Category Archives: Packaging

A Brief Look into Private Label

With the PLMA’s 2011 Private Label Trade Show fast approaching, I got to thinking about what the term Private Label really means and how it is taking over the Consumer Products industry.

Private label refers to products or services that are manufactured by a company to be sold under another company’s brand name. This term stretches across multiple industries, from food to vitamins to home care products. For the most part the consumer is unaware who is manufacturing the products they buy and in turn unaware that they are buying a private label product.

The most frequent way in which a consumer will have contact with private label products is at the store brand level. For many years retailers have used private label to identify a brand with a store.  Take Walgreens for example. The Walgreens brand of products are now sitting right next to the big name national brands. Consumers have come to associate the store brand product as a “knock off” or lower cost item.

What was once known as the “cheap” product; now exceeds 50% market share in some product categories. While that number might be a reflection of our economic status the past few years, it is also a reflection of how private label companies have stepped up their game to compete with the leading nationally advertised brands. Private Label used to be associated with drab simple product packaging, but it has since evolved to having better graphics and brighter colors. Now, when you look on a store shelf the only thing separating the national brand from the store brand is the name and price.

There is still a stigma that exists that the store brand is a cheaper or weaker product. I guess that means that the national brands’ advertising dollars have been well spent. However, if you take the time to sift through the ads and actually look at the product ingredients you will find that a lot of times they are exactly the same as the national brand.

Consumers have gotten a lot smarter about what they purchase. They are taking the time to compare products and research what they are buying. Store brands have also gotten smarter. They are realizing they need to step up and compete with national brands. Their product packaging also needs to stand out on store shelves. With this combination I think the private label industry can close the gap from the 25% market share that they now have to the 58% market share that consumers state they would consider spending.


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Filed under Branding, Packaging, product labels

Stand Out Among the Clutter!

Today’s market is all about choices and at times it can be a little overwhelming for the consumer. Markers have to work harder than ever before to make sure their product is standing out on store shelves. Brad Hanna discusses this in his recent blog, Private Label Food Marketer: Too Much Choice. He talks about the shift from consumers comparing products on store shelves to buying the first brand they actively consider. He writes, “It’s necessary to engage in more intensive behavioral research and attention to brand architecture and packaging detail.” He goes on to write, “In an age of too much choice, the manufacturer needs to do the front-end work in packaging design and brand architecture to visually dominate, simplify the shopping experience and emotionally connect with shoppers.”

In a world of choices, it’s all about which product can be the first to grab the consumer’s attention.  The packaging of a product must be able to make a connection with the consumer and stop them when moving through the store aisle. Take for example, lip balm. There are numerous varieties in numerous shapes and colors. How do you make your lip balm stand out from the rest of the competition?

Recently Burt’s Bees answered this question with the launch of their new packaging design for their tinted lip balm. The outside packaging consists of a cardboard tube made from completely recycled materials. When you slide the tube open, the tinted lip balm sits inside of it. Not only does the packaging catch your eye when sitting on the store shelf, it differentiates the tinted lip balm from its other products as well as the products of its competitors. Burt’s Bees added value to their lip balm by making the packaging unique.

The outside of the tube has a clean design and the inside tube tells the consumer what the color is going to look like. The extra packaging allows for more text and advertising space for the brand. Since the outside packaging is bigger than the other lip balms, it easily differentiates itself from the competition. This difference in packaging immediately draws in the eye of the consumer. In a market where a product only has mere seconds to catch the consumer, Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm does the job right. It reminds us of the importance of standing out in a store full of choices.

What would you do to make your product stand out?

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Filed under Branding, Packaging, product labels

Major Brands Promote Nostaligia With Product Packaging

Recently Heinz Ketchup announced the return of their iconic glass bottle. The bottle will be launched as a “collector’s edition” and offered to consumers at select retailers now through August 2011.

“We wanted to bring back the glass bottle with a limited edition design that gives a nod to the product’s 135-year history,” Noel Geoffroy, Vice President of Heinz Brands said.  Geoffroy also stated that the brand wanted “to inspire memories of and relive good times from summers past.”

