Good enough isn’t, or is it?

By Ken Gasque

Photo by Diego Catto

The phrase “Good enough isn’t” was coined by Los Angles advertising agency Chiat/Day and emblazoned on employee tee shirts. Chiat/Day was trying to keep up with its innovative account Apple Computer and Steve Jobs perfectionist philosophy…which is unattainable.

Walter Isaacson is Steve Jobs biographer. In his book, Steve Jobs, he gives an example of Jobs drive for perfection: “Steve in his first stint at Apple, was such a perfectionist that he holds up shipping the original Macintosh because he doesn’t think the circuit board inside is pretty enough. Even though nobody will ever see it. And after a while, he gets fired from Apple because he’s such a perfectionist. And he would say, “Well, real artists sign their work,” meaning they have to wait until they are perfect before they ship. When he comes back to Apple at the end of the 1990’s, they give him a new motto, which is, “Real artists ship.”

Photo by k u on Unsplash

Most companies don’t have this kind of drive for profection (they wouldn’t last if they did). Most merely use boastful advertising that claims a product or service to be the best. It is boring, unbelievable and, more likely than not, to be a turnoff. Why? Because the advertiser usually can’t prove that their claim is true and that they really are the best, even if they are. Do we really care?

Photo by Thomas Le

However, We have a client that does provide the best product in his category. No, he really does.  He spends thousands of dollars yearly conducting tests and having outside labs conduct tests to prove his product is the best. Is his product the best? Absolutely, but it is only marginally. Sometimes the difference between being the best and being second best or “pretty good” is very insignificant, measurable only in the lab by a trained technician with some very sophisticated measuring equipment. The difference is maybe 2% better. The costs for that extra 2% is about 20% more than the competitors product.

Quality is important, but the consumer does not pay much attention to claims that “We Are The Best!” and usually they can’t tell the difference.

Think about your own experiences. If you are searching for a service do you start out looking for the very best? Doubtful. Do you compare and analyze services? Probably not. If you are looking for a printer do you run tests to determine the best printer? Or if you are looking for a dry cleaner, or accountant, or coffee vendor, or yard maintenance person do you spend much time looking for the best?

Your advertising and marketing should help you develop a brand that makes the customer feel “pretty good” about your product or service. Do not misunderstand; you still have to provide the best you can. Your product has to be quality, your service has to be fantastic and you have to be there to back it up. But all of that is expected. Your branding needs to help the customer experience the brand, enjoy it and feel that it is “pretty good.” 

About Ken Gasque

Ken Gasque is a brand image-maker, marketing planner and designer. Ken works with small companies and Fortune 500 companies who recognize the need to differentiate their products and services to stand out in a cluttered market. Ken is a highly visual, outside-the-box-thinker on advertising, branding and marketing—his work reflects his belief that “We buy with our eyes.” Ken writes and lectures on brands, design, images and brand development. We build brands using knowledge, experience and magic! 

The most powerful tool for creating magic is a pencil.

By Ken Gasque

1. The magic is in the thinking the pencil generates. Art teachers teach ‘thinking happens when you put pencil to paper.’ It’s true. It’s the simplest tool available to you, it allows you to concentrate on the opportunity and not the technology. Writing it down makes it happen. It’s magic.

2. And you get more solutions faster. Designers are taught there is more than one solution to every problem. Keep writing, sketching and doodling until there are a number of plausible solutions…the first idea is hardly ever the right idea.

3. Brainstorming doesn’t work, brainsketching and brainwriting does. Group discussion of ideas isn’t the prob-lem. The problem is with everyone talking. And one or two people who want to dominate. The solution is brain-sketching and brainwriting. Have group members put their idea in sketch or written form on Post-It Notes without authorship. Then let the discussion begin. It takes less time and you get better ideas.

4. It’s a plan, a map, a guide. If you are going to write a story you know you need an outline to start. A sketch does the same–sometimes called brain mapping. It helps to clarify your thinking; it makes sure you have included all of the elements and makes completing the project easier and more gratifying.

5. Sketches are just that—sketches. Sketches are anything visual, stick figures, even cutouts from magazines and newspapers work. Cut and paste. Anything that helps you visualize your idea works.

