When should you order your labels, and what preparations need to be made before you do? All too often, packaging is an afterthought. With containers, closures, and labels all needing to work together, you should always plan ahead.
As you take a million little steps leading to your final launch, remember to include label packaging in the early-to-mid planning stages of your product development cycle.
"Fortune favors the prepared mind." - Louis Pasteur
Since the end result of all your planning and hard work is your product on the store shelf, it's not uncommon to assume labels are the last step, or close to it. We see this fairly often with new businesses, but even long time customers can fall into this trap. Here are 4 reasons to plan ahead.
1. Label Design
Most people know what they like, and probably have some idea which style of label they prefer. However, few people are familiar enough with commercial label printing to understand the myriad of material and finishing options available for each custom job. The design of your label will take some time, even if you have a complete concept to start from. Typically, a printer will charge separate rates depending on your label design needs. For a completed design that simply requires set up a lower "production" rate will be charged. For rough drafts, concepts, or designs from scratch a "design" rate will be charged.
"In art, the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can imagine." – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Production time is usually accounted for and has minimal impact on scheduling your job for printing. Design time is an open-ended process that can take from days to weeks to realize the precise look and feel you are searching for. If you have an open and ongoing conversation with your printer early in this process you can help avoid any delays in production.
More importantly, packaging needs to be included as you calculate the cost of your product to determine the final sales price. The label design you prefer may require special material, treatments, or finishes that raise the cost and you may decide to use affordable alternatives to high end options – requiring additional time to rework the design.
2. Label Complications
In every enterprise problems may arise. In the production of your product there were many moving parts, and a reliance on suppliers, vendors, and shipping. Label printing is susceptible to the same issues, and you never know when inclement weather or government shutdowns may arrive to spoil the party. There are also common label application problems that can occur after you've already received your labels and started applying them.
"It is wise to direct your anger towards problems - not people; to focus your energies on answers - not excuses." – William Arthur Ward
The key to trouble free label ordering is communication. An engaged and involved label printer will ask all the right questions, but it's up to you to provide the answers as well as any unusual or unique circumstances your product, container, or application environment may have.
More than likely, you will receive containers from one company, perhaps closures from another, and labels from yet another. These three elements need to fit together flawlessly to meet customer expectations, properly representing the quality of your products and the effort that went into creating them. Whenever possible, request samples of all three items so you can test them together and identify potential issues.
3. Label Timing
Label providers will try to save the day with superhuman turnaround times whenever possible. Speed and efficiency are foundational to the printing industry in general. But in reality, real-world speed and efficiency are accomplished through careful and deliberate planning by both the printer and the customer.
"Better three hours too soon than a minute too late." – William Shakespeare
The actual printing of your labels fits into a tight production schedule engineered for maximum efficiency. Every label project first goes through the art department, then to production, over to finishing, and finally to shipping. Just like press time, each step along the production line is scheduled ahead of time, and interrupting this process creates a domino effect impacting jobs ahead and behind.
Think of a printer's production schedule like a busy trainyard. Commercial printing presses, like trains, are massive tools that must run on a tight schedule to get the job done. Last minute requests are akin to arriving at the platform after the train has already left and expecting it to grind to a halt and reverse back to the station. Not only has the schedule been disrupted, but all the other passengers have now been inconvenienced. For a busy printer to accomodate an unexpected last minute rush job, other clients and other label projects will invariably be bumped. In extraordinary circumstances, after hours and overtime may be required to meet your shipping date.
4. Label Cost
The first 3 points all point to the last. Costs will always threaten to overrun budgets when careful planning is neglected. The potential for lost revenue and squandered investment is compounded when important tasks are put off until the last minute.
Label packaging is a key component of your product, indeed it may be the one thing that inspires someone to try your product for the first time or miss it completely along a busy retail shelf space. Your label design will communicate the values of your company, the quality of your product, and at its best inspire a purchase and help a customer recall your product for repurchase.
Labels should always fit into your overall brand message, no matter how small or large your business may be. You may have a wonderful website but your packaging is the only advertisement for your product 100% of your customers will see. Labels whose marketing and advertising efforts share visual continuity should work hand in hand building your brand message.
In the end, poor planning could drive down your product margins and even cost you sales. Building time for market research and design development are your best defense!
Keep your label printer up to date as your products are developed and communicate any changes that may impact your packaging or timeline for completion. By working together you will be able to avoid many pitfalls that could potentially delay a product launch or leave you dissatisfied with your packaging.