Author Archives: Mark Lusky

New Year, New Label Design Ideas

Technology, Informed Buyers Drive Label Design Ideas

Precedents for what’s coming in the world of label design have been set by transformation from a chiefly print to technologically advanced digital world. Keywords-—other than being buzzwordy and trendy—-weren’t foremost in the lexicon of content development in a print world. However, with the advent of digital, keywords became instrumental to SEO—-and therefore to how content was written. Labeling for online sales suddenly became essential.

Labeling for Informed Consumers and Online Sales

Traditionally, labels have followed many of the same rules that applied in a print-dominated world: stand out, compel, and shock with strong graphics and copy. Now however, labels are more than that—-they also are conduits to additional information and messaging. For example, QR codes on labels increasingly re-direct readers to more expansive information on a website or other digital platform.

There’s also the “wow” factor of how you present a product with a bunch of whizbang techno-tricks that go way beyond traditional design and function. One relatively recent example is beer packaging that tells you when the product needs chilling.

So, all this technological wizardry raises the question of how important stellar graphics and content on a label are to product success, given the opportunity to bowl people over with the latest, tricked-out technology and/or other sites where they can go to get more information.

Given the myriad options that technology offers, where do you draw your label lines in the New Year? Following are some guidelines for custom product labels to help think through the best strategy for you:

  1. Tie your label to product “persona.”

    Products carry their own personality. Is yours straightforward and simple, trendy and trendsetting, or somewhere in the middle? Once you’ve listed out basics of your product persona, match them up to label characteristics.

    Here’s an obvious (hopefully) example of what not to do: Your product is simple, organic and green, and not genetically modified. You’d likely avoid a fancy, bells-and-whistles technology label that screams high-tech and contains elements that generally don’t pair well with all-natural (such as a thermostat that tells you if your beer is cold enough).

    Conversely,  a high-torque energy drink typically will appeal to high-energy, high-tech buyers influenced by technology, bold graphics, and possibly shocking copy.

  2. Labeling for online sales vs. traditional retail.

    Where will the lion’s share of product buyers see you? Will it be on a retailer’s shelf, or online? Or, will commerce come substantially from both? Then, decide on and design labels accordingly. In cases where both are weighty, think about separate labels with distinct messaging. Or, determine if a one-size-fits-all label truly will appeal in both environments, or just succeed in saving money initially (but costing you sales later). Labeling for online sales may have different requirements than labeling for traditional retail sales

    Look at the product in its immediate surroundings as well as brick-and-mortar/virtual considerations. For example, if you are marketing wine, check out primary sales channels. Are you typically on a liquor store shelf with tons of clever, graphically-sophisticated competitors? If so, determine what will make you stand out among those other choices. Here’s a possibility: a tiny label that promotes itself as a path to transparency, literally–see more of what’s inside the bottle.

  3. Increase sales by labeling for informed consumers.

    Consumers are becoming much more informed and demanding of information, particularly in areas where health and well-being are in focus. This trend likely will only intensify in the coming year, so when labeling for informed consumers, think carefully about what and how much education your buyers want. Then, make your label provide adequate education and/or refer people to more detailed information consistent with this analysis.

    Conversely, if your product is all about flash and pizzazz, it may be that the less said, the better. In these cases, high-tech label special effects, graphics, et al may produce many more sales than in-depth information.

Think About The Future Of Label Design

The New Year brings into focus new ways of considering your label’s role, look and feel. For label design ideas when labeling for online sales and informed consumers, Lightning Labels has the tools and expertise to guide you every step of the way. When you decide to make changes and/or add to your existing label line, we’ll help you get ‘er done.

Labels Play Many Marketing Roles

Labels In Storytelling, Shelf Impact, Brand Recognition…

custom labels from Lightning Labels MarketingWeek magazine details the weighty burden that packaging (and therefore labeling) plays in product marketing and consumer sentiment. Among the areas tying into packaging and custom labels are storytelling, brand recognition and shelf impact.

