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Label Logic


Your company spent a tremendous amount of time, resources and money to create a new formula or new line. Then you weighed heavily the bottling and most appropriate packaging, as well as marketing messages and campaigns. You know you have all the goods inside to make that favorable first impression. Except, like anyone’s truly best qualities, they are not on display and are not the immediate draw to want to know more.

The product’s label is what sparks an initial formation of opinion, a very quick decision—yes, move forward, or no, ignore. Therefore, that first impression that your label provides is absolutely critical to trial success—we choose based on how compellingly the label delivers the product’s “promises.” 

Sure, bottle colors, sizes and even shapes are attention-grabbers, but they don’t speak to the potential consumer. Your label should speak the common language between you/your product and your consumer. Adding to that conversation are twin eavesdroppers known as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), so you must watch what you say.

Remember: your bottle label is a form of advertising. It is print material designed to persuade consumers to purchase. Therefore, it does fall under FTC guidelines. Dietary supplement advertising/ marketing (e.g., labels) “must be truthful, not misleading, and substantiated.” 

“You have less than three seconds to interrupt and engage a shopper with your product on a store shelf,” asserted Andreas Koch, marketing director with Washington-based Barlean’s. “Your label is your most critical selling tool.” 

As research and delivery technology continues to advance, and new ingredients are launched into the marketplace, dietary supplement formulas are more sophisticated. Herein lies the challenge: how to convey on the tiny real estate that is your label, your distinction and the subtle yet relentless pull to buy?


There are several considerations and necessities to pull off a powerful label, according to Paul Zullo, managing director of Silver Creative Group in Connecticut, a creative agency that has designed numerous supplement labels as part of overall promotional campaigns. “The big picture is that you need to communicate your brand personality and what you stand for, what kind of product you’re offering and why a consumer should choose it over competition. The colors and graphics should instantly communicate what the brand stands for and the personality of who you are as a company so that you relate instantaneously to the consumer reviewing products on the shelf,” said Zull, adding this facet is often overlooked.

Scott Boyson, marketing manager with Utah-based Trace Minerals Research (TMR), agreed on the importance of the right hues, noting, “I think the first aspect Of a label that gets people’s attention is the color. This can include the color of the bottle, the color of the product, if the bottle is clear and then the color of the label. It’s essential that all these colors come together well without clashing.” 

Communicating a company’s identity through graphics, colors and visual effects is critical in regards to being successful, emphasized Brianne Vaskovardzic, director of marketing with Private Label Nutraceuticals in Georgia. “Many consumers associate quality with the appearance of a label,” she stated, adding that visual elements all combine to singularly serve as an important role in a customer’s decision-making process.

And when focusing on the visual presentation, label appearances also depend on the retail channel, said Vaskovardzic. “For example, a product sold by a practitioner should have a different look and feel than one sold by a health food store. Supplements sold in a more conservative outlet should feature a classic, clean look; while e-commerce sellers or mass merchants may find a visually loud label more appealing.” 

But a company can’t sacrifice readability when immersed in visual design, said Boyson. If the graphics on the label are visually stunning, but the label is hard to read, the consumer will get tired and move on. The graphics and the text on the front panel need to have a good balance so it catches the eye. Then, upon further investigation, it must effectively communicate the product’s purpose.

The Devil Is in the Details 

Zullo explained that the first steps in making a label stand out are understanding the brand’s core values, and striving to express that personality. For instance, if the supplement is targeted toward athletes, the look of steel and rivets will not relate to athletic women who may benefit from the supplement; if the product logo and colors are too soft or rounded, the male athletes will skip over it.

“Different target markets find different elements appealing, so it is extremely important to connect with the consumer on an emotional level, meeting them at their place of interest and concern,” said Vaskovardzic. Many male athletes tend to gravitate to labels associated with strength and stamina; therefore, labels that incorporate images of toned and muscular body types would appeal to those consumers.

If you have a versatile product that can be effective for two audiences, create targeted labels for each segment, she advised. “For example, a whey protein targeted toward athletes may have bolder colors and design elements; however, the same product may be marketed toward women as a meal replacement option by softening the colors and developing a less intimidating label design.”

So your label needs to communicate a mood, express a personality, target a specific audience and deliver enough information to create an elevated perceived value. Then, said Zullo, “you need to get out of the way. If your concept is too heavy-handed, it gets in the way of the sale. This is a delicate balance—you must have a subtle hand, adept at conveying all the key points.” 