Heinz is not the only major brand to pay tribute to their impressive history by changing their product packaging. Coca-Cola has also been known to put their infamous glass bottle back on store shelves. The patented contour design of the bottle debuted in 1916 and is easily one of most recognized symbols associated with a brand.

The decision for Heinz to offer the old product packaging for a limited time is a great marketing idea. It not only sheds light on the strong history of the brand, but also connects with consumers on a more emotional level.

Do we all want to go back to trying to get that stubborn ketchup out of the glass bottle? Probably not. But maybe just for a summer, we can relive our childhood at a summer BBQ and share with someone the age-old secret of hitting the 57  to make the ketchup come out of the bottle faster.

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Vibrant Graphics is offering a new service and special promotion!

With the recent increase of demands, Vibrant Graphics is proud to introduce a new service that will help you connect even closer with your customers! We are now able to create Microsoft Tags (MS Tags) and Quick Response (QR) Codes to be placed within your product labels! For more information on how to ‘read’ MS Tags and how they can help you, click here.
 We’ll give you a hint what this says….
Let Vibrant know that you saw this post or mentioned this tag, and receive a special promotion! 
Send us your product label’s logo or artwork, along with material requirements, and we’ll send you customized, digitally printed labels at no cost to you!  For more information or to request a customized label, contact:  





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Filed under alternative packaging, Branding, Digital Printing, In-Mold Labeling, Packaging, Uncategorized

Going beyond RFID and QR codes: Augmented Reality

Recently, I attended the “InterACT! Conference” on behalf of Vibrant Graphics, where I was able to listen in on break-out discussions speaking of new, emerging trends and technologies.  Specifically, the focus of the conference was on social media, QR codes, and augmented reality. 

These technologies  have oftentimes proved to be very useful.  However, there are concerns of where this technology is heading.

 I know we’ve all seen it – people driving with not only their cell phones in hand, but also laptops in the passenger seat.  With the anticipated media-saturation of augmented reality, let’s hope this technology stays off the road!

 Augmented reality (AR) is the blending of the physical world with partially virtual computer generated imagery.   Augmented reality is ‘real time.’  For those who have not yet seen examples of augmented reality, here are four examples, each implementing AR in different, useful ways:

 iButterfly: allows users to ‘catch’ butterflies in the ‘air’ (virtual vacation): allows users to have an interactive experience when choosing their vacation destination.  In Los Angeles, you can have your name appear on the “Hollywood sign.”

Lego: allows users to interactively see how ‘the toy in the box’ will function

USPS: allows users to choose which box size is appropriate to ship their object in (the demonstration is at the one-minute mark in the video)

For example, USPS allows a user to print out a ‘marker’, which the user will hold up to his or her computer, and it will simulate which size of package the user will need in order to ship the object.  This also is very helpful for retail shopping, as consumers can virtually try-on the clothing.  Another helpful instance would be during furniture shopping: the user could print a marker, place it on the floor, and point his or her webcam at the marker.  The image would appear on the computer, and the couch would be virtually placed in the room. 

While it may be clearly helpful in several instances, has technology gone to far?   

The ‘privacy issue’ troubles many people.  Will there one day be a way that this will be used as facial recognition software on your iPhone?  How many people will share location data with programs such as Google Latitude (and who will have access these programs–criminals?).  Virtually anything can be scanned and scrutinized.  There is real-estate information available on the augmented iPhone applications, where the user is able to view available condos or apartments for sale or rent.  What if the whole world became a virtual e-bay?  Would someone break into your house to obtain an expensive artifact you were innocently trying to sell on eBay?

 Beyond the privacy concerns, how will children be affected?  In a commercial advertising the iButterfly application, children are shown trying to “catch” virtual butterflies with their iPhones.  In the year 1995 and below, children dreamed of doing something like this, or playing with objects that would “come to life.”  Now the child does not even have to think or utilize his or her imagination, because it is reality to them.  Will this take away imagination or critical thinking skills?

 With the emergence of new technologies such as this, there will once again be an even larger digital divide.  By 2012, 65% of phone owners are projected to own smart phones.  What if this leaves no room for the voice of the ‘have-nots?’