The magic of pencils.
“Sketchbooks are not about being a good artist, they’re about being a good thinker.” Jason Maria“Great designers have one thing in common: their design process is centered on ideas; ideas that are more often than not developed on paper.” Jean Moroney“Our hands offer a unique pathway to our brains. Using a pencil or pen to write appears to allow the brain to trigger different storage mechanisms. Ideas emerge…it’s magic.” Kristen Bigness

Labels tell your story.
It may be the only advertising your prospect sees. Pressure-Sensitive labels help you tell it best. Compared to glue-applied labels, pressure-sensitive label material offers greater possibilities with fewer restrictions on size and shapes. No other material offers the capability of intricate die cuts, brilliant graphics, and virtually invisible edge lines. These are important features if you want your product to stand out on the shelf. They differentiate your beer, so it gets noticed and gets chosen. Consumers are more likely to purchase a product that “catches their eye” on the store shelf. This factor beats promo-tions, coupons, product recommendation and advertising. It works because “we buy with our eyes.”

Is your label creating marketing magic?

  • Is your label service worth talking about?
  • Do you need to improve your process?
  • Do you want innovative ideas to market?

Call Blanco Labels 1-888-325-2626

Take a lesson from Starbucks


By Ken Gasque

Is selling beer and coffee all that different? I don’t think so. Since Starbucks is the largest retail coffee seller in the country maybe it would be a good idea to take a look at what they are doing and how they are doing it.

Branding

Know your customer! – Take the time to know your customer. Get an image in your mind of who your customer is. This is called a persona. One example of Starbucks customer persona is a 20+, hip, fashionable, high disposable income, college educated, and a person who is very socially conscious. It is important to them that Starbucks not sell straws. Who are your personas? Are they who you want? What is the customer experience they are looking for?

Four Ps

Marketing is about the 4Ps… Product, Place, Price, Promotion. Compare your 4Ps with Starbucks 4Ps.

Product – Starbucks offers top quality coffee, or they have branded it so that we feel it is top quality. They have a wide variety of product and they are constantly introducing seasonal products. While they offer food, it is a limited part of their menu and most of it is pre-prepared and is heat and eat.

Place – Starbucks uses small spaces and numerous locations. They have over 30,000 locations worldwide. They borrowed their strategy from Walgreens. Walgreens saturates their target urban area with their retail stores as close to each other as one mile apart. The theory is you are never far from a Walgreens store. Today they have 9,560 stores. Starbucks does the same thing. In some neighborhoods in New York Starbucks has stores on every block.

Because Starbucks understands their customer the instore atmosphere matches customer expectations and sets the experience. The design of their stores is consistent and clean—they took a chapter out of McDonalds. Ray Kroc, McDonalds growth engineer, had four rules:

  1. Consistent product from store to store,
  2. Clean, inside and out,
  3. Quality products,
  4. Good value.

Price – Price more than anything shows the condence you have in your product. Starbucks was the first coffee shop to offer a cup of coffee for $2.00. At the time most places were selling coee for $.15 to $.25 a cup with free refills.

Brands do not compete on price, but commodities do. Commodity prices are pushed down to the lowest possible price. Price says a lot about your brand… if the quality is there. Oer more—taste, quality, experience, image, value and price higher than your competition.

Promotion – Starbucks started by creating a brand by using a lot of graphics about product, culture and reection of the customer. They used innovative and unique applications of the logo everything is branded. Swag was a signicant part of the promotion and branding–everything from cups, hats, and water bottles to shirts. Can you use labels to promote your beer?

Product display is interesting and always well-stocked. Great design and creative posters are used to create part of the experience and promote new products. Many of the posters are printed at Staples for $5 and changed weekly. Packaging is part of promotion—bags, boxes, cups, cup insulators, napkins, gift boxes, etc. Are you changing often, updating and keeping the brand alive?

Starbuck’s website is a free course in branding, marketing and promotions.

Don’t underestimate the power of a sticker

By Ken Gasque

“The human race built most nobly when limitations were greatest.” – Frank Lloyd Wright. I think this applies equally to marketing and advertising. Any fool can take a budget of $2,000,000 and create a great campaign…well maybe not, because I see some very stupid and annoying advertising being produced by some very large corporations with very big budgets. However, every now and then a small company with a very limited budget will create some advertising that changes their world and ours.