Ed Woodcock, strategy director of Australian beauty brand Aesop, explains his view of this multifaceted role in an article published recently in MarketingWeek. He notes, “When a shopper is weighing up what to buy, it’s packaging that prompts the pivotal ‘moment of truth.’”

He then details a New York Times columnist wanting to demonstrate how “story” impacts consumer assessment of value: “…it’s not just products in themselves that we value, but also the story that goes with them…So he decided to conduct an experiment.”

Woodcock then tells the tale of the columnist purchasing 100 worn-down items from flea market and thrift shops, then paired each with talented writers tasked with telling a short story about the object to give it new meaning. “The results were astounding,” writes Woodcock. “The average rise in value was 2,700 per cent. A 33c mallet sold for $71. A 25c plastic banana fetched $76.”

Adds Woodcock, “The experiment is a reminder that branding is much like storytelling. Brands attribute meaning to objects and charge otherwise functional products with emotion, much like the stories in the experiment. Marketing is a form of storytelling…It’s a nice anecdote, but what’s this got to do with design?…The obvious answer is that packaging should tell a story…”

Can Product Packaging Tell A Story?

He elaborates, “Ask any designer if packaging can tell a story, and the unequivocal answer will be: ‘Yes, of course!’ By means of colour, visual metaphor, symbol, texture and materials, you can create a mood and a feeling…copywriters can add an engaging tone of voice.

“So, yes, packaging can tell a story. But it has a lot of other responsibilities too; not least shelf impact, product delivery and brand recognition…One of the primary functions of packaging is to help consumers make a choice at the shelf. It prompts a ‘moment of truth’. Many of the choices we make at the supermarket shelf are habitual: we like what we know…But charge a brand with enough meaning and emotion, and consumers can be persuaded to make a change…”

Given the many hats that packaging and labels can wear, it’s important to carefully think through development of these critical elements—not just throw something together as an afterthought. As Woodcock points out, “Packaging is often your brand’s most important medium.”

This is all great food for thought. To get from thought to action, first decide priority. While storytelling, brand recognition and shelf impact are all vitally important, what’s your top concern today? Then, decide how the other areas can support the process.

For example, let’s say your shelf impact isn’t where you want it to be. Will a new label design help you better stand out from the crowd? How can you ramp up overall brand recognition with an indelible tie to the label, so that people seeing your product(s) on the shelf will have an “aha” moment? What stories can you create that also tie to the labeling, further enhancing shelf recognition?

Think About What You Want Your Label Design To Do

Rethinking your label design in light of its weighty role in marketing your product? When you’re ready to go, we’re ready to help you get there.

‘Been there, done that’ Fuels Simpler Label Design

Info overload drives less clutter, label design included

Southern Girl Soapery label design

Southern Girl Soapery’s packaging showcases simplicity and clarity in label design.

Twenty years ago, the ability of graphic designers to create drop shadows and graduated screens quickly and cheaply on a computer was a brand new shiny concept—so everybody did it. In part, its commonplace use is fueling the return to simpler, less cluttered design in general, including labels.

That’s the opinion of Denver area designer Debi Knight, owner of Knight Design Studio, who’s spent more than three decades specializing in print graphic design.

“Apple, for one, is into much simpler packaging. The trend is toward well-designed and straightforward pieces without a lot of bells and whistles,” notes Knight. “We’re bombarded with so much info minute-to-minute that there are only a few seconds to catch a reader’s attention. Simple design makes it easier to capture the essence of the meaning.”

She adds that part of the appeal of simpler design is because it’s now a new trend, in contrast to the bells-and-whistles laden graphics spanning the last two decades.

Trends in packaging: simplicity is hot

A recent Packaging Digest article featuring Lisa Pruett of PaperWorks Industries Inc. agreed that simplicity is currently a hot design trend. The article cites a Food Institute report saying that consumer packaged goods marketers introduced almost 1,900 new products in 2012—numbers not seen since the recession. As a consequence, brand competition for consumer attention dollars is fierce.

