At first glance one often thinks of labels as a simple little sticker that you peel and stick to a surface and with very little afterthought you are off to more important things. However, some of you know firsthand that if you gloss over our simple little friend, the label, then more often than not headaches are waiting just around the corner. Don’t ignore the label, it is only asking for a little respect. If you do it should be smooth sailing, BUT if you decide you would rather temp fate and treat it like it was Rodney Dangerfield (No Respect), it will quickly shed the simple appearance turning into an entirely different animal. This new animal is one that is complex and demanding and has been known to cause headaches and sleepless nights.
I don’t want you to start having migraines or miss out on your beauty sleep all due to the reoccurring nightmare of you being chased by millions of killer labels that won’t stick to anything except you. So I decided to put together a set of questions that one should ask when developing a new label project.
If you are able to answer these 5 simple questions, you should feel confident that you will avoid the headaches and pains associated with the problem label.
Question #1: How is the label going to be used within the application?
This is a very simple question that will get us going in the right direction and should narrow the best fit options to just a few. Having a basic understanding of the application and how the label fits into it is sometimes enough for us to identify the best solution. Knowing that it is paper and needs to stick to something isn’t enough….not even close.
That would be the same if I decided to throw a party for some good reason….or no good reason at all; just that I like parties. It wasgoing to be a 70’s disco themed costume party and it had to be on a Saturday night and not Friday. Friday was out of the question and reserved for catching up on my Zzz’s. Why is that? Because I already knew that the night before I would be up till the crack of dawn trying to finish my already late blog post. Finally I decided that I would accept friends Susan and Bob offer to have the party at their house, because it is just way groovier than mine. It’s rather important that the invites you send out contain the following the basic info: 70’s themed costume party, Saturday 7:30pm at Sue and Bob’s house. Otherwise you might find that your original plans of a quiet Friday night, are turned upside down when you open the door to find your friends, or what appears to be the cast from Saturday Night Fever ready to turn your house into a disco.
What is important and that I find helpful is that if you can just tell me in a nutshell/overview about the application/product. What is it? How will it be used? What size does it need to be? Here is a basic example of good info you can provide when you call to discuss your new label project: The label is a decorative branding label that is applied to a Blue ray DVD player. It needs to look metallic and will be applied to a painted metal housing and will be used indoors by consumers and it has to be x thick, x long, and y tall, no real contact or wear and tear from usage will occur. Very simple…but very important.
Question #2: What type of surface will the label be applied to?
This is a critical question if not the most important one to answer when developing a label. Understanding the surface structure of the package or product surface on what the label will rest upon can take us in different directions when we are selecting the right adhesive and substrates. There are 2 real surface types that one should understand. They are High Surface Energy (HSE) and Low Surface Energy (LSE).
Surface Energy is the ability to draw energy of other materials (such as adhesive) to the surface structure of the product package. Examples of HSE product or packaging materials include; stainless steel, glass, nylon and polyester.
On the other spectrum of surface type are those with LSE. Examples of low surface energy materials include: Teflon, plastic bags using polyethylene or polypropylene or waxed based materials. These are going to be more of a challenge and will typically require an aggressive, permanent adhesive.
A freshly waxed car or a nice dress shirt that has stain guard, or a fabric couch that has been Scotchgarded are all display varying degrees of LSE. For instance, when you look at the couch without the Scotchgard it actually display HSE qualities where red wine, Coke or muddy dog paws are going to bond with the material making it is difficult to separate. When you add the Scotchgard to the couch it changes things and the surface now would now be classified as LSE. The new surface doesn’t have the pits and peaks of an HSE material and it makes the usual stain causing agent difficult to bond and adhere to the couch’s surface. Instead it beads up and rolls right off.
We have a number of different adhesives we can use and selecting the right one is critical. Think of the different label adhesive choices as different stain causing agents used in my couch example. If we have a surface that is LSE we need to select something aggressive and strong like the muddy dogs paws to actually bond well with a LSE material. Surfaces that we run into commonly that are considered LSE would be certain plastics and the powder coated paints applied to metal.
Tune in next month for questions 3, 4 and 5.