The Importance of Labels, Part 4

If you look back a couple of posts, I mentioned three things a good label ought to do: have a positive “net effect,” tell a story, and provide information. One of yesterday’s posts covered the importance of a well developed brand identity in the overall emotional impact, or net effect of your label. Today I’d like to briefly discuss telling a story. But before I do I wanted to share a few photos that illustrate something I presented in my second post.

I picked up some products at the grocery store this morning for some label comparisons. I picked groceries that, for our purposes, have identical products in different packaging, and I photographed them side by side. I think that the photos below represent the power of a positive net effect, perhaps more clearly than the “Vanilla Bergamot Lip Balm” label examples I used yesterday. For your consideration, then:

Exhibit A: French Bread

It just so happens that both of these loaves of bread are from LaBrea Bakery, the only difference being that the one on the left was sliced and re-packaged by the grocery store. Which one of these gives you the impression of dry, boring, possibly day-old bread, and which one says traditional recipe, old-world class, and upper-crust quality for the price of mere crumbs, all wrapped up into one loaf? You tell me.

Exhibit B: Apple Cider

I admit, on the jug of cider to the left, I used Photoshop to remove the name of the orchard that bottles it from the top of the label. But only because it’s a local orchard and I really respect that (local grower, local buyer, yeah!). Nonetheless, even if you don’t count the sexy shape of the Simply Apple bottle, what better image brings to mind that first fresh taste of apple cider in autumn than a big, juicy, red apple?! (In case you’re wondering, the local cider was unanimously voted “way better” by our panel.)

Exhibit C: Banana Chips

If you ask me, banana chips don’t really look like bananas anymore. Bananas are snowy white on the inside, and sunny yellow on the outside. Banana chips look like shriveled, dehydrated ears. Do you feel more sunny and happy looking at the colorful bag with the picture of fresh, snowy white bananas on the front, or at the bag of shriveled ears? And yes, there’s a window on the Mariani bag, so consumers can still look at the banana chips inside, if they really must. Last but not least, the bag on the left is obviously the Mariani bag—can you even tell what brand the chips on the right are?

Exhibit D: Hand Soap

I didn’t actually get these at the grocery store. They were sitting by the sink in the Blog Kitchen, where I was photographing the rest of the items, and they were perfect for this comparison! Granted, someone here at MMS made the label on the right when they split the bulk soap into smaller bottles. But I’ve seen labels just like it at our local farmers market! Anyway, there really isn’t much of a comparison. The Caldrea soap looks like it belongs in the toilette of a cozy, classy little bed and breakfast on the California coast. The bottle on the right looks like it… escaped… from somewhere clinical or experimental, which is fine for the Blog Kitchen. But not for general sale.

Did you notice any kind of common thread running through my descriptions for all of the examples above?

I told a story with each label. Not the story of the actual product, like “This product was invented at such-and-such a place, by so-and-so, and it takes 3.6 days to go from raw ingredients in our kitchen to the finished product you’re holding.” The story I told for each item was made up of a combination of the visual elements on each label, and my own perceptions, experiences, and emotions. Every single customer will see a slightly different story, based on their own temperament and life experiences, but many visual elements, typefaces, and color schemes evoke predictable emotional responses from target groups of customers. And no one knows your customers like you do. You know the type of market you’re trying to appeal to. Telling the right story with your labels, then, comes down to understanding how what you put on your packaging will make your customers feel about your product and your brand.

If that seems like an overwhelming thing to analyze and try to understand—or, on the other hand, you think that’s all psychological hogwash—put it to the test. After all, you, yourself are a consumer. Over the weekend, especially when you’re shopping for “luxury” or higher-end items like wine, cheese, chocolate, clothing, and designer accessories, take a minute to consider the packaging of what you’re picking up. Does it “feel” like it “belongs” somewhere? Can you imagine the packaging in it’s most natural setting outside of the store? Learning to listen to that story, and to analyze what about the packaging is telling it to you, is key to learning how to tell your own story with your labels.

So, what story do your labels tell? Is it the story you want them to?

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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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