Pruett notes, “…Some brands are moving towards more minimalist look with fewer graphics and colors. This is a popular method for communicating that a product is wholesome or natural because consumers will associate the simplicity of the design with simple ingredients.”

What is, or is not, front and center on the label itself is proving ever more important to consumer buying decisions. An article in points out, “Consumers are quite savvy; they aren’t just reading food ingredient labels, they’re beginning to read cosmetic ingredients and cleaning ingredients, as well. Be forewarned.”

This supports the increasing importance of function over form, at least in some situations. Increasingly, it appears that consumers—although exceedingly time-challenged—will make the effort to understand what’s in a product before buying it. Case in point: When vetting nutraceutical labels, I generally go straight to the ingredients list and accompanying dosing information, then research anything that’s unfamiliar or controversial. As part of this process, I also read the label for correct spelling and the like.

Unless a particular nutraceutical has been recommended by a trusted practitioner, misspellings and other label mistakes call into question the manufacturer’s quality control and attention to detail overall—and predispose me to pass on their product.

On the issue of balancing form and function, Pruett weighs in, “With so many nutritional and added-value food and beverage products entering the market, packaging must be both eye-catching and adequately reflect health benefits.”

Linking packaging and label elements to expanded online information and feedback also is revving up. Pruett notes, “Additionally, as consumers continue to educate themselves with online information, another trend we can count on will be the increased use of digital and social media to interact directly with the consumer, gauge real-time preferences and receive instant feedback. Brands will continue to use near field communication (NFC)—and more specifically, QR codes—to provide smart-phone carrying consumers quick access to product information and promotions.”

Knight cautions that QR codes, while useful in principle, aren’t always panning out in practice. She notes, “From what I’ve read, many companies don’t plan out what the QR code goes to. They don’t bother to follow through with a really excellent landing page, which needs to offer the consumer something valuable. They take up valuable real estate on a label, plus elements in the QR code are busy, which contributes to the busy-ness of the label.”

Ready to simplify your custom labels?

The current “less is more” trend may have you thinking about simplifying your custom labels’ look and content. When you’re ready to move forward, we’re here for you. To find more label design tips, visit Lightning Labels’ Facebook page and stay on top of the latest packaging news and trends.  Also available on the page is a free download covering the basics for custom labels: see the icon for “6 Easy-to-follow Tips to Make a Statement with Colorful Custom Labels and Stickers”.

Package Design Contests Go Global

Package Design Contests: Heineken Uses Crowdsourcing For 60+ Appeal

Product package design contests are now appealing to a worldwide audience. Packaging World magazine detailed a design contest sponsored by Heineken to find innovative beer bottle labels and other ways to appeal to the sixty-plus crowd, a rapidly growing segment of the population:

“[Heineken] is using a dedicated Web site called to leverage crowdsourcing in its approach to innovation generally and to package design in particular…[According to Mark van Iterson, head of the Heineken Brand Design and Concept team], ‘We’ve been crowdsourcing for more than 10 years now. What’s different about is that we bring a highly formalized and structured approach to it. We get input from design professionals, packaging materials experts, and industrial designers. Not to mention the fact that it has produced some package designs that have gone into commercial production and been distributed worldwide.’”

Heineken beer bottles

Photo: Heineken beer bottles, by Raido Kaldma Source: Flickr Creative Commons

In case you didn’t already know, Merriam-Webster defines “crowdsourcing” as “the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.” Basically, Heineken’s approach is product design on steroids.

Heineken has been busy on other form-and-function crowdsourcing fronts, including label creation contests tied to its “Ignite” bottle. In the Packaging World article, Van Iterson notes that the Ignite concept features, “a glass bottle with LEDs, micro-sensors, and wireless networking…It flashes lights in time with music or in response to the motions of the person holding it…just recently announced the winner of the 2013 version…involves a technical innovation in the inks that are used. They have a temperature-sensing capability that will alert the consumer when the beer needs to be chilled. It’s a good example of how crowdsourcing helps us learn about new materials that can be used in packaging. We plan to launch it in 2014.’”

