Labels – How to get it right, so people actually get it.

Posted on August 23, 2017

Labels, labels, labels, what is it about labels that successfully manage to get our attention? – or in some cases leave us pulling bizarre faces at a product in a shopping isle, in clear view of the public – as if it just said something insulting to us! Embarrassing… but never mind, we all do that. But let’s tease this topic a little and start at the very beginning with, let’s call it the “DNA breakdown” of what traditionally constitutes a proper or true label… 

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The Business Dictionary tells us very basically that a label is a “Pictorial, descriptive, or informative matter (such as a brand, mark or tag) attached, embossed, impressed, marked, printed or stencilled on (or otherwise forming part of) a product and/or it’s container.” Alrighty then… I deduce from that that there are many ways to attach a label to its host, but very little description of what it could be – and virtually no indication of what its core purpose is! 

Yes, first and foremost as we all know the label is there to identify an item or product, and that’s a no brainer. It must also tell you about the product, adhere to regulations such as descriptive ingredient tables, display the producer, represent the brand, describe the contents, and the list goes on.  But what about the purpose of the label in terms of attracting a target market and visually selling itself to you? There’s a lot more “creative mental motive” involved there than people generally wish to know...

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Let’s face it, we as humans are visually manipulated – controlled even, whether consciously or subconsciously, and whether we like to believe it or not - those in the game of marketing and effective creative design are almost oracles at the sport! They’re actively in our heads, bonding with our method of choice and feverishly searching for the nerve reactor that controls your hands!

Elaborate marketing surveys are constantly ticking over like the milli-second hand in an Olympic race, with the definitive purpose of keeping a finger on the consumer pulse and establishing what it is that will make people buy a product or not. Most often or ultimately, it’s the packaging – and in this case, we refer to the label. But as ever-changing as this endeavour may be, the game is fierce on and the results are worth gold to those who apply them. With this whole “prescribed way of labelling – it doesn’t mean that producers all follow the same rule – no, perhaps the same game, but each will still apply it differently.  (Don’t for a minute think that a less attractive label is not the better product though – not everyone changes with the seasons) But precise studies in terms of market analysis are constantly churning out the newest version of indicators so that marketing and branding efforts can adapt in this ever-lasting challenge of increasing their markets and growing their sales.

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Sometimes I look at a label and say to myself “I can see you like this, but do you need it or just want it?” My response to that is irrelevant, so let’s just move on. But the truth is that even if you are aware of the marketing tactics out there, designed to lure you into buying their products, you are and will always be visually vulnerable. 

Let’s look a little further.

To be fair, not everyone is a culprit of vindictive market-brainwashing, and thus the question one should also ask is to what degree has strategy been implemented into the formulation of a label – especially regarding a ratio of branding, product description, aesthetics, quality, and so on. That’s pretty broad-spectrum analysis – and possibly the reason we couldn’t be bothered to give it too much thought – but those no-name brands have you thinking, now don’t they? Fortunately, with no-name products you kind of know it’s a reasonably good quality product, but it’s not likely that you’ll put that mayonnaise bottle on the table for guests, is it? In the case of no-name products it’s about price point. They’ll tell you it’s value for money because you’re paying less for packaging, and blah, blah, – but I also know better and understand the effect that mass sales have on the bottom line!

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Anyway, there is no said-protocol required of you when you go out shopping, (other than to respect the budget perhaps) but you are entitled to remain loyal to the products that you know and trust, and enjoy the new ones you choose to try out. Also, enjoy this brief time of “label-awareness” you may well experience for the next few days after reading this article, but this effect shall pass in time and soon you will most likely again fall oblivious to the cunning manipulative power of labels! We are consumers after all and therefore the game of search-and-find is never going to end.

Packaging and labelling will forever make products exciting!

Things are not about to change fast – and even if you’re a staunch believer in the rapidly approaching future where we will all dress the same (as in the Star Wars movies) and everything will be wrapped in a (boring) but distinguished global brand – it isn’t going to happen (yet). For now, we have the exciting environment called competition which fortunately, will continue to serve us choices, variety and many more creative designs to either fall for, adore or sneer and scoff at on the shop shelf!


For more information on the products and services provided by Veritas Labels, please contact us at

082 706 5599 or 021 818 4100 or email mike@veritasconsulting.co.za

Offices located at : Unit C18 Olive Grove Business Park Old Paardevlei Road Somerset West, Cape Town

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