Label be Nimble, Label be Quick

By Gary Paulin and Mark Lusky

This play on the nursery rhyme saying, “Jack be nimble, Jack be quick” is an apt description of why custom digital label printing and flexible packages/pouches go together so well. These labels provide the ultimate ability to pivot affordably on short notice, a very valuable asset in a fast-changing world.

In sharp contrast to such label technologies as shrink wrap that can be cost-prohibitive for small quantities, custom pressure-sensitive labels can be very economical in quantities as small as 50. As pandemic developments have proven, the ability to be nimble and quick is invaluable. One need look no further than product manufacturers regearing their labeling and packaging to reflect COVID-specific protection starting first quarter 2020.

And they’re quick. Unlike flexible packaging/pouch and shrink-wrap production turn times running 4-6 weeks (or more), digital labels can be produced and shipped within 72 hours (even faster in some circumstances).

Other flexibility quickly becomes apparent in such areas as creative changes, and ability to order pre-produced plain metallic or one-color flexible pouches in inventoried bulk quantities—then order/apply adhesive labels as needed. This eliminates committing to huge quantities of printed pouches, in turn creating massive waste if there’s a need to pivot right away because of a new industry development, disclosure regulation change, competitive challenge…or pandemic.

Maximizing the plusses of combining flexible packages/pouches with self-adhesive labels merits attention to some details that can make a huge difference in how the finished product looks and acts. Following are two key tips:

  1. Assess adhesives and design approach, then test. While adhesives aren’t always top of mind, they should be. Especially with flexible packages/pouches, a label that will stay adhered uniformly is critical both for form and function. A cracking, chipping label due to an inadequate adhesive screams shoddy—and that’s a really negative influence on sales. As for legibility and clear presentation, top-quality label design and presentation that works well with a particular package type, shape and size is a must, along with reliable adhesion. Inability to easily read labeling information, including major health or other warnings—either because of design or adhesive issues—can subject the product manufacturer to reputation-damaging reports and legal liability.

To ensure both adhesion and design are all they should be, test out prototype(s) before making final choices and fulfilling an order. How does the product look when folded, crinkled, handled repeatedly? Does vital information “disappear” or become hard to read when the package is manipulated in certain ways? Are those ways acceptable or do they pose a problem? Does the label itself, including adhesive, withstand deterioration to an acceptable degree due to moisture or other trying conditions? Is there a reason to make labels removable, such as turning them into a “collectible?”

  1. Regear/revise as needed after testing. With flexible packages/pouches, challenges of keeping everything appearing and functioning as needed can be tricky. If, after testing, there are problems in such areas as legibility, consider alternative presentations of information and disclosures. These can range from including QR codes or Augmented Reality features that enable consumers to link with other information platforms, to extended content labels that help present information in a way that isn’t compromised by a folded or crinkled package.

In theory, if a product manufacturer meets disclosure requirements on the primary label surface and can present enough branding/messaging to capture consumers on first glance, it can make a lot of sense to offload other information to linked or extended content platforms unaffected by product handling.

Let’s consider the example of a flexible pouch alcoholic beverage. While it would be a stretch to include recipes incorporating the beverage on the surface of the package itself, an extended content label could do the job admirably. Or, a smartphone-enabled QR code/Augmented Reality feature can direct consumers to a wealth of other, more in-depth information about everything from product history and compelling stories to cautionary content.

As part of the testing process, think about how the package itself will be manipulated at different stages—starting with production/printing and ending with the consumer. Will it be handled a lot, including shipping and delivery? Is it more likely to sit on a shelf until purchase? Both?

This additional level of testing will help determine needed modifications. To paraphrase the old adage, “A chain is no stronger than its weakest link,” a flexible pouch/package is only as strong as its weakest point. Make sure you’ve covered all the bases.

About the Authors:

Gary Paulin is vice president, sales and client services at Lightning Labels, a Denver-based custom label printer that uses state-of-the-art printing technology to provide affordable, full-color custom labels and custom stickers of all shapes and sizes. Mark Lusky is president of Lusky Enterprises, Inc., a marketing communications and content development company. Contact:; 800.544.6323 or 303.481.2304.

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