Label and Packaging Design Takeaways

There are valuable takeaways for label and packaging design challenges from the Heineken innovations. Among them are:

1. If you’re willing to devote the energy and resources, consider conducting your own crowdsourcing contest to design a new look for any or all buyer groups.  If so inclined, you can include contest categories that address sustainability issues;

2. This provides a natural, efficient way to “test out” label and packaging designs before making a final commitment. Showcase finalists on your website and enlist your marketplace(s) to vote for their favorites. In addition to providing valuable general market research, this effort likely will reveal preferences among various age groups and other demographics;

3. Label functions are expanding thanks to technology. With the advent of such label innovations as Heineken’s temperature-sensing label that tells the consumer when the beer needs to be chilled, a whole new frontier is open for exploration. These types of enhancements can add many levels of label appeal, along with competitive edge and, yes, major expense. While your product labeling may not yet warrant this type of technological leap, it’s definitely something to pursue as opportunities permit—before your competition does.

Labels Are Getting Sexier And More Sophisticated

Interested in giving your labels more pizzazz? When you’re ready to move forward, we’re ready to help. Visit Lightning Labels’ Learning Center for information on labeling a product and find out more about product labeling or access printing and packaging resources.

Trendy vs. Timeless: Brand Longevity Drives Packaging Design

Familiarity Breeds Contentment in Packaging Design

custom labels from Lightning Labels

When designing custom labels, give careful thought to timeless versus trendy in packaging design.

Trendy vs. Timeless. Hostess Twinkies, Pepto-Bismol, and Arm & Hammer baking soda are three examples of products whose traditional label look and packaging design continues to draw the marketplace today. They’re well established and readily recognized. It wouldn’t make sense (at this point at least) to “fix what isn’t broken.”

However, if your product or company is a more recent entrant into the marketplace, give careful thought to timeless versus trendy—consider the demographics and psychographics of your marketplace in your effort to design an enduring brand look.

Obviously, this requires some savvy and, typically, investigation of your marketplace(s) to see what might resonate. Here’s the rub: Many products have many audiences, often very different. For example, strong buyers of a particular nutraceutical labels can span myriad age groups, economic strata and the like. While the common bond is the purchase of your product, those who haven’t yet become buyers need to be approached in ways that appeal to their buying preferences.

Younger buyers may want a colorful, trendy brand look that makes a bold statement, while older consumers may seek a more clinical look and feel that imparts professionalism and a no-nonsense approach.

How do you design a label that can adequately address multiple audiences? Or, do you need to create different designs to target each substantive audience?

As a practical matter, the latter can be extremely costly—in terms of resources, time and money. Plus, it can dilute brand recognition. Conversely, the one-size-fits-all approach may not resonate with some would-be buyers.

Given these pragmatic constraints, here are label design tips that can bridge the gap:

1. Survey existing customers (or likely prospects if you’re a start-up) to determine likes and dislikes around graphics and branding. As part of this process, establish why they bought and continue to buy your product line. Try to get answers to such questions as: Do different audiences buy because of reputation first, with label appearance playing a role chiefly as an identifier and supplier of needed information? Do some people buy because of your label look and feel, while others buy for other reasons? What are potential upsides and downsides of changing your branding, including label look? Do they seek information that you’re not currently providing on your label? Do they want that information on the label itself, or is placing a QR code/website address on the label linked to more in-depth information the preference?

2. Conduct Internet research to address consumer buying habits and preferences (both in general and for nutraceuticals specifically) based on a variety of demographic and psychographic data. Then, overlay this general information with your existing buyers to see where the dots connect and where they don’t. It’s probable that, unless you’re willing to create different label looks to market to numerous audiences, you’ll have to prioritize your hierarchy of importance.

3. Test out perceived preferences via focus groups representing different audiences to see how the resulting one-size-fits-all branding and messaging grades out across a range of buying habits, preferences and needs. While formal focus groups can yield a variety of meaningful insights, informal testing through your existing networks of friends, family and colleagues also can be revealing and valuable. Based on the results of your testing—both formal and informal—you can fine-tune your approach for the larger marketplace.

