Category Archives: product labels

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

What’s In a Code?

A Quick Response (QR) Code is a two-dimensional barcode that can be scanned with a smartphone. They have exploded onto the digital scene and become one of the biggest trends of 2010. Not only are the small black and white squares easy to use they are easy to create, allowing just about anyone to claim their identity through a code. More and More businesses and advertisers are using the new trend as a way to connect their audience to a landing page (the page that appears after someone scans the code) and instantly offer more information than what can fit on a product label or in an Ad.

To read the code, download a barcode reader app on your smartphone. Next, point your camera phone toward the code and it will instantly connect you to a landing page. It’s that easy! If you are looking to create a QR code, there are websites that will do it for you, such as Once you have created the code, right-click and save it to your computer. Then insert it into any document just like you would any image. Once the code is made you can resize the image, but it must remain square. Also, be sure not to crop away the white boarder. It is needed to be recognized as a code by a smartphone. Make sure the code stays black and white. Print it on either white paper or any paper that is light enough to contrast with the black square. It is a good idea to test a code you create with your own smartphone just to be sure it works properly.

Are you still wondering what all the hype is about?

Ways to use QR Codes on your product label:
– Discount Coupons
– Product give-a-ways
– Contest awards
– Upcoming events you are involved in
– Link to a menu
– Link to a website
– Link to recipes or serving suggestions
– Link to an online owner’s manual
– Product details
– Link to a video

Imagine you are having your in-laws over for dinner. You go to the grocery store to start picking up what you need. Steak is on the menu. As you head towards the meat department and browse the different options you notice a QR Code on the packaging of one of the steaks. You pull out your phone and scan the code. It immediately takes you to a list of wines that are recommended for pairing with that steak. You pick up the wine and your dinner is a great success. Your in-laws are impressed with how well your choice of wine goes with the meal. You accept the compliment…they don’t ever have to know!

QR Codes are a great fit for product labels. They are expected to gain even more momentum in 2011. Don’t get left behind! Create your QR Code today and start offering more information and incentives to your customers.

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Filed under New Technology, product labels

Add life to your product label!

Isn’t it funny how many marketers flock to use the terms ‘antioxidant,’ ‘fat free’, and other, similar ubiquitous terms?  Or how so many companies rush to enlist in the latest ‘green’ organization just to put a certified logo on its products’ labels (since over 55% of consumers look for a product with a ‘green connotation’)?  This is especially curious since research has proven that more people are more influenced by the colors and design of packaging versus alleged product claims clearly spelled out on the label.  For instance, more people are influenced and apt to believe a claim based on an earthy design, versus a certifiable emblem.  This brings us to solution number one!

1) Be honest

Be sure not to mislead consumers.  The term ‘unscented’ is a major culprit of this, and often misleading; unscented does NOT always mean that fragrances or perfumes have not been added.   This is very crucial at this time when the government is definitely cracking down on label claims! 

 2)      Don’t clutter your label!

 Less really can be more.  If a company clutters its package with testimonials, reasons to purchase the product, the package looks like a pity plea and sometimes leaves customers running.  Simple equates to elegance.  A customer feels more comfortable in purchasing the product when he or she feels empowered to decide for himself or herself.  The average consumer only glances at your product for 2-3 seconds (and is more frequently enticed initially by the picturesque quality and texture versus the copy).  Make a statement with your design that will intrigue customers in this very short time span. 

 3)      Does your message accurately reflect your campaign? 

Does the tone of the message and product photo match?  All thematic elements of a company, product, slogan, and package graphics should work together harmoniously and be representative of each other. 

 4)      Use a specialty label to set you apart. 

  •  With all of the current regulations surrounded required copy on labels, space is definitely limited.  For an exciting spin on putting advertising copy on your labels, try a QR Code that will link users to additional information! 
  •  Label materials can also set you apart.  Film labels are clear, less expensive, thin substrates.  They are elegant looking and the “no label look” is very striking.  The substrates that Vibrant Graphics prints on are 100% recyclable, which is appealing to customers!  Another specific type of material that definitely sets products apart is the use of holographic material.      
  •  If you have a clear glass or plastic container, two-sided labels look very classy, and are unique.  For example, on the opposite side of the product that the label is adhered to, it is possible to see through the container, and read the other (back) side of the label. 
  • Different shapes of labels are also eye-catching, which is possible by die-cutting!   

 5)      Design with location in mind.