Sticker Advertising

Sticker advertising may not be noble, but it can be effective, and it can be done on a shoestring with some good creative. You should try it.

When they began their business Reddit founders invested their entire advertising budget, $500, in stickers. Then they distributed them by hand and friend.

“Yes, stickers: the soundest investment I ever made. I used to travel around the country a lot (thank you, Chinatown bus), and everywhere I went I took stickers with me. I put them on signs, poles, and even other advertisements.” Alexis Ohanian in Fast Company. Today it is a multi-million-dollar company. Started with just $500 worth of stickers.

Guerrilla Marketing

I fell in love with stickers when I was a kid and I have never quit loving them…and so did millions of other kids. Stickers are fun, visual, creative and interactive. And if you are a sticker marketer you know stickers are a tangible way of the consumer ‘liking’ your product or service and telling the world.

Guerrilla marketing is about surprise and minimalism. A small budget spent on a clever idea can generate impact and demand. We love to sport our brands. And especially if it is cool.

Midwest Pizza

Stickers fit well with a Midwest Pizzeria’s brand personality three ways: “We’re visual, we’re fun, we’re local,” Adam May says. “Stickers help push our cultish following.” The Pizzeria prints up 10,000 stickers at a time and keeps a big bowl of free stickers on the counter. “It’s a huge branding tool for us. When someone takes 15 stickers and sticks them on 15 different people and it grows from there, it’s like going viral online,” May says.

Efficient and inexpensive. Make a small investment in stickers and let your customers distribute and post. It is a form of word-of-mouth advertising. Stickers are tools to encourage and amplify word-of-mouth and make it visual.

Run a contest

Offer prizes for the best traveled sticker. A photo of your sticker on the Great Wall of China (don’t get caught) or on signage at the Leaning Tower of Pisa (remove it when you leave—sticker responsibly) or in the county jail in Sanders County, Montana. Encourage your customer to be creative with your stickers and shoot photos of your sticker in very famous or infamous places then post all of the entries for everyone to enjoy. Pick a winner and reward the winner handsomely.

Advertise…it pays.

About Ken Gasque
Ken Gasque is a brand developer, marketing planner and designer. Ken works with small companies and Fortune 500 companies who recognize the need to differentiate their products and services to stand out in a cluttered market. Ken is a highly visual, outside-the-box-thinker on advertising, branding and marketing—his work reflects his belief that “We buy with our eyes.” Ken writes and lectures on his experiences developing brands (good and bad). www.gasque.com

Do you need Brand-Aid?

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘What gets measured gets done’? I think it’s true because it focuses attention on the thing that is most important. Business consultant and writer Tom Peters agreed this was the soundest management advice he has ever heard. That’s a pretty strong endorsement.

But my favorite brand development quote from Tom Peters is ‘distinct… or extinct.’ Very succinct and elegant. If you are not different you will not survive.

Below are some other things you should check and measure to see if you need Brand-aid.

  1. Gradual loss of market share could be a leading indicator.
    Interviews show your consumer believes you and your competitor are the same.
  2. Do you really believe you can compete with the big guys?
  3. Do you believe in advertising? Outrageous advertising—special events, mascots, ridiculous co-ops—your beer and the Air National Guard, Free
  4. Beer for everyone when the home team scores 10 or more runs in a game, etc.
  5. Are you doing the same things that your competitors are doing?

We buy with our eyes. First impressions are made in 1/10th of a second… lasting impressions are made with quality and service. The easiest way to rebrand is to create a new and different but appealing label.

Every week Blanco Labels meets its commitments of millions of labels to manufacturers depending on them. At Blanco Labels we believe service is as important as quality.

We select our customers so that we can be a perfect fit. We are small enough for their business to matter and large enough to make sure their job gets done.

“Blanco does what they say they will do. Blanco delivers.” Joe and Wendy Hallock, Co-Owners and Founders, Chaos Mountain Brewing.

If your beer needs more attention, give us a call. We can help.

How to create a brand with a product that is not distinguished by taste, smell, touch, or appearance?

