As consumers, we all take for granted that product labels are accurate and provide us with all the information that we need, whether that is about ingredients and other nutritional information for food, sizes, textiles and laundering instructions for food, or safety and use instructions for cleaning or other chemical products. Spare a thought, however, for the manufacturers of such products, who have to juggle the, often changing, legal requirements for printed labels with the need to market the products effectively and attractively, together with finding space for that essential bar-code, which holds a vast amount of vital information.
This article gives some useful tips to help manufacturers design the perfect label, whilst complying with any regulatory requirements.
Relevant Content: Basics of Designing a Powerful Product Label
The Legal Bit
If product labels do not comply with legal requirements, or products are mis-labelled, then they will be rejected, which is both costly and time-wasting. There are a number of useful sources that provide regulatory guidance for different industries, such as this one from https://www.gov.uk/food-labelling-and-packaging/overview which lists in clear, straightforward language, the essential information required for food labelling and packaging.
Whatever your industry, it is essential to identify and comply with any regulatory labelling requirements as to do otherwise simply leads to rejected goods. This does not mean simply the labels on individually packaged items that will end up in retail outlets, but also the labels for cartons, boxes or pallets, depending on the size and quantity in which your products are transported. There are industry standards from BOSS (the British Office Supplies and Services Federation), for instance, that address such issues as legibility from a distance, colours and location of labels for different sizes of packaging.
Making Your Product Stand Out
Many manufacturers have instantly recognisable logos that have served them well for decades. Consumers are familiar with the brands, colours and appearance of items identified by such logos, such as the Heinz 57 varieties or the Coca Cola brand, so will almost subconsciously seek these out on the supermarket shelves. This makes it more difficult for newcomers to get a toe in the door of a highly competitive market.
When introducing new products, it is well worth carrying out some market research into the brands that are most easily recognised by the public, their perceptions of what constitutes quality and which possible colours or logos have the most appeal. Browsing supermarket shelves, it is easy to see when rival producers have tried to attract consumers to their items by, for instance, using a similar colour for the packaging. Whilst this might work, it is probably better to design your label printing with a more unique appearance and logo, so that it becomes recognised in its own right. Having an interesting shape for the label is just one possible way of achieving this; selecting colours that make your product stand out is another. The purple and green of Dyson vacuum cleaners is an example of using unusual colours to great advantage.
Retaining Flexibility for Short Production Runs
As if it wasn’t already a pretty complicated minefield, designing printed labels becomes even more testing if your products are frequently changing, as there is greater potential for using the wrong labels, being unable to despatch items because you are awaiting delivery of the correct label print run, or having printed labels wasted because your supplier has minimum quantity orders.
One solution is to have your own in-house label printer, which gives you better flexibility over the whole label design as well as being able to adapt easily to frequently changing labelling requirements for short run products.
Marketing and Promotion
The degree to which you market your products is, obviously, dependent on many factors, including the size of your business and the budget you have available. Whether you have a dedicated marketing team or a small, multi-tasking team of enthusiastic workers, the whole issue of marketing and promotion requires careful consideration.
The first thing is to identify where you want your products to be placed. Will they be in the “cheap and cheerful” bracket, or the “exclusive, high quality” end of the market? How will you fit your labelling and packaging to fit your target market? Is there a particular age, social or gender facet to which you want to appeal? What kind of geographical area are you targeting?
Once you have decided on your required product placement, you can modify your labels to reflect this. It may be that you want to attract new customers by having “money off” offers for a short time. There may be events, such as the 2014 World Cup, or the Olympics, which naturally lend themselves to being used for additional marketing of some kind. Conventional advertising may also have a place, in which case it is vital to consider whether your products are aimed at a particular business sector, geographic area, or age range. This will help in the decision of what kind of advertising will be most effective.
Bringing it all Together
Having considered all the factors listed above, the task of producing the perfect label is, hopefully, made a bit easier. The size of the label, for instance, is dependent on the size of your products. If you are manufacturing pharmaceutical goods, then there is perhaps less scope for being creative on your labels. It may be possible, however, to still give rein to the creative streak by, for example, having a “2 for 1” offer in a double blister pack, which provides more room for an interesting design on the card backing, than on a small packet of pills.
Probably the best approach is to start with the essentials and then prioritise what else matters for your label printing. Brainstorm possibilities with your team, whether that is a group of three or three hundred – you may be pleasantly surprised with the results!
About The Author
Kirsty McKenzie has been involved with graphic design, particularly for product labelling, for several years with Quick Label so has a sound understanding of the issues involved. When not sitting in front of her computer, seeking inspiration, or presenting her ideas to the management team, she enjoys travelling to less well-known areas of the UK, to seek tranquillity and to wander on quiet tracks in the company of her husband and lively red setter. Of course, finding a homely hostelry adds the finishing touch to such relaxing days!