 These are just a few critical components to think about as we emerge into unchartered territory.  I could see a couple of reasons WHY Vibrant Graphics should utilize this technology.  For instance, this would be useful when customers place a personalized order and want to know how labels will look on a particular model.  How would you implement it in your life at or outside of work? What do you think about it?

Here are ten interested augmented-reality iPhone applications:

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Filed under Digital Media, Digital Printing, Packaging, Uncategorized, Vibrant Graphics

Paper or Plastic?

Baby-Globe from:

Baby-Globe from:

One of the “most overused marketing phrases” of 2009 was “green”, according to several advertising and marketing sources.  It seemed like everywhere you turned, everything was GREEN!  Don’t expect this bragging war to be over anytime soon.  The ‘swagger’ wars have just begun – each product industry claims why what they have is better than the next guy.  There are even battles to fight inside the industry, such as which plastic product is better than another plastic product.  This makes sense though, since over 80% of consumers expect their product to be affiliated with sustainable material in efforts to be environmentally friendly.  So if you’re not already looking into eco-friendly solutions, now is a good time to investigate alternatives!

Recently, California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) issued new rules that may go into effect very soon. These new rules would stipulate which chemical ingredients in products that may pose a health or environmental concern. The DTSC could potentially require companies to submit specific product details for review, including data on safety and sustainability for recycling. The DTSC seems to be keeping the lines of communication open during this review process, offering ‘alternatives assessments’, which is commendable!

Plastics have gotten a lot of heat. Recently, Kellogg’s recalled 28 types of cereal which resulted in 1.7 million instances of off-flavoured cereal. That is sure to wake you up in the morning! (“Kellogg said a “slightly elevated” level of a substance commonly present at very low levels in the FDA-approved waxy resins in packaging materials was responsible for the off-flavours and odours in four types of its breakfast snacks.”).

From Kellogg’s recalls to California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) crack-down, we are sure to have more ‘unrest’ with the plastics industry. BUT, let’s compare that with the paper industry.

There are different production methods used in both the printing industry and the polypropylene industry. Each industry COULD make a change and ethically and responsibility produce goods. For instance, in the printing industry there is an alternative way to produce paper or labels which is environmentally desirable; there are sustainably managed forests which essentially “recycle” by re-pulping the old paper in order to manufacture new paper. As we know, companies do not always opt for the most eco-friendly.

Paper production involves a large amount of water, and makes use of toxic chemicals. Thus, the chemicals that mills located on waterways use contaminate the water. According to the US Energy Information Agency, the paper industry releases about 212 million tons of hazardous substances into the air and water. “These amounts are comparable to the U.S. primary metal industry — and are ranked as the third largest user of industrial water.” ( , 2010). Though most paper mills have attempted to become more eco-conscious by generating the power from wood wastes for the manufacturing process, “U.S. government figures show that pulp and paper manufacturers are the fourth largest industrial emitters of greenhouse gases”. (

Take a look at these paper-recycling facts:

• Paper bags generate 70% more air and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags
• Paper bags use 84 times as much energy to recycle compared to a plastic bag

Even if you recycle, the outcome is still questionable. Unlike paper, the most harmful aspect of polypropylene (plastic) is not the production, but rests on the consumers’ responsibility to recycle. Also, because of the durable nature of plastics, they are able to withstand high temperatures or other environmental conditions. There are more uses for polypropylene, and on average it has a lifespan of 12 years. ( ). I would like to see a paper bag last that long!

Here is a helpful link which shows how well both paper and plastic are recycles: . According to this, Americans use 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour! [BUT] most of them are thrown away!

As far as polypropylene labels, there are safe ways to print on plastic labels. For instance, the process that Vibrant Graphics use to produce polypropylene labels reduces the amount of scrap (we have less than 3 %!). It takes less material to calibrate our press and our process is geared towards shorter runs which encourages the use of less overall material. We also recycle the little waste that we do produce in order to reduce our carbon footprint. Finally, our inks do not contain any hazardous chemicals and are water-based.

For this round, I’m going to say that plastics kicked paper out of the arena. Now, the question is, which plastics’ packaging solution is best?