Photo by John Gibbons

Insight and Marketing Positioning

When you hear the name Mercedes Benz what do you think? High end luxury not to be confused with Kia. Mercedes’ brand statement is “The best or nothing.” What do you want your position to be? Positioning and pricing are the two most important marketing decision you will make in developing your brand.

What are you selling and to whom? Remember what economist Theodore Levitt said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole. What is your customer buying? Who wants what you are selling? What is their persona? Where are they located? Or how far do you want to go to reach them? What is going to make you successful? What is distinctive about your offer that will be hard for your competitors to reproduce? What is your differentiation? You are looking for insight.

All products and services have a difference that sets them apart from competition. Or can be made to have differences. Some are more meaningful than others but even so not all businesses truly understand what that difference is and who it appeals to.

Most owners will say it’s their quality or taste or selection but that is not usually the case. A good brand developer can help you with customer insights and find the differentiation or can accentuate a difference into a meaningful experience for the consumer. But what if your product has no meaningful difference and you are in a highly competitive market and you have no brand awareness and you want to charge a premium price and there is no history or tradition for your product? Most people would feel it can’t be done!

This was the situation facing Absolut Vodka. when it was introduced into the United States. Famous architect and designer, Lloyd Wright said, “Man built most nobly when limitations were at their greatest.” Maybe the same can be said for the brand development process.

Absolut Vodka faced these huge challenges entering the US market:

  • Photo by Carlos-Irineu-da-Costa

    Unknown… zero awareness

  • Extremely competitive market
  • Who would buy a vodka from Sweden?
  • Premium price point
  • No differentiation—smells, looks and tastes pretty much the same as the competition (you will find some argument here but really vodka is vodka)

What did Absolut Vodka have going for it? The marketers had a lot of research and insight into the target audience. They understood that the target market appreciated design, simplicity and sophistication. Prospects were captivated by the Absolut packaging—an antique medicine bottle—and the advertising campaign. The ads featured the bottle and a short headline. The campaign was clean, clever and simple. https://bit.ly/2A1n4Y8 The campaign won hundreds of awards and ran continuously for 25 years. The results: Absolut Vodka went from 90,000 liters in 1979 to 96 million liters in 2008, and the leading vodka in the US.

Can you do this?

Yes, you can. All you need is good insight into your product and prospect and a differentiation meaningful to your prospect. Positioning is about where you want to place your product against your competition in your consumer’s mind. If your product can’t be differentiated then the differentiation can be your advertising, your label, your packaging, your design, or your story. You can create the experience you want your customer to have—and that is branding.

It’s your brand. Make it what you want it to be or let the market decide.

Specialty Foods Retailer Prints Own Product Labels

Holistic health coach and entrepreneur Candice Berthold of The Olive And The Grape first began printing on a Primera inkjet roll label printer 12 years ago when she decided to bring label production inhouse. Today, she is still using her Primera LX800 and Primera LX810 printers, but her label suppliers have changed over the years to better suit her growing company’s needs.

As a specialty foods company providing products for a healthy Mediterranean lifestyle, Berthold prints a wide variety of product and ingredient labels for 487 products in eight different label sizes, including labels for olive and grapeseed oils, infused vinegars, and seasonings. The Olive And The Grape sells products through its retail store, online, and through wholesalers. In addition, it prints customized labels for personalized food products provided as favors for bridal showers and corporate gifts. This printing variety fueled the necessity for printing The Olive And The Grape’s labels in-house, as outsourcing fees for short runs and frequent label size changes are cost prohibitive.

“Sometimes my ingredients change, which necessitates a new label. For example, if sourcing for a custom seasoning blend containing oregano changes from Turkish oregano to Greek oregano, I need to be able to quickly change the ingredients label,” Berthold says. With an outsourced printer, Berthold would be forced to waste hundreds of labels when such a change happens.

When she first began printing in-house, Berthold used Primera labels but soon found them an expensive option. She moved to a third-party Southeastern label retailer who did not require minimum orders, but later she had to look elsewhere when the vendor stopped selling the label sizes she needed. Within the last five years, she began purchasing inkjet roll labels from Blanco that fit perfectly into her existing Primera printers. Also, Blanco recently provided a heads-up to Berthold that Primera is discontinuing manufacturing printing cartridges for the 800 series Primera printers she owns. With Blanco’s guidance, she plans to upgrade to Primera’s 900 series this year.