Armed with all this information, you can then design labels that reflect your findings.

Custom Labels Can Make Or Break Product Appeal

What’s in a custom label? A lot of potential profits. Labels are one of the most valuable tools a company has to make its case to the marketplace. So, it’s wise to think long and hard before slapping just any label on your product. We will be happy to help you develop custom label solutions that best meet your needs.

Make Custom Product Labels Reflect Key Qualities, Uses

‘Simple Truth’ Line Features Straight-Forward Custom Product Labels

Custom product labels that reflect key product qualities and/or demonstrate appeal to a particular audience make it easier for consumers to make a buying decision.

custom product labels at the supermarket

Labels for products in Kroger do their best to stand out.  Photo: Rob Stinnett, Flickr Creative Commons

For example, Kroger supermarkets promote their “Simple Truth” line of natural and organic products. Their custom product labels generally emulate this simplicity with green as the primary ink color on a clean white or off-white background.

Their idea is seemingly simple: Look simple to promote the simplicity of natural and organic products (e.g., purity unadulterated with a bunch of complicated ingredients/processes). It also connotes affordability—simple product, simple price.

While Simple Truth obviously is designed to appeal to a variety of age groups, certain niche products may find success with niche-designed labels. How about a product label appealing to millennials that features nothing except a QR code and spartan information? Obviously, this focuses on a mobile-savvy marketplace while tending to exclude baby boomers and the like.

Make Product Label Printing Count

Here are some other ways product label printing can say volumes about an item’s qualities and uses:

  • Reinforce resilience. Products promoting healthful resilience need to feature labels impervious to water, oil and other environmental contaminants. Although subtle in some cases, a label that won’t stand up to the elements may convey to the buyer that the product won’t stand up to its quality claims either.
  • See red or go green. Printing labels on coated or uncoated stock can be extremely impactful to their appeal. A product wanting to promote environmental friendliness and conservation is much more likely to resonate if the label is earthy looking and feeling—with softer colors and a non-slick-looking stock. On the other hand, products promoting vitality and va-voom (in essence exhorting the marketplace to see red, a passionate color) will want to maximize the stark, slick, powerful nature of the product—likely meriting vibrant colors on coated stock.
  • Be artsy or scientific. For those developing nutraceuticals, there can be the dilemma of whether to develop an artistic, flowery label or a scientific-looking one. Examine your marketplace and desired outcomes. With homeopathic remedies, for example, one argument holds that the more scientific the labeling, the more professional and “scientifically valid” the remedy may appear to be to a wider range of the population. Others could hold that the remedy’s appeal largely to a metaphysical audience warrants a more whimsical, artistic look.
  • Get in shape. Tie label dimensions and shapes to the product message and use. For example, make a label for a weightloss product tall and skinny. When promoting bodybuilding products, consider a beefy and broad-looking label. Organic certified products can reinforce their position with a label shaped like a certification seal.

Use Labels for Products That Send a Strong Message

From earth-friendly labels made of corn to vibrant colors and effects, labels for products offer the opportunity to convey and reinforce many key messages, both about product quality and attributes. When you’re ready to review or renew your options in the label arena, we stand ready to help.

Right now, Lightning Labels is offering 10% off ordering product labels through Aug. 9, 2013, plus a chance to win a new gas grill using promo code THANKS01 at checkout. By placing an order, customers will be automatically entered for a chance to win. The maximum discount is $1,000. Free ground shipping applies to regularly priced orders shipped only within the U.S. and Canada. This offer cannot be combined with any other offers or promotion. No purchase necessary. Visit Lightning for more information. See rules for details.