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Filed under alternative packaging, eco-friendly, Green Printing, In-Mold Labeling, Packaging, sustainable, Vibrant Graphics

Three Major Branding Blunders

Three Major Branding Blunders (And what your company can learn from them)

 1)      Seattle’s Best

Starbucks acquired the “Seattle’s Best Coffee” in 2003, and just last year they decided to rebrand Seattle’s Best Coffee to a “simpler, more contemporary logo.” Specifically, creators wanted to put a modern spin on the brand and turn it into a more universally appealing symbol.  

 Simpler is usually better, except in this case.  After just one week after the new brand launched, 68% of over 200 respondents said Seattle’s Best should try again.  Respondents’ feedback went something like this: “People have classified this new logo as looking like a bowl of cereal filled with tears, or even worse, a blood donation center.” 

 Seattle’s Best got one thing right, though.  They really got the public with their rebranding efforts.  Seattle’s best realized rebranding is more than just sending out a press release, it is interacting with people and showing people what you and your brand are all about. 

 “To re-launch the Seattle’s Best Coffee brand in some of their biggest markets, Seattle and Portland, they placed big red refrigerators throughout the cities filled with ice-cold lattes and mochas. Genius! This simple idea has caused a buzz both online and off. It also shows the public that just because your look has changed, your great taste and price hasn’t changed.”  (  In the end, Seattle’s Best had loyal customers stay with them, because the price remained the same and the coffee had the same great taste.  I believe this is in part due to the great marketing efforts and ‘gorilla advertising’ during the rebranding transition.           

 2)      The New Coke

This is a case where the product taste didn’t remain the same.  The second brand with a blunder is Coca-Cola, or should I say the “New” Coke?  What we can learn from this brand blunder: if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it!

 In 1985, Coca-Cola released a major failure of reinvention. “A small minority, about 10-12%, felt angry and alienated at the very thought, saying that they might stop drinking Coke altogether.” 

 People actually developed an emotional attachment to the look, feel, and taste of the brand.  People missed the old brand so much, Coca-Cola decided to reinitiate the ‘old’ taste and style.   Something we can all take away from this is: be informative and listen to your consumer’s feedback.  During the focus group, “participants liked the taste of New Coke, but were NOT told old would disappear.”  (  Perhaps if Coca Cola disclosed such a pivotal piece of information, the product would never have been close to committing brand-suicide.  Needless to say, Coke reverted back to the old formula which is now ‘Coke Classic’.

 Coca-Cola (Coke Classic) is in the lead today though, being within the top five brands on Facebook! 

 3)      Tropicana

You haven’t really seen a Tropicana advertisement, have you?  Me either.  Yet, we all know the Tropicana box, with the straw-in-orange logo.  That wasn’t always their logo though – At one point Tropicana shied away from the traditional orange with a straw in it.  This new brand looks like something you would buy generic, at a dollar store (but the price was definitely NOT lower)!  Consumers stated that if the price would have been lower, they may have transitioned easier in adapting to the new rebrand.

 With Tropicana having such a great brand identity and logo that is instantly recognizable (even without the Tropicana name), it does not make sense why Tropicana would rebrand.  In rebranding, Tropicana lost a tremendous amount of brand equity.  I know a number of people who were not able to find Tropicana in grocery stores due to the change in trade dress.   Many described the branding efforts as “making it more difficult to distinguish among the varieties of Tropicana, or differentiate itself from other orange juices.”  ( For example, with the new all-over orange color, customers find it difficult to pick out the “heart healthy” orange juice, since the text is hidden by the bright color. 

 This obviously changed the performance of the brand power, and resulted in loss of equity.  After the package redesign, sales of the Tropicana Pure Premium line plummeted 20% between Jan. 1 and Feb. 22, costing the brand tens of millions of dollars ( Shortly after, Tropicana ditched the new design.

 There is a lurking trend that these re-brands above have in common:  the corporations behind them underestimated the emotional attachment consumers had with the original packaging.  For instance, think of how we have all come to know and love the Coca-Cola bear and Coca-Cola Santa holiday promotions.  They are near and dear to our hearts.  IF you choose to rebrand, you must do the research and discover what your customer’s needs really are.  Lastly, re-affirm to the public that your new brand is of the same impeccable quality and value.

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