The Importance of Labels, Part 2 3

There are lots of elements that make up a good label. And by “good,” I mean effective—at the end of the day a label isn’t worth very much if it doesn’t sell the product it’s stuck on. And I’m not just talking about the wording of the label. The most carefully worded label in the world isn’t going to help you sell anything if it’s not waterproof and it gets wet. Some labels need to stand up to rough handling and heavy usage. And especially in the soap and cosmetics industry, most labels also need to be oil-proof and light-fast.

So the material a label is printed on is part of what makes it a good label. We print our custom order labels on vinyl here at MMS—it’s oil- and waterproof, and it won’t peel up or rub off during shipping and handling, like paper labels can. We also print with the right kind of ink, which is another important element to good labels. Our ink is cured right inside the printer with ultraviolet light, which makes it light-fast and extremely durable, and gives it a lovely finish.

All right, now that we have the technical requirements out of the way, let’s talk about what’s on a label that makes it effective. The visual elements are easy to list off… there’s the shape of the label, its colors, the typefaces used, the graphic elements, the company brand, and, of course, the product information. After all, the reason we label our products is to deliver information to the consumer, right? Wrong! Well ok, that’s one of the reasons. But anyone who thinks that providing information is the sole purpose of a label, take a look at these three:

Which one would you be more likely to pick up at the grocery store or the farmers market? Now, can you tell me why? Does the typeface or the color mean that the product inside will be any better? Not likely. So why would you pick the one of the two on the bottom? I think it is because both combine all the visual elements we listed above to do the three things an effective label ought to do. It has a positive net effect, it tells a story, and it provides information.

What I’m calling the “net effect” can be summarized in the instantaneous emotional reaction a person has when they see your product for the first time. Shopping is emotionally driven. And that actually works to your advantage as a seller of fine, limited quantity, and custom made goods. Think about it: the 98¢ supermarket generic bar of soap will probably get a customer’s hands just as clean as your $4.50 bar. You need customers to feel good about spending that extra money on your product, even though you only have their attention for a second or two. They won’t register how they feel about the individual elements of your label, but the positive net effect of all those elements combined will bring them in for a closer look. Then your product’s own merit will sell itself.

All three lip balm labels are for the exact same product, but the labels on the bottom are more effective. Why are they more effective? They bring in attention and make the customer feel that your product is for them. The product will talk to the customer and say, “I belong with you. Buy me and take me home!”

How can you make your labels more effective and enticing to a customer?

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About Andee

Director of Happiness. I'm a thirty-something soap snob. I've grown up with handmade soaps, and I love them! I really like making lotions, soaps, and perfumes. I adore mixing scents to come up with something new. My favorite scent is either Wicked or Cotton Candy. I tend to hoard fragrances, I even have an Earl Grey Tea from the MMS catalog. I won't tell you how old it is, but it sure is good!

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3 thoughts on “The Importance of Labels, Part 2

  • Zany

    I love MMS product labels! They stick, but also peel off easily to re-purpose the containers.

    I’d actually pick up the first label — it’s easier to read than the other two. LOL But that’s just me. I have old eyes and I want to know what’s in every product I buy. But I totally agree, no one else but me, or someone like me, would be drawn to the top label. The other two are far more attractive. So #3 would be my second choice because of the sharp contrast between the background and the text, and the ingredients are easier to read. #2 would be my last choice because I’m not at all drawn to that color background, although it is nicely done overall.


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  • atin_co

    I will chime in here, as I’ve been a UI designer for many years and am now trying my hand at creating bath and body products. Labels, as with most visual things that a person reads, needs “white space” to help draw the eye to where you want it to go. It also needs color, in the form of an image or a background, and consistency in type fonts so that there’s not too many.

    Out of the 3 choices above, I would say that #2 comes closest to achieving it’s purpose. The large font for the ingredients in #3 makes it confusing as to what you should be looking at, what it is or what it contains. #2 uses italics nicely for the ingredients, and also leaves a nice gap between the product name and the ingredients. But, when you roll it around the lip balm, the bottom of the label is too close to the top product name, so that whole section could be moved up just a titch.

    Sorry if I put in too many details – just force of habit I guess! Labels are very frustrating to design even for me, since there’s so much information to try and fit in such a small area. I don’t mean to sound know-it-all-ish, so sorry if it comes off that way! I am still trying to perfect my own labels. Here is a link to what my lip balms labels currently look like – any and all opinions or suggestions are most welcome! I put a black border around it so you could see size.


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