English Traffic Light Nutrition Colors Spurs Label Design Discussion

Label Design: Is Color Worth A Thousand Words?

label design - color psychology

Photo: John Thorpe Photography (Flickr Creative Commons)

In an effort to more dramatically convey nutrition information, England is moving toward a traffic light ingredient labeling system based on principles of color in label design. In nutritional terms, red is bad, yellow is middle-ground, and green is good. Everything from fat to salt content will carry a colored label along with numerical values (e.g., grams, number of calories). It will replace the country’s current Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA) system.

Readily recognized color schemes such as the traffic light are just one way designers can use color to heighten message impact and minimize verbiage on labels where space is scarce. Following are other ways to deploy color for maximize impact:

1. Shading. Different intensities of the same color can connote more or less potent potions, ingredients, concentrations and the like. Color bars spanning light to dark shades can show the strength of everything from coffee to salsa.

2. Psychology. Graphic designer Debi Knight of Knight Design Studio says that different colors tie to emotions and gender. She points out, “Food labeling often features warmer colors because women prefer these colors and do most of the grocery shopping. Two warm colors, red and yellow, also tend to make people hungry—so these show up often on food labels.”

She adds, “Men tend to prefer cooler colors such as blue and green. And these colors tend to have a calming influence and make you want to eat less, in contrast to yellow and red, which stimulate and make people more aggressive. Red also puts people in a happier mood.”

Given these combinations, label designers can target gender and desired effect. Depending on the product and its marketing, this can get complicated. For example, a nutraceutical product targeted chiefly toward women, such as calming bath salts, raises the issue of whether or not to use warm female-preferred colors or cool calming colors. This is one area where an experienced graphic designer can be invaluable.

3. Context. Labels don’t exist in a vacuum. There’s the color, size and shape of the container to consider, along with variations within the same product line. “Design labels and coloring that look good throughout a series of products,” Knight recommends.

In the case of a clear container, the color of the contents come into play and can make the label look different (e.g., color of salsa in a clear bottle will impact label appearance). Notes Knight, “A label can either melt into the bottle or stand out from it. One color can make another look bad. For example, a cobalt bottle with a dark purple or green label will blend in. This isn’t good if you want your label to pop. In some cases, such as wine, subtlety in labeling may be exactly what you do want.”

Then, there’s always the issue of competitive products on the shelf. “Generally, make your colors stand out from similar ones on the shelf,” Knight notes.

Label Colors Can Be A ‘Many-splendored Thing’

Consider label colors carefully. They can have a huge impact on coloring the perceptions and preferences of would-be buyers. Order our label sample packs to try out a variety of options or take advantage of current discounts:

Lightning Labels is offering 15 percent off new orders placed online through July 12, 2013, using promo code JULY4 at checkout. The maximum discount is $1,000. Free ground shipping applies to regularly priced orders shipped only within the United States and Canada. This offer cannot be combined with any other offers or promotion.  Visit anytime for more details or updated promotions!

Create Eye-Catching Hot Sauce Labels in Time for Barbecue Season

Crank up the Heat at Summer Barbecues and Events with Custom Hot Sauce Labels

hot sauce labels from Lightning Labels

Custom hot sauce labels can heat up sales numbers this summer.

Is is time you revamped your hot sauce labels with a packaging makeover? As temperatures rise, consumers across the country are celebrating the summer season with festive cookouts and barbecues. They’re looking for fun, new products to complement their favorite dishes and if your hot sauce products are packaged with custom labels that draw attention, you’re sure to see sales spike in the coming months.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, hot sauce is among the top-selling condiments in the United States. Long gone are the days when ketchup and mustard were enough to satisfy the American palate. Global markets have brought foods from around the world to grocery store shelves and restaurants and consumers today are exposed to a variety of ingredients and flavors every day. Hot sauce has grown into a staple at lunch and dinner for many.

With so many varieties of these sauces out there, how can manufacturers snag a healthy portion of the market share? By attracting shoppers in-stores and online with high-quality, unique and fun hot sauce labels.