  • It is the age of personalization, after all.  Since digital printing does not require expensive plates and is a web-to-print based printing solution, this is extremely cost efficient way to conduct test-market segmentation.  Digital printing offers increased personalization and allows the product distributor to include different messages on the product distributed in various regions.  This is extremely valuable when different locations require different messages or have different labeling requirements. 
  • Another use of digital printing is when you would like to change the product label color, depending on region;  colors have different connotations in different regions (such as green being correlated with religion in Ireland).  Blue is currently considered the safest global color.

6)      Make the label interactive.

Does your product have a story behind it?  Tell it.  Lots of products have clever and funny quips on the side or even under the cap like Snapple has!  Think of a unique way to position your product or have your consumers interact with your product.  Wheat Thins has a remarkable strategy of tying the consumer to the product!

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Filed under alternative packaging, Digital Printing, In-Mold Labeling, product labels, Vibrant Graphics

Talk about Synergy…

Picture this.  You have just gotten home after picking up a few miscellaneous items from the market and decide to do a load of laundry.  After separating your darks and lights, there is an unexpected visitor at your door.  The ‘doorbell-ringer’ is persistent, and suddenly your laundry box is reverberating.  Panic ensues.

 Hopefully you knew about the recent Omo Laundry detergent promotion before you decided to purchase that particular brand, otherwise you certainly would not have any indication of who is at your door, and that you were in fact a “lucky” winner. 

 Omo, a brand-name detergent in Brazil is implementing a revolutionary advertising campaign: 50 boxes of Omo detergent are disbursed with GPS devices buried inside of the detergent.  Once a box is activated, company employees are sent to track the lucky (in question) customer home.  If the customer is reluctant to answer the door, the team will then activate the GPS which will make a strident noise.  Are you in support of this dirt-demolishing advertising ploy, or is it just plain dirty?  Whatever your thoughts are, tracking and sensory technologies are going to become even more prevalent.

 1)      Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)

 Keurig (distributor of a single-serve coffee machine) may add RFID tags to the coffee filters in order for the machine to sense the type of coffee being placed into the device.  This would allow the machine to change temperature, milk type, and any other features. The single-serve coffee machine will essentially remember your order.

 Of course, we cannot forget about the RFID-Tag infiltration at Wal-Mart.  In an effort to put a halt to thievery, Wal-Mart decided to track individual items by installing smart tags that will allow retailers and manufacturers to track items at the unit level.  Specifically, Wal-Mart will track jeans and undergarments in order to improve inventory.  Sure, you could remove the RFID tag once you exit the store, but even before that, markets would have the capability to find out more information about you and your purchase interests on the sales floor.  The smart tags are stirring up controversy regarding privacy concerns.

2) Quick Response (QR) Codes

 From garbage trucks to billboard advertisements, QR codes may be the saving grace of print media.  After downloading an app to your phone, you can scan the two-dimensional code, and view the image by photographing an ad, product, or label.  The app/software will launch the URL imbedded in the QR code and streamline the associated video or download the image.  A couple of recent examples of companies using QR codes include the recently publicized (and racy) Calvin Klein billboard.  A QR code image was placed on the billboard with the tagline “Get it Uncensored.”  After viewers took a photo of the image was “unlocked.”  This technology, thus, can be very controversial.

 Following Calvin Klein’s movement, NYC garbage trucks jumped at the chance to use this technology. The code on the garbage truck will transport users to a video show called “The Green Apple: Recycling.”  “Having QR codes all over town will hopefully remove much of the nerd-factor from the QR code scan, and demonstrate to tens of thousands of New Yorkers…the potential rewards of engaging with the codes.” 

The QR codes could also serve as interactive information portals.  For instance, cities could ‘imbed’ historic information on a landmark.  Another advantageous aspect of using QR codes on products is to create a ‘universal language’ by imbedding a photo or incorporating product translations in the code.  The possibilities really are endless.

3)       Stickybits

 ‘Stickybits’ allows users to be connected to a social experience, essentially attaching content to any around you.  For instance, if you scan a product at the store, you can attach a recipe to the sticky bit.  With the current packaging regulation proposals that may come into effect (i.e. Food manufacturers being required to provide nutrition content on the front of the package); the stickybits may be very useful in allowing packaging professionals to convey information despite the decreased space on the packaging.  Consumers and marketers will be able to participate in product-related conversations, offering feedback or incentives.  Although stickybits has been criticized as “graffiti for nerds,” the possibilities of using stickybits are endless: real estate, product packages, personal notes, or business cards.  Attach meaning to any object around you!

