Digital platforms include bar codes, QR codes and digital ID codes—all of which enable viewers to access additional information via smartphone apps. Download the app, snap an image and further information arrives at the consumer’s fingertips.
ECLs enable another version of information at one’s fingertips, in this case without having a digital interface. Both are gaining popularity, as health-and-quality-conscious consumers demand in-depth explanations and education; and as regulators require more disclosures.
Following are considerations that can help drive the decision-making process about using either or both on labels and packaging that live in a brick-and-mortar environment:
Push or pull? When consumers are trying to figure out a product sitting on the shelf, they likely will be reluctant to pull open an ECL to reveal more in-depth information. Increasingly, however, they will push a button to capture a code image on their smartphones and get directed to needed data and documentation. (They also will go off on their own to access general product reviews via Google and other platforms.) To give consumers easy access on the shelf, either go with a code that can offer enough relevant information in legible type on the main label area, or create an inviting way to open the ECL. The downside of the latter is that manufacturers may get left with a bunch of compromised product labels.
All the news that prints to fit. Well-conceived and written label content may enable putting everything vital in a main viewing area that doesn’t require digital interfaces or opening up the label. A key here is to prioritize the most important information desired by consumers and demanded by regulators, then present it legibly in a short, complete, impactful way. This can be especially valuable to consumers who aren’t tech savvy or don’t want to fiddle around with it. This avenue also requires less time. And, as consumers increasingly demand immediacy, being able to quickly determine a product’s efficacy and appeal becomes more important.
Clicks for commerce. Manufacturers looking to gauge consumer interest and engagement may want to use digital codes for click-through research. Every time a consumer clicks on a code to get information, the manufacturer is getting information as well. Consumers clicking through are demonstrating a level of interest in the product. Depending on where the code sends them, an entire platform can open up—including opportunities to rate the product, take a survey, ask for more information, etc.
In some ways, this can feel counterintuitive. In a culture where brevity is preached, trying to get people to spend time clicking through and engaging further can be challenging. But for manufacturers invested in researching products through digital interactions, this can offer invaluable intel.
Trade real estate. Using ECLs or codes—or both—may entice product manufacturers to reconsider their packaging strategy. If a primary reason for including both a container label and packaging is to impart more information, it may be possible to do it all through a label-only configuration. Employing both a code and ECL can optimize the use of primary label real estate while providing adequate information to influence positive buying decisions.
Win with white space. Where not specifically regulated otherwise, some product manufacturers can opt to make the primary label area short on content and long on impact. Few words and white space can combine to make a product stand out on the shelf. It’s along the lines of the old Yellow Pages. Once the company started offering full-color ads, the quarter-page ad that stuck out most was the black-and-white one on an otherwise color-filled page. Using ECLs and/or codes to do the informational “heavy lifting” can free designers and branding enthusiasts to create attractive and memorable looks.
If nothing else, products with tiny-type labels should prompt manufacturers to rethink their strategy, allowing consumers the opportunity to gather important information without a magnifying glass or a younger set of eyes.
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.