“I appreciate doing business with Blanco, who provides authentic descriptions of every product I order,” she says. “Everything arrives exactly as expected, and I have never received wrong products. The best part is that whenever I call Blanco’s service line, I am always treated as though they are having a great day. I have worked with countless vendors and most of them are not as easy to work with. Blanco is the only label company with which I have not had a problem. Like most entrepreneurs, I don’t need little surprises.”

The Benefits of Printing Product Labels In-house

If you are on the fence about whether it makes good financial sense to print product labels in-house, there are benefits to consider about custom printing labels with an inkjet roll printer such as Primera or Afinia.

You have the control. When printing labels on your own equipment, you control the quality, printing schedule, and creativity. Need a little more time to develop a better-looking label? That’s not a problem when you control the schedule. You can print on demand every label for every job, even on a whim and on a daily basis. You also can design a blend of custom outsourced label printing and in-house label printing as needed for particular jobs or products when it makes the most financial sense for your company.

You save money on consumables. You can order consumables – ink and blank labels – as needed, paying only for what you actually use. No outside print house equals no markups and no payment for mistakes that are not directly yours. In addition, you control the amount of ink used through product label design. Bright, full coverage labels use a lot of ink, while smaller labels and simplified designs use less ink. Besides consumables, you save money by minimizing unexpected fees, such as those for overtime and reprints.

You increase the company’s knowledge base. By handling printing in a hands-on manner, you and your employees learn by default how to best utilize the printer, label applicator if you have one, and how best to design for optimal branding and cost efficiency.

Having a vendor who is part of your success plan is vital. At Blanco, we provide free advice and label samples for testing to our inkjet roll printer customers via a toll-free phone number. Once the knowledge is gained within your business, it cannot be taken away and serves to help you optimize the label printing process over time.

The Biggest Reason Your Advertising Fails

Most often your graphics and your brand do not align and send mixed signals to the consumer. Before they taste the quality of your beer they buy with their eyes.

Another Reason

I met Bob Evans Jr., CEO of Bob Evans Resturants, several years ago at a convention. He was the keynote speaker. After his speech I introduced myself to him and told him how much I enjoyed and appreciated his speech. We talked for a bit and then he asked me what I did for a living. I told him I was in advertising and marketing and that my company builds brands. He said, “I can give you a testimonial.” Really, we just met? “Well, a testimonial for advertising.”

Bob Evans began his story, “Years ago when my father retired and I took over the company, my background was accounting and I saw everything from an accounting perspective. I reviewed the company budget for the year and saw the money we had allocated for advertising. I said to myself, I can save the company a bundle by taking that off. And I did. I eliminated the entire advertising budget. That afternoon I set the company back five years. That is how long it took to recover from my folly. Now there is no one who is a greater believer in advertising than me.”

I thanked him for the story and he said, “You can use it however you like, it’s true.” Advertising is expensive and a lot of brewers forego advertising, doing so may be a mistake. Advertising may be your differentiator.

There Are Other Reasons Advertising Fails

1. Not believing in advertising is the number one reason for advertising failure because if you don’t believe you will not commit. The results will be less than spectacular and the brand will suffer. We buy with our eyes.
2. Not funding advertising sufficiently is a sure slow death. If you are not going to commit enough money to be effective, don’t advertise! Spend your money on the best labels you can create because you know they will be seen. We buy with our eyes.
3. Not having a clear differentiation. What makes your product different? It may be a great label is enough or a great bottle or both… Think Absolut Vodka. We buy with our eyes.

The number one rule of marketing is we buy with our eyes.

Is It Time to Print Your Own Product Labels?

Deciding whether it makes financial and business sense to print product labels in-house on an inkjet roll printer or send them out to a custom printer to handle for you, is an important step in the health of your small business. You may be (a) making an initial decision about printing labels for a new product or (b) pulling the printing task in-house and away from an outsourced custom print house. In either situation, there are several factors to consider when making the decision.