 Communications theorists of the late 1900s thought online news was synergistic; these theorists would truly appreciate this! But what do you think, has it gone too far?  How would you implement the aforementioned technology?

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Filed under Digital Printing, product labels, Uncategorized, Vibrant Graphics

Claims, Claims, and MORE Claims

The United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made commendable strides since the packaging and advertising claims of the 1960s.  For instance, take a look at this advertisement from the early 1900s.  Will our generations’ ads look this outlandish in 30 years?  I hope not.

Manufacturers were once only required to include nutritional content on store packaging, but now due to FDA mandating, we are able to receive nutritional content in many chain restaurants that have over 20 locations.   Although we have made great advancements in including nutritional information on the label, what about false claims

It is interesting to take note of the product claims plastering the product labels and packaging while you are at the grocery store: “Sustainable,” “just like grandma’s,” “home cooking,” “organic,” “natural,” and “home-style”. (I didn’t realize “grandma” made things out of a box in the 1950s!).  At the Innova Market Insights IFT Food Expo this year, “researchers tracked 987 new products that use the world “simple,” “simplest” or “simplicity” in 2009, compared to 467 in 2008” (and that is just including product claims including different versions of ONE word). 

One claim that can be made for conventional foods and dietary supplements is “nutrient content.”  However, the FDA is increasingly concerned with how harmful supposedly nutrient-content food can actually be.  According to an article written by Marion Nestle and David Ludwig, ” [At one point] the FDA permitted food packages to indicate “contains 7 essential nutrients”, but continued to prohibit statements that food or products could prevent, treat, or mitigate disease.” 

 Since then, several products have ‘stirred up’ the marketplace and certain regulations became more relaxed.  Ludwig points out that after Kellogg Cereal made ‘health claims’ in 1984, other companies saw that Kellogg’s market share increased by 47%. Competitors wanted to be able to follow the trend.  Since this, the FDA has ruled that ‘substantiated’ health claims are acceptable. 

BUT, what exactly is a ‘substantiated health claim?”  There is gray area between a health claim and health “guidance” (which only suggests dietary patterns).  Under this act, even fruits and vegetables are not eligible to make a “health claim.”  It would be considered a dietary guidance, since they maintain a healthy structure.  Although the FDA has stated they must be truthful, the dietary guidance statements are NOT subject to FDA review.  Thus, many products find ‘loopholes’ into making false label claims. 

Not only are companies making health claims by added text to their product labels, but some product names suggest health benefits, such as Slim Fast.  The word ‘fast’ is overlooked since it does not detail specific claims explaining how much weight loss the consumer will experience and what timeframe they will lose weight within.  Another, and possibly the most disappointing claim, is seeing the term “ONLY 100 CALORIES”.  The disappointment comes when you take a closer look and realize that the serving size is less than one ounce!      

My suggestion is for the FDA to make a more universal plan of action.  Semantics causes a great deal of the problems, since many countries have different regulations and opposite ideas of what is healthy and what isn’t.   For example, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in the European Union will soon require a warning label on products with six food color additives.  This is a result of a link found between harmful additives and hyperactivity in children.  Thus, Europe would like to discontinue use of synthetic materials and replace them with natural alternatives.  While Europe moves towards natural food color additives, the United States has products such as Green Ketchup. 

Another recent event occurred due to packaging procedures not being unified involves a miscommunication regarding bi-lingual label requirements in Vancouver.  A Vancouver grocer was ‘out’ $20,000.00 because a cheese label “said “feta” or “Monterey jack” but failed to include the word “cheese.”  She had to remove products from her shelves in order to comply with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).      

Europe and other countries should form a common language, so the same guideline applies to all parts of the world.  Unifying terminology and classifying claims would make a colossal impact on decreasing the deceptive nature of product labels.  Perhaps a move like this will not work without the help of the people and marketers.  For instance, in the UK there is a campaign being implemented called ‘Change4Life.’  In this campaign, the government works with the marketers in order to decrease obesity by informing customers of nutritional content on product labels.  Big brands such as Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart are able to unite through these marketing efforts.   

What is your take on the current nutrition labeling controversy?  Do you freedom of speech gives companies have a right to establish said health claims?  Let the FDA know; the FDA is looking for our input, afterall.  What would you suggest to the FDA?

 Voice your opinion!  Visit the FDA site and select “submit a comment.”  Supply the number: FDA-2010-N-0298; then select “search” button.

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Filed under Digital Printing, product labels, Uncategorized, Vibrant Graphics