3 Ways Hot Sauce Label Printing Can Spice up Your Marketing Strategy

The first step to creating packaging that commands attention is choosing a hot sauce label printing option that will deliver piping hot results at a mild cost. Here are three ways digital label printing can help you design the perfect look for your products:

  1. Choose Durable, Attractive Labels for Hot Sauce: No matter how great your logo and label design look on the bottle, if your packaging isn’t water- or heat-resistant, the print will fade quickly and leave your product looking drab – especially in humid summer weather. Instead, opt for waterproof labels for hot sauce that keep your design intact and ensure your products are recognizable on store shelves and online, as well as in consumers’ kitchens and on restaurant tables.
  2. Use Digital Label Printing to Include Small Print: Is your product eco-friendly, natural or organic? Let shoppers know by flaunting the details on your labels! Digital printing allows manufacturers to place small, yet legible text on custom labels and stickers. Consider including a recipe on your product packaging that features your hot sauce as the star ingredient.
  3. Test Out a New Logo or Design: One of the many major benefits of ordering digitally printed labels for hot sauce is the ability to make orders of any size – all at an affordable cost. That means you can test a new design without having to commit to purchasing thousands of labels.

Take advantage of lightning-quick production and delivery and order your hot sauce labels today at a discount! Lightning Labels is currently offering 10 percent off label orders through June 26, 2013, using promo code SUMMER13 at checkout. The maximum discount is $1,000. Adding to these hot summer savings, all those who order will be automatically entered to win $1,000 in free gas. Free ground shipping applies to regularly priced orders shipped only within the United States and Canada. This offer cannot be combined with any other offers or promotion. No purchase necessary. Visit for details.

Budweiser Bowtie Packaging Design Puts a Crimp In the Competition

Sometimes Packaging Is the Creative Design

Budweiser New Design

The new Budweiser bowtie packaging design from

When marketing your product, a key challenge always is to make your brand memorable—particularly in crowded marketplaces that can obscure all but the most outstanding looks. Budweiser has scored a bullseye with its latest packaging design—which is really more engineering than anything else.

The iconic bowtie logo, used since 1956, has been memorialized into a crimped can that bows in the middle. It won’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the new package ties to the Budweiser brand.

It’s a stroke of genius in an advertising industry that too often creates expensive, elaborate messaging that few associate with the product. How many times have you been asked about a particular commercial, only to respond that you vividly remember everything except for the brand being advertised?

Geico created the gecko to indelibly drive product recognition. Now Budweiser has done the same with its bowtie package. How you can achieve the same feat in your marketplace, understanding that most don’t have a Budweiser-sized budget or long-lived iconic image to reinforce the effort?

1. Study your shape. As Budweiser has so dramatically demonstrated, you don’t have to stick with the same product container shape as everyone else. While its effort required years of research and refinement, and actually uses double the aluminum of traditional beer cans, you don’t have to necessarily spend a fortune to make a splash. Review the latest and greatest in container packaging and work with your graphic design/engineering team to create some shapes. This can be fun and doesn’t obligate you to go into production.

2. Leverage your label. In tandem with container shape selection, look at label possibilities. While the container itself may not be that unusual, combined with an intriguing label it can take on a life of its own. Play with different label materials, colors, shapes and special effects to see what may be possible. It doesn’t always have to be complicated. Think about the simplicity of the Apple logo.

3. Create your “con”-emoticon, icon, some type of memorable mascot, or inviting image that will make it hard to forget your brand. Is there anyone who doesn’t associate the gecko with Geico? They famously took an animal name that sounded very much like their corporate name, and voila! Where are there similar opportunities with your brand, company name, and the like?

To get the creative juices flowing, think out of the box a bit. Chrysler, in its desire to be viewed as reinventing itself in a more glamorous light, could consider the chrysalis, the cocoon from which the caterpillar emerges as a butterfly. While the term is somewhat esoteric, the fact that the two words share their first five letters opens up an immediate opportunity for brand identification. And the visuals of a beautiful image emerging from its cocoon bring to mind many design possibilities.

