We've already shared with you "How to Choose the Right Custom Label Material" and the 6 questions to ask when deciding which material to use for your labels. Now we are going to talk about label testing.
One of the most important aspects of planning and purchasing your labels is the testing process, to determine if the material of choice actually meets all label performance expectations for your specific application. While there are many applications that may not require label testing, it is very important to understand that there are just as many that do. Even the most deliberate material selections should be tested. Time spent testing can save you both time and money. Advanced Labels is more than happy to provide raw label material for you to test on your containers, and in special circumstances we may recommend creating diecut blank labels to your exact specifications.
The importance of material testing cannot be emphasized strongly enough.
When it comes to label materials, there are many available options, and your label provider can help guide you in the proper selection.
Experienced label converters should have an in depth knowledge and understanding of the numerous container types, label materials, adhesives, treatments and varnishes, application environments, and application methods available. Of course, this information needs to be communicated clearly to the label printer early in the engineering process to avoid potential pitfalls. But even the best engineered label can still fall short of expectations and fail for any number of reasons. This is why we encourage testing the specific material, adhesive and liner combination prior to producing your entire label order.
If you decline to test your labels and they fail to adhere or apply properly to your container, you may find yourself stuck with hundreds or thousands of unusable labels, lost revenue, missed deadlines, and unhappy customers. This is a worst-case scenario that is far less likely to occur with proactive and adequate label testing.
We know brand owners are often pressed for time, so label testing prior to placing an order is the last thing you want to think about. This is effectively a gamble with the packaging of your products, and the resulting failure could be far worse (and more costly) than the inconvenience of taking a couple extra days to thoroughly test your label material.
What to test for?
It's probably fair to say that most people equate label failure to poor label adhesion. While this is true, there are many other ways a label can fail, and each type of failure has a test method for it designed to expose any problems. The most common of course is proper label adhesion to the container, with print integrity (such as scuffing and scratching) close behind. With print integrity, proper label protection is the solution. Label samples may need to be tested to insure direct contact with your product will not cause a failure and determining whether a varnish or a laminate is needed is key.
Liner breakage is another common form of label failure, and one that has little to do with the label material, the adhesive, or the protection on the label. Liner breakage can occur on the label application equipment due to torn edges, or the diecut being too deep. This failure can create massive problems and lost time, unexpected labor costs, and missed delivery dates. Testing blank diecut labels by running them through your application equipment ahead of time can prevent this from happening. You (or your filling company) will be grateful if testing catches a liner breakage problem ahead of time.
Your containers, label construction, environment, and label application methods are all important
Custom label materials, adhesives, and treatments may not perform well with your specific container in your specific environment. Bottles, jars, and tubes that are visually similar but that originate from different suppliers may perform differently – even drastically so. If you have changed container suppliers since your last label order, your previous label construction should be tested on your new container or bottle.
Why? Bottles and jars may have hidden imperfections, subtle taper differences, or more pronounced seams that may inhibit proper label adhesion. Tubes may be more flexible then before, or have a release coating residue from the bottle molding process that was not present with your last supplier.
Consider this: There are infinitely more environmental conditions under which a label may be exposed to then there are label materials and adhesive combinations themselves. This is primarily why labels fail and why testing is so important.
Keep in mind that your labels are likely to be exposed to harsher conditions than simply sitting on a retail shelf. Label application, shipping and transport, product usage, and even storage can wreak havoc on labels that were not engineered to withstand your specific conditions or the overall abuse they will experience in the supply chain.
A label doesn't need to fall off to fail. A label can stick to a bottle for dear life and still completely fail cosmetically. Labels that are not tested can wrinkle, flag, peel, scratch or scuff, and tear therefore leaving your brand with a flawed appearance. A marketers worst nightmare.
Top 7 indicators you should test your labels before going to press (when in doubt, always test!)
Squeezable containers, such as plastic tubes (more about tube labels here)
Machine or semi-auto application where equipment may conflict with labels or containers
Tight diameter packaging, where label sizes are at the absolute minimum a container will allow
Labels in cavities, such as recessed lids or custom molded bottles, where tolerances are tight
Unique shapes that may adversely effect label adhesion by application or container shape
Extreme environments, such as high moisture or humidity, damp, or cold, that may effect adhesives
Pasteurization of labeled containers may destroy unprotected labels
Your container supplier has changed
Better safe than sorry
Ultimately, there are few reasons not to test your labels first, and your label provider should supply you with raw unprinted stock for testing at no charge to you. Once your label material is approved, future testing is rarely required. Keep in mind, your labels are an investment, they tell a story and send a message, they sell your product for you and are arguably the most important part of your product packaging. Take the time, or rather make the time, to adequately test your label material before problems arise.
An Advanced Labels packaging specialist will be more then happy to offer label testing advice and guidance for testing your label material with your containers. In addition, Advanced Labels also provides in house and outside lab testing for more challenging label applications.