How to Succeed in the Changing World of Packaging Labels
Much like contestants get only one shot to wow the judges on The Voice, packaging labels are a company’s shining moment to convert shoppers into buyers. And thanks to new technological advancements in digital printing, the label possibilities are more vast than ever. From augmented reality to personalization, the label is no longer just a vehicle for information. It’s an immersive experience. Even The Walking Dead created an interactive wine label campaign that launched an in-app zombie fight. As you can see, the label game is changing rapidly, and if you’re not innovating, you could fall behind. To help guide your label journey, we spoke to Tom Spina, president of Luminer Converting Group, Lakewood, N.J.; and Lance Wilson, vice president of sales and marketing for Labels West Inc., Woodinville, Wash.
Know The Newcomers
Like we mentioned earlier, the label market is continuing to adapt to end-user demands. The two big trends that stood out for Wilson were personalization and tactile options.
For tactile labels, he noted that there’s a huge market for this type of look in the food, health, beauty, supplements and cannabis industries.
“We’ve been introducing a host of special-effect tactile laminations that have leather, linen and soft-touch effects,” he said. “We’ve also been combining more screen printing with our flexo and digital process to produce some very impressive ‘combination printing’ packaging.”
Labels West also has had success carrying out several personalized campaigns.
“We’ve been involved in a host of personalization projects, from creating limited-edition, sequentially numbered packaging to personalization driving traffic to a website or Facebook, and even using personalization of packaging to make it look more organic, in that the copy and look is changing from label to label.”
Spina agreed that personalization is a huge trend, but he also had a few other observations to share.
“There’s no question that marketing firms, and marketing departments within consumer product categories are trying to find the next latest and greatest thing,” he revealed. “And that might be for an overall product redesign to make the product interactive, or specifically for a promotion. We see it more on a promotional basis—[perhaps the client] wants to run a special for the next two months, or they have a new product launch, or they’re trying to push more specific products for a specific period of time.”
Aside from interactive packaging, Spina’s business is also seeing a huge boom in expanded labels.
“The whole point of [expanded labels] is that because of regulatory information or just companies looking to put more marketing information on one advertisement—they just need more space,” he said. “Packages are getting smaller, which means you have less space to print. So, by putting a label with multiple pages, it allows you to put more information onto your package.”
He listed some expanded label applications, which included recipe labels underneath food labels for food packaging, and several pharmaceutical options.
“The more important areas are in pharmaceuticals, where you have to put on specific information, especially in multiple languages,” he said. “We live in a global world with so many different languages, so you have to be able to put your information in multiple languages, which means multiple pages. And then, of course, there’s safety information, so any type of chemical has to be listed.
“You don’t want to take away from your [client’s] branding—you want a nice, pretty label, so the customer buys it off the shelf, but you have to have this mandatory information,” he continued. “Where do you put it? You put it in places where it’s a bit hidden. It might be on the second or third page of a label.”
Know Your Clients
In addition to what’s new and trending in labels, distributors need to know the right way to sell the labels. For starters, it’s all about good communication.
“Distributors should dialogue with the [client] and, when possible, the [client’s] design or marketing firm to be clear on the packaging objectives,” Wilson instructed. “It’s pretty exciting these days with all of the options available to elevate the look and feel of a label from soft-touch effects, combination printing, variable data of images and so many unique substrates.”
Spina suggested extra information that distributors need to collect from their clients.
“Make sure the client’s content is fully developed; that way, you know how much space they’re going to need,” he said. “The next big thing is, will there be any secondary printing? In other words, if they’re automatically labeling these products, do they have to put on a lock code? Or traceability? An expiration date? Does the label need to be reclosed? Will the label be removed? And, of course, very important: Is the label going onto a flat surface, like a box, or is it going to go on a round surface, like a bottle, because those are completely different designs?”
Distributors also need to determine the print method based on a few factors.
“Volume, the number of SKUs, materials and even industry markets [are variables that need to be taken into consideration],” said Wilson. “Particularly larger-volume work will generally be printed on a flexographic press because of the faster speeds yielding a better price. Labels for the wine and spirits industry may find their way onto a digital press, due to the smaller volume (in some cases) and the more unique porous and textured papers, which print much more favorably on a digital press.”
Know Your Offerings
While it’s important to learn the ins and outs of your client’s objectives, there’s one major pitfall that Spina has witnessed time and time again: lack of information about one’s own products. In his experience, clients will come to distributors expressing the need for expanded labels, but distributors do not understand the differences and the numerous options available.
“What happens is they call us, which is great, and we try to explain it to them, but, of course, they want separation between the manufacturer and the client, so they don’t always get it right,” he said. “Then, the label comes in, and it’s not designed correctly. So, them not having that knowledge is a real detriment because it winds up creating a much longer sell cycle, and one that’s often rife with problems.”
Not only does this problem contribute to unnecessary hiccups, but it also leaves money on the table for distributors.
“If you want to sell a simple paper label for a penny, that’s fine,” Spina advised. “But, if you want to sell an expanded content label for 15 cents, that’s a much bigger markup and a much better sell. That’s the point, and we try to work with distributors to explain that.”