4. Put it all together. With all this creative output on display, decide what’s feasible in light of logistics, budgets and other pragmatic considerations. You may discover that the greatest, most memorable packaging/design idea just won’t cut it in your real world environment. Or, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that your most outlandish design is in fact very doable.

And persevere. If, for example, that incredibly appealing label won’t work with your machine application protocols, keep working with concepts to see what may be more compatible.

Look At Custom Labels In a New Light

As part of this process, request Lightning Labels sample packs of custom labels to brainstorm different looks, feels and functionality.  Lightning Labels is currently offering 10 percent off online orders through June 2, 2013, using promo code MDAY10 at checkout. The maximum discount is $1000 and this offer does not apply to reorders. Free ground shipping applies to regularly priced orders shipped only within the United States and Canada. This offer cannot be combined with any other offers or promotion. Visit for details.

When Less Is More: How to Make Custom Labels Stand Out

Less Color, Content, Design Can Make Custom Labels Stand Out

custom labels - lightning labelsIn our rush to create the most brilliant, impactful, dramatic custom labels in the universe, we sometimes forget that less can be more. Less color (think black-and-white), less content, simpler design all can make your product stand out when stacked up against all others.

Do you think this less-is-more concept applies to your product(s)? Make a determination starting with what I like to call the “Armadillo” test, a true story about a Yellow Pages ad. Years ago, in a galaxy seemingly far, far away, a YP ad salesperson proudly presented his then-revolutionary full-color pages featuring different advertisers. All the ads contained multiple colors in stark contrast to the chiefly one color (mostly black) ads that had been YP’s mainstay for many years.

As he enthusiastically showed off his multi-color palette, I gently placed a quarter-page black-and-white ad slick for the Armadillo restaurant chain on one corner of a full-color page and asked: “What do you notice first?” Our black-and-white ad, of course, because it stood out prominently from the rest of the color-heavy page.

Simplify Your Label Look

Now, think about colors, content and design of your custom labels and stickers vis a vis your competition on store shelves, on the internet, and anywhere else you can imagine. Ask yourself:

1. Would fewer colors or even just a black-and-white label make my product pop against the others?
2. Would a label with spartan verbiage and lots of white space make a statement when viewed alongside products that have crammed content into every conceivable nook and cranny?
3. Would a simple, bold design make the product more memorable than its bells-and-whistles competitors seemingly more interested in winning design contests than selling products?

There are no right or wrong answers here. It’s a matter of relativity—what do the lion’s share of labels highlight in terms of color, content and design and how do you stand out relative to them?

Then view your ideal scenario aligned with realistic requirements. Ask yourself:

1. How will my color scheme impact label printing prices and turnaround? With digital label printing, you’re generally looking at similar pricing and turnaround regardless—as digital processes accommodate many colors and  combinations. If you’re looking at offset printing, check it out first.

2. What absolutely must be included in label content, either for regulatory compliance or in the interest of full and accurate disclosures to consumers? It’s entirely possible that you will decide that more content is needed to allay consumer concerns about quantity and quality of ingredients—and sacrifice coveted white space to this “higher” cause.

3. What design elements will make you look different while maintaining expectations consumers have when buying your product? Remember the movie “Schindler’s List” that was filmed in black-and-white except for the yellow candle flame and little girl’s red coat seen briefly? If you offer a flamboyant product generally depicted in a colorful way, such as hot sauce, you may find that going all black with white type and a touch of color in a chili pepper or other graphic may make you appear “classily colorful,” yet refined—a statement also, perhaps, about the quality of your product.

Experiment with Different Combinations through Digital Printing

With digital printing of custom labels,  you can select from a wide range of label colors and finishes, in tandem with a huge array of ink color possibilities. See what you can do to stand out from the crowd.

Now is a great time to experiment. Lightning Labels is offering 15 percent off online orders through May 5, 2013, using promo code FACEBOOK25 at checkout. The maximum discount is $1000 and this offer does not apply to reorders. Free ground shipping applies to regularly priced orders shipped only within the United States and Canada. This offer cannot be combined with any other offers or promotion.