotion in-built into the label that will bring the customers back to make a repeat purchase. A product may have been created with lot of skill and effort to be the best buy for the discerning consumer. Its commercial success will depend not only on repeated purchase by the impulsively indulgent buyer but by his spreading the message by word-of-mouth to others about the product. The information on the label should communicate the strength and reliability of the manufacturer. The label should deliver a message that the brand is “value for money” bringing appreciation from the judicious buyer who inadvertently becomes the brand’s ambassador. It is easy to mimic successful brands, but one must realize that the learned and well-informed consumer is quick to recognize a copy. I refer to this issue of duplication later in this article. The label needs to communicate the research and effort being put into creating the product to meet the emotional and aspirational requirements of the users. The label and eventually the product itself must communicate that it will add to the stature of the user. The message on label in the shortest form, given the limited space, is required to be conveyed emphatically and should be very strong and bold in branding! The content on the label is necessarily required to create an aura promoting brand recall. One must be mindful of the preferences and sensitivities of the target audience that could be children, young people, males, females or the elderly. The brand promotion capabilities of the label 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 intermittent boost to sales. While brand promotion brings long term gains, sales promotion gives shorter gain.
As brands attain popularity and grow driving-in more revenue, another set of people wanting to make quick money by cashing in on the value of these brands, start to create look-alikes, duplicates and counterfeits. The innocent user falls prey to such unscrupulous elements by buying these non-standard products. They are exposed to dangers of being harmed by usage of such spurious products. Consumer is unable to judge whether the product is duplicate or the original product sold by the brand owner is of inferior quality. The brand is likely to suffer in value and reliability for no fault of theirs. The menace of counterfeits has attained gigantic proportions. According to a report by “The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)”, Trade in counterfeit and pirated goods has risen steadily in the last few years – even as overall trade volumes stagnated – and now stands at 3.3% of global trade, according to a new report by the OECD and the EU’s Intellectual Property Office. Trends in Trade in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods puts the value of imported fake goods worldwide based on 2016 customs seizure data at USD 509 billion, up from USD 461 billion in 2013 (2.5% of world trade).
It has become an imperative to incorporate security features in labels and packages, as a part of brand protection keeping 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? Holograms have been used for quite some time and they have a high level of security in them but in recent time holographic labels without security features but resembling the original holograms have made it difficult for the consumers to differentiate between the original and fakes. The topic of security is large and needs to be dwelled upon separately, however still I emphasize that security features need to be considered while designing labels for leading brands. These may be tamper-evident labels, labels with micro texting, thermo chromic inks, invisible inks, holograms and labels with special printing effects that help in brand protection. Building-in security or anti-counterfeiting features in labels and the packages 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 long, it is possible that the counterfeiters will develop something resembling it. It is a known fact when referring duplicators, “If someone can make it, there is someone who can fake it”
Consumer is the king! It is a famous quote, I would modify it a little and say, 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 must innovate both in the package and label design. One sometimes wonders what innovation one can create in a label. A small patch of label that carries the brand and its information, can be decorated as mentioned earlier in this series with foiling, embossing, varnishing, lamination and die-cutting in various shape. However, in an effort to catch the consumers fancy, labels must have innovations as per the label 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. Portraying freshness, a leaf or a flower may be created to exhibit water droplets that one can touch and feel. These are accomplished by using diverse printing and processing technologies on their combination presses. 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; Wine enthusiasts like to know about the wine before indulging in it. They wish to know the quality of grapes used for making that wine, the region and the terrain where the grapes came from. The label is made like a book to be read! One cannot put all this information on a single label, so labels are produced like a small booklet affixed to the wine bottle.
The hazards of using infected syringes, has been highlighted for long to curtail the spread of infection. There is an imperative need to dispose-off the used needles safely. I visited the Schreiner facility in Munich Germany, some time ago and was shown labels where after use the needle is broken on to a plastic trap which forms a part of the label on disposable syringe. These traps are then sent for safe treatment and disposal.
Another interesting example is a label created for the Heinz tomato ketchup pack. On one side if you open the pack, ketchup can be squeezed out like it is done from a regular bottle. However, if there is need to use the ketchup as dip, one can peel off the entire label by pulling the tab on another end to expose the ketchup and get a feel as if it was in a bowl.
Other innovations are like a safety temperature indicating label on cooking gas cylinders that would change colours to indicate safe temperatures or Braille labels on wine bottles for the physically challenged blind who also like normal people enjoy their wine and will like to read the information as wine lovers.
Label printing and converting technologies continue to evolve and I have written about the different processes on my blog where a lot of information is available. The printing that initially surfaced as letter press, moved over to flexographic printing followed by stand alone or hybrid presses incorporating combination of flexo, digital, screen, offset Rotogravure printing and diverse embellishing process like hot-foil, cold-foil, UV varnish, embossing, debossing, front and back printing all done in a single pass. The packaging development specialists now need to be well versed with all the technologies and processes. 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 diverse technologies from design, to printing, conversion, 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 it itself. Before concluding we must keep in mind the end-of-life waste management while creating a label or package. The whole chain of persons who contribute to the life of a label are a team who eventually rejoice in the success of a product that adorns a label they created.
The complete 3 part series are accessible at the following links;
Written by Harveer Sahni, Chairman, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi-110008 India, January 2015 and updated in February 2022