Labeling is playing a larger role in packaging and brand identity than ever before. It’s all about connecting to the consumer, because today’s consumers want to be connected with their favorite brands. As such, the personal connection a consumer establishes with a brand must connect their values and aspirations, and labeling can be one means of doing so.

While creative labeling through colors, shapes, decorative foil or unique typography can help a brand pop off a shelf, they can also help communicate a brand’s story as it works to capture a consumer’s attention. And because nearly every consumer who walks into a store today is carrying a smartphone, a brand can use the label in new ways to develop a deeper relationship with that consumer.

AR Enhances Consumer Interaction

Intelligent labels with near field communication (NFC) technology allow brands to interact with consumers at the store, at home, at a partyꟷvirtually anywhere the labeled product can be accessed via the smartphone. By connecting into a label’s augmented reality capabilities via downloadable apps, a consumer’s NFC-enabled smartphone can provide a customer journey that goes beyond purchase via storytelling, special sale offers, recipes, instructions, games, direct interaction or loyalty programs, to name but a few. It’s all about pushing the brand-to-consumer experience a bit further and into another realm.

While augmented reality can be used for any product, it is taking off in wine and spirits industry. Consider a high-end bottle of liquor. First, the label can act as a security feature by providing information regarding whether it is open or closed. Next, a story may be told or an animated character created that can share different drink recipes, or take the user on a specific adventure. The capabilities are endless, and we’ve seen residual brand benefits from consumers who post their experiences to social media based on the perceived “cool” factor.

There’s also a practical benefit for the brand. Given a certain amount of time, the consumer may be reminded that it may be time to stock up again. The label can also be a two-way street, helping a brand collect data about the user – how or where the product is being used, for example.

Special Finishes Can Drive Demand

Foils, die cuts and thermochromic inks may not be new, but any of theseꟷdone wellꟷcan create a distinctive look that elevates and complements a brand. Adding a clear varnish to provide tactility takes it up a notch. Many industries are taking the cue – again from the wine and spirits category – to employ special techniques not just at the high end, but at the mass consumer level as well.

The key is to ensure that the look created isn’t forced. Just about every bottle in the wine space has some special finishing to the label today, or so it seems. A great example is when a brand uses foil in a manner that enhances a label design rather than just making it stand out by making it “blingy” or loud. Accenting large typography with foil when hit by the light as it sits on the shelf can create a dramatic, premium effect instead of a glitzy and fake look.

Die cuts best serve their purpose when fully integrated into the vessel on which it resides. Used properly, the die cut can tell the brand story and connect to the consumer as it stands out against the competition. Consider cosmetics packaging. Instead of using a rectangle on the bottle, attention to detail can make it truly special and unique. Attention to detail through a subtle die cut, like a small mountain range, or a bold geometric shape that combines a circle and square can add punch.

Providing an Attractive Canvas

It’s all about finding the right canvas for a specific application. Pressure-sensitive labels are great for die cut applications that adhere to a vessel in the best manner possible so that they can continue to tell the brand story through the product’s lifetime.

Shrink sleeve is a great option as opposed to direct print on beverage vessels, allowing small, affordable batches for products such as craft beverages. These also play well into the customization trend we’re seeing so much of today. If it’s opening day at the ball park, for instance, beer cans sold that day can commemorate the fact. Shrink sleeves can also help rebrand a vessel that already exists. If brand information changes, for example, a shrink sleeve can salvage unused existing packaging and keep it from a premature end.

Speaking Of Sustainability

ustainability should be a part of any labeling and packaging project. It’s not a trend, it’s a necessity. Avery Dennison’s commitment to sustainability is evident through its ClearIntent portfolio with a selection of products that reduce material usage, improve recyclability, use recycled content and are responsibly sourced.

The ability to offer consumers a packaging sustainability story provides brands an opportunity to walk the walk. Studies show that consumers – particularly millennials – are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging and products. Sustainable labels really bring it full circle in helping a brand connect to the consumer in a very positive way.