Balancing Act 

The elements of a label are: logo, product name, statement of identity (e.g., “protein drink,” “multi,” etc.), flavor (if applicable), expressive design treatment (i. e., font, texture, color, art element), net weight, count, Supplement Facts panel, ingredient list and bar code. Then, if there’s room, a bit of romance copy.

Within all this lies a most arduous creative challenge: reducing the amount of information on the label, said both Boyson and Zullo. The key is highlighting the benefits over the features.

You may have five truly amazing, distinctive aspects of your product, but on the postage-stamp real estate that is the label, there really is only room for one. “Focus on the priority benefit, hammer it home,” Zullo advised. “With so many competitive choices, set out with your label to own the market with one simple, but very attractive benefit.” 

As one example, if you have a multi that also has targeted ingredients to support heart health, that’s the attractive benefit—a heart-smart multiple. Another is delivery. Take Centrum’s Flavor Burst Chews’ label, which proclaims in all capital letters, “Adult Chews.” In tandem, expressly targeted for men and women who desire the full vitamin and mineral complex but who want a fruity candy experience, the label is lively with bright colors and illustrations of the fruits denoting the flavors. In essence, two-word delivery statement and the colors conveys the benefit.

Conversely, if your supplement label highlights a trendy ingredient as the attention-grabber, you may be missing a significant number of consumers. For instance, “green coffee bean extract” has been very popular as a weight-loss supplement. But with all the weight-loss ingredients that have been covered in mass media, not everyone seeking a slim-down supplement would look at that label and be compelled to purchase; they have to remember exactly why green coffee bean extract is effective.

One type of supplement that may not need so much mental work while scrutinizing the label is omega-3 EFAs, which have been continually covered in mass media for years; a large number of consumers equate omega-3 EFAs to heart and brain health. Zullo described, “Let’s say the supplement contains a high amount of omega-3s and that it is time released. When viewing the label on the shelf, the consumer wants to know ‘What is the benefit of that feature?’ Cut the corner and briefly describe that benefit,” he said. “In this case, the label would be more compelling if it stated something to the effect of ‘super convenient omega-3’ or ‘heart support all day long.’ These phrases clearly convey the benefit of ‘time-released omega-3.’” 

This is not to say that supplement features are not as important as benefits in marketing. However, on the label, the benefits are the keys that enhance consumer decision-making.

Another compelling label attentiongetter is the use of a quantitative number, such as “3x the potency of,” or “20 percent more value” or “2-for-1.” The idea of further value for the money is powerfully attractive. Depending upon the ingredient, quantifying the amount may be a key draw, Barlean’s Koch pointed out. “The label should provide an impressive quantitative measure—such as ‘1,500 mg EPA/DHA per serving.’ With supplements, consumers want to ultimately know what they’re getting per daily serving. As the word implies, a ‘supplement’ is a replacement for what is not consumed in normal food diet, therefore quantitative measures are important.”

And then there is the necessity of the bar code for scanning. Silver Creative Group has designed eye-catching barcodes that enhance the supplement’s appeal to its target market: a barcode in the shape of a barbell for a sports nutrition protein supplement, and a barcode shaped as a wrapped candy for an organic candy. Brand marketers can visit vanitybarcodes.com for a gallery of appealing examples. There’s also the QR (quick response) code to consider, which Zullo believes “have not been used properly. If you have some sort of instructional video about the product, QR would be beneficial. Especially if it is a complicated product with multiple, equally relevant feature-benefit points.” 

Koch added that other elements on the label would be third-party certifications or credentials, such as “USDA Organic” or “IFOS (International Fish Oil Standards) rated.” If there’s room, add “Made in the USA,” freshness-date stamps, quality guarantee and website.

If you’re still struggling with numerous elements and know that a bit of romance copy may be necessary—or you are going to launch an exciting sampling program—Boyson recommends a peeland- seal label. Trace Minerals, he said, recently added that to its ConcenTrace samples. “We did so because the bottle is only a 0.5-oz. size, so the label is very small. Before adding this peel-and-seal label, we were placing the sample bottle in a zip baggie with a label insert that included all the necessary information because there was no other way to include all the appropriate information on the outside of the label. We needed more real estate and this was the best way to get it,” he explained, adding that the new peel label ended up costing about the same (seven cents) as the label, baggie, insert did, “but with the new label, there’s no cost for stuffing the baggies with the sample and insert. It’s all done in the bottling process. So we actually saved money.” 


■ Silver Creative Group, (203) 855-7705

■ Barleans, (310) 379-5676

■ Private Label Nutraceuticals, (888) 240-4835

■ Trace Minerals, (800) 624-7145