Greenlief is quick to note other big pros to pressure-sensitive labels:
- The versatility of pressure-sensitive labels in terms of color, imagery, texture and shapes. You can use different graphic treatments on the label.
- Pressure-sensitive labels give designers more options. They can take advantage of custom die cuts (rather than typical rectangular labels) to create a bolder, more exciting appearance on the shelf. These aren’t possible with glue-applied labels. Some designers have started using negative space of a custom PS label to add depth to their designs (e.g. Evans Brewing, Alias).
- You could use clear-on-clear labels (NOTE: it is because it is paper and the fact that glue isn’t transparent).
- When it comes to production, pressure-sensitive labels offer quicker changeovers, and there’s less mess than glue.
- Printed graphics are web fed (as opposed to sheet fed) with multiple technologies in-line.
- Production speeds range from low- to high-speed applicators.
Of course, the unit cost for pressure-sensitive labels vs. glue-applied labels is greater, but that cost includes a unique color, texture, and, perhaps, shaped facestock, along with an adhesive and a liner to ease application.
“It’s a little more expensive for the label itself but far less from a total cost standpoint ” Greenlief explained. “With pressure sensitive, you’re getting everything together from the label facestock to the adhesive, and you’re more efficient in your line because you don’t have big costly changeovers. You just replace the label material on the applicator and off you go.”
Design and label advice from the pros
Through the lens of an increasingly crowded craft beer market, it’s fair to say that cementing a brand’s position will become more and more difficult to achieve solely based on the taste of the beer alone. It’s a fantastic and unfortunate fact: There are a lot of breweries making a lot of great beer. Today and in the future, craft brands will need to differentiate themselves with branding and marketing. You will need to answer questions like:
- How does your customer experience differ from other breweries?
- What’s the coolest thing about your brand?
- Describe your beer. Who will drink your beer? Who do you want drinking it?
- What role should your brewery play in your customers’ lives?
- What emotions should your branding evoke?
Now, how do you fit all of those answers onto a beer label?
“I’ve always found it hard to put an exact equation together,” Shepard said. “But I think the successful brands are the ones that really embrace not just their labels but their whole brand as their voice. They have a story to tell, regardless of where they come from or what kind of beer they make. There are a lot of factors in there. So, if they can really use their labels to show their personality, I think that’s something that consumers lock in on.”
Shelf impact is a major concern for all brand owners — especially within a growing and crowded industry like craft beer. Craft brewers have unique, compelling narratives of how their breweries, recipes and processes bring the best product to thirsty consumers. By using eye-catching labels, branding and graphics, brewers can tell the story — their story — and connect with consumers and influence purchase decisions.
“There are different scenarios that a printer encounters when we first walk into an interested brewpub,” Greenlief said. “One is they’re not yet in business, so they haven’t made a decision on the label itself, who is going to design it for them and what type of equipment will apply it, so they’re kind of an open book. That’s an opportunity to offer some high quality consulting there. Use your designer. Use your local printer [a.k.a. converter]. There are lots of good resources.”
But Greenlief suggests being cautious about glue-applied and minimum orders. Make sure that you have a good commitment concerning minimum orders from your distributor before you make a commitment on glue-applied equipment because if you don’t cover your fixed costs, then it’s going to come out of your profits.
Also, definitely consider digital printing, whether that be electro-photography (HP Indigo) or UV or water-based (WB) Inkjet capability. The quality from digital printing is amazing, and while it’s pretty cost neutral, it allows for smaller runs that keep your cash from being tied up. Plus, the print capabilities of a digital press are often greater than what you will find in an analog press. Your eyes will pick up smaller details on the digital press. So, remember to ask your local printer about the availability of digital technology and minimum run sizes.
“Another scenario is somebody who is already using pressure-sensitive, and they’re just looking for a way to move more beer and perhaps expand their capacity,” Greenlief said. “They’re looking to stand out. Perhaps they want to tell a new story in terms of their branding or change materials to promote a limited release beer or seasonal brew. Those are all scenarios that we encounter, and there’s a different set of tools depending on the situation and need. We can definitely assist our printer and designers in terms of helping craft brewers.”
There are tons of options for label materials — paper, matte film, white gloss film, metallic, wood veneer and clear printed. Craft beer label decisions go well beyond the graphics. The material, the finish, the cut, the adhesive and the adhesion method all need to be considered for utility, look and cost. Labels are that rare piece of advertisement seen 100 percent of the time. Try to bring innovation into play, and tie it into your branding. Also, design to the container. Too often, Greenlief says, he sees art designed flat and not to the vessel.
“Just in terms of the label stock, what I’ve seen is people are getting more exotic,” he said. “They want to stand out, so metalized papers are quite popular. We’re getting a lot of requests for digitally printed wood veneers. Those are hot. Very white, white papers are very big, and then papers with micro-textures.
“Those little details that people look for — the embossing and the foils,” said Shepard. “Those little things are going to help show off the artwork.”
That’s key to remember — the variety of labels avilable for your branding and marketing. Avery Dennison alone offers pressure-sensitive labels for bottles, crowlers, cans, growlers, keg wraps and collars, pony kegs, shelf talkers, tap handles and all sorts of other promotional materials. These new technologies and applications are engaging both old and new customers with a product. If the label catches your eye, you’ll be more inclined to buy it. Always remember that presentation is king when trying new things.