September 10, 2013

5 Tips for Effective Label Writing

5 Tips for Effective Label Writing

Label writing, one of the most deceptively simple aspects of label design, is all too frequently taken for granted. We might think that the ability to read and write might carry us through the process with relative ease, but surprisingly, these skills are often not enough. We don’t want to seem as though we are over inflating our importance as designers, but when even a huge corporation can make a mistake like this, perhaps we should step in and point out a thing or two.

There are basically two types of errors, both in label writing and life in general: errors in diligence and errors in judgment. Both classifications of error can result in diminished reputation, revenue loss and firings, but there are nonetheless a multitude of ways to fail within these two categories. We will give you five ways to circumvent common label writing mistakes, which will hopefully save you from ruining your product, company and your life. Of course, there are incalculable ways to destroy your own label that have yet to even be invented, but try not to depress yourself too much at this early date.

Spell Check

We know; nothing could be more obvious than spelling your product name and description correctly. Yet, there are a surprising number of companies that fail to take that into account.

In the above link, we gave you an example of a spelling mistake made on an RCA product, an illustrious trademark that has been in existence for nearly 100 years. Misspelling “digital” (or misspelling anything, for that matter) would be categorized as an error in diligence; something that is only barely excusable in itself, but not excusable at all when the brand specializes in electronics and should darned well know better.

Product label typos and misspellings seem like small gaffes, but they make a product and company seem slapdash and untrustworthy. If you’ve noticed an error after your label has gone to print, even if several thousand labels are misspelled and correcting the mistake would cost thousands of dollars, you’ve got no choice but to scrap the originals and redo everything.

Punctuation Check

For the most part, there is really no need for punctuation on a product label, unless your product brand is a part of the product name, i.e., Auntie Elsie’s Homemade Antifreeze.

There are some labels that, for some reason, incorporate quotation marks in the product title. If your brand identity is whimsical, and the name of your product isn’t literally what the product is, quotation marks are a means of conveying that fact, i.e., Auntie Elsie’s Homemade “Antifreeze” Styling Gel. However, be very careful with quotation marks, and be aware that they are not a device for the purpose of highlighting a particular word. If you want a descriptor to pop, increase the size of the lettering, use a different color or a bold font. A product that wants to highlight the fact that there are organic ingredients shouldn’t try to indicate that fact by printing “organic” in quotes on the label, since it looks to the consumer as though the brand is trying to use some legal means to distance itself from any claim that the product is truly organic.

Use Your Brand Identity

If your brand identity is well and thoroughly defined, it can inform your decisions about the construction of your label. For example, Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soaps have probably the wordiest labels of any product ever retailed. The brand can get away with this because its off-the-wall personality is so clearly realized.

Find a Grammar Nazi

You might be under the impression that you have a firm grasp of the English language, but if you aren’t absolutely fluent, put your ego in check and run your label by someone who is. Google translate doesn’t count.

Get Yourself a Wide Spectrum of Proof-readers

Have as many people as possible look over your label, from the stodgiest academic to the most flit-brained teenager. You will get a broad scope of opinions and perspectives, much of which might be useless, of course, but at least nothing will escape everyone’s notice.

One of the biggest mistakes your team can make is being too insular. When the same handful of people continually work on one project, everyone will eventually look at the project with the same pair of eyes. You need someone outside of your circle to tell you how the label will appear to the public.

Your label will be much of your customer base’s introduction to your product, and likely your brand. You want it to be as clean, eye-catching and persuasive as you can make it.


by Kevin Smith
SmashBrand helps brands create, optimize, and launch successful products, services, and customer experiences. Our data-driven process is the key to accelerating sales and minimizing risks.

We use a strategic combination of market research, design, and consumer testing to solve complex brand problems more effectively, create differentiation, and forge more meaningful connections with customers.

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