Lowly Label Bears a Heavy Load


THE WOODLANDS, Texas – When a consumer sees your motor oil package on the retail shelf, in less than 3 seconds hell decide to reach or pass. How does your label stand up to that moment of truth, a packaging expert asks.

Labels must connect with your customer, create shelf impact, enhance your brand, create a consistent message across the globe, and drive cost efficiencies. All in 2.6 seconds, Laura Clark, director of marketing with Avery Dennison, told the Petroleum Packaging Council Spring Meeting here on March 16.

Macro consumer trends strongly influence the label marketplace, Clark said. Convenience is one of the most important. Dual-income families are 80 percent of all U.S. families today, up from only 51 percent in 1998. Its a major reason our lives are busier. It impacts everything we do including auto care. Labels must be clear and simple; right-sized packages must be easy to open, use and reclose.

Green is another major trend, Clark continued. For motor oil and similar products, this means less waste, recyclable, biodegradable, sustainable, and light weight.

Aging and ethnicity are additional powerful consumer trends that influence labels. For older customers, packages must be smaller, lighter and easier to open, while labels must be easier to read. Dual languages may be desirable as, for example, the U.S. Hispanic population grows by 55 percent over the next two decades.

Labeling is a primary advertising tool, said Clark. For some consumer items, 90 percent of purchasing decisions are made at the shelf. Private-label products, including motor oil and other auto-care items, are growing in importance. Branded products have to respond to private labels or keep losing market share.

Clark compared the principal label technologies used for motor oil bottle decoration, noting that cut-and-stack wet glue labels are cost effective but losing market share to newer technologies. In-mold labels are a step above wet glue, she contended, but people are moving away from in-mold because of inventory issues. Heat transfer labels and pressure sensitive labels offer design advantages but at a higher cost. Shrink is the fastest growing label segment, although it is still only about 7 percent of the prime label market.

New products are adopted slowly in the packaging world, said Clark. Shrink sleeves are the newest idea. They were invented in Japan in 1962, and its still the latest and greatest decorating trend today.

Turning to the labels of the future, Clark noted that clear on clear – a clear label on a see-through package – is the biggest trend. It communicates freshness and sustainability, she noted. Clear on clear is driving sales.

Expect to see more visual elements on labels, including holograms, matt and gloss effects, pearlescence, metallic inks and glitters. Tactile effects will also be featured, such as embossing, hot foil stamping, lacquers, screen printing and more. And interactive labels will grow in popularity, said Clark, including scratch-on labels, aromatic labels, glow-in-the-dark effects, and extended content labels.

But simpler can be better, Clark cautioned. She pointed to a premium Mobil 1 label as a good example of simple, clean graphics and a clean label that can compete on the shelf at a Wal-Mart, where 50,000 to 100,000 products are vying for a consumers eye.

Watch for the roll-fed shrink to gain ground, Clark concluded. Its a new product, commercialized in Europe three years ago and introduced in the United States in July 2009. The roll-fed shrink label is like a sleeve shrink, but cheaper, and it offers faster line speed and efficiency with the high-end look of 360-degree graphics on a clear or opaque label.

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