Customer Service

Label Presentation: along for the ride or driving the bus?

By Mark Lusky | March 13, 2017

Look at your labels and packaging. Really look at them, both from a graphic and content perspective. Do they make you stand out from the crowd or just blend into that crowd?

For some product manufacturers, accurate information and a legible look are all that’s really needed. But, for the rest, these two qualities should be the beginning of the process—not the end of it.
Despite conventional wisdom that dictates the need to look and sound different than the competition, many companies settle for look-a-like and following the crowd. After all, if “everybody’s” doing it, it must be a safe way to go. And human nature often tends toward conservative, safe solutions over breaking away from the pack.

This is particularly evident in the world of website design. Many previously “horizontal” website pages now scroll down…and down…and down to capture much more information on one page. While this can fit better with vertical viewings on smartphones and tablets, versus the horizontal format of desktops, many just follow the leader instead of evaluating their particular challenges.

The website Contentmarketinginstitute.com addresses the “me, too” challenge in a recent article entitled, “One Thing is Killing Content Marketing and Everyone Is Ignoring It.” While this article addresses content across a variety of digital platforms, including websites and emails, the message resonates as well with those developing label and packaging graphics and content.

Article writer Joe Pulizzi notes, “Our job, as marketers…[is] about creating the minimum amount of content with the maximum amount of behavior change in our customers…For that to be possible, what you are creating has to be valuable, useful, compelling and, yes, different.”

He goes on to say, “…over 99% of marketers do not have differentiated content. They are not telling stories that are different.”

Are You Happy With The State Of Your Art?

Look at your label and packaging. Are you happy with the way it looks and what it says? Are sales as strong as they could be? Is there absolutely no way to improve the present branding?

If you answered “yes” to all three questions, then by all means maintain the status quo. If, however, “no” cropped up for one or more, it’s time for change and improvement. Following are a few lenses to look through as you consider options:

1. Counter current trends. When asked about the secret to his hitting prowess, old-time baseball great Wee Willie Keeler responded, “Hit ‘em where they ain’t.” In other words, go where no one else is standing. Instead of rushing to mirror the latest and greatest, perhaps the best move is to go the opposite direction – where no one is currently standing. A real-life example illustrates the story: Decades ago, when the Yellow Pages had just introduced four-color ads, an excited salesperson  showed me a page with four color-packed, quarter-page size ads. I placed my client’s black-and-white ad on the page and commented that mine would be noticed first.

Think about ways you can hit ‘em where they ain’t – in both look and content with your labels and packaging.

2. “Don’t take too much advice…You may wind up making other people’s mistakes.” This anonymous quote has adorned my wall for many years. In essence, it means that company principals need to follow their own instincts and hunches while selectively weighing and balancing the views of others. Too many companies look to marketing and branding “gurus” when considering labels and packaging. Start by stacking up your product(s) on a shelf with a bunch of competitors and see who stands out, where and why. Then, brainstorm ways to make your presentation jump out ahead of the others. How about content that plainly speaks to quality and health benefits without over-emphasizing today’s buzzwords? “Damn good stuff without any bad stuff” comes to mind for a food product manufacturer intent on clean, healthy and tasty offerings, along with applicable requisite “organic,” “gluten-free” and/or “non-GMO” credentials.

3. Make it fun. Get others involved in the process, whether that’s a crowdsourcing situation or a selected group of stakeholders – including employees, customers, partners, et al. Establish parameters for contributions, both graphic and content related, and let the ideas fly. This can be a contest or just a stakeholder empowerment exercise to help further the company. It’s important to note that this isn’t the same as “taking advice.” You’re just priming the pump with ideas that may merit further consideration. While this is vital to the future success of the company, it doesn’t have to be solemn and overly formal. We’re all overstressed; have some fun creating new ideas and see what, if anything, comes of it.



Mark Lusky is a marketing communications professional who has worked with Lightning Labels, an all-digital custom label printer in Denver, CO, USA, since 2008. Find Lightning Labels on Facebook for special offers and label printing news.
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