It makes sense to print product labels in-house when:

  • Small quantities are needed. You may need just 100 labels for a special edition Christmas Spice coffee blend. Or you may need 100 different labels for 20 different products. Printing such a small quantity is cost prohibitive with an outside print shop that must perform the changeover and setup process, just the same as it would do to run 10,000 labels. This is a perfect job for a small inkjet roll printer such as an Afinia L301 or Primera LX500.
  • You need a quick turnaround. There is little to no lead time involved in changing out and printing your own labels. Even for a short run like 100 labels, a custom printer will have a lead time and you must wait for its other jobs in the queue to run first.
  • There is an undetermined need. If you are unsure about how many labels you will need by the time the product is fully labeled, then an on-demand, in-house solution is the best solution.
  • A better quality label is needed than traditional sheeted laser labels, which can be cumbersome and is an elementary solution to product label printing.
  • You are testing product labeling to see how it affects sales or your ingredients label needs adjusting to match a change in the recipe. Last-minute or frequent changes to the labels is doable with an inkjet roll label printer.
  • You have the time or an employee has the availability to handle the print job.

The business case for determining if printing labels in-house is right for your company is all based on money. Will you receive a return on investment (ROI) for the equipment purchase? How long will it take to see ROI? Afinia has excellent ROI case studies on its website to provide you with some examples of how other entrepreneurs have benefitted from printing labels in-house and how long it took them to experience ROI. These studies will help you understand the true cost of printing labels in-house, from capital expenditures like equipment to consumables like ink and blank labels.

Choosing Weatherproof Labels that Last

Some businesses have a need for labels that will last through rain, shine, sleet, and snow. If you are in a business such as landscaping supply; garden center sales; masonry products; lab product supply; an entrepreneur providing personal care products like shampoo and body wash; or a small company bottling food products such as sauces, beverages, and coffee, you know how standard labels cannot stand up to the challenge. Weatherproof labels, whether used outdoors in rugged applications or indoors in harsh environments, provide the reliability and longevity needed to maintain product information and brand identity (such as logos) on the packaging in a readable manner.

But wait, if you purchase waterproof labels is that enough? Not necessarily. Weatherproof and waterproof labels are not the same product. But that’s not all you need to know. There is a misconception that direct thermal labels and thermal transfer labels both come in a weatherproof format if you purchase bi-oriented polypropylene (BOPP) material instead of a paper label. Not true. Only thermal transfer BOPP labels, when used with the correct ribbon, are appropriate for meeting the brutal conditions present in “weather” settings. In addition, there are sheeted labels for laser printers rated for withstanding the outdoor elements.

Direct thermal BOPP labels are not appropriate for outdoor conditions, as these labels naturally fade and grey out over time and are usable only for labeling in short-term conditions such as fresh food packaging. They are not UV and temperature resistant like thermal transfer BOPP labels. Direct thermal labels may be waterproof, but they are not weatherproof. Similarly, inkjet sheeted labels are not a good choice either. The label material may be weatherproof, but ink is not waterproof and will run. If you have an inkjet roll printer, you can purchase BOPP labels specifically for inkjet printers from Blanco, that will serve as durable labels.

If you decide a blank label does not fit your needs, you may have a company such as Blanco custom design a label that will withstand whatever environment your application requires.

Streamline Product Labeling Before the Holiday Scramble

Sales may have been rolling in at a steady clip during the year, but the holidays can throw entrepreneurs into disarray if careful planning doesn’t precede the surge. The holiday rush is not a bad thing for business, of course, but don’t let it become a stumbling block to maintaining a fast-flowing fulfillment process. Proactively think through special holiday needs and implement steps to create a smoother product labeling process that helps you meet demand – and still enjoy the holiday, too.

Do you have seasonal products? Or is volume extra high in the last quarter of the calendar year? As an entrepreneur, flexibility is the mantra. Most of our entrepreneurial clients use full-color inkjet label printers such as Primera, Afina, and Epson so they can enjoy printing on demand. These types of printers allow you to quickly add a short message to existing product labels you have previously printed in-house to enhance seasonal offerings. Perhaps a promo code added to your current label is appropriate? And if you sell a product that is strictly seasonal, it is extremely easy to switch between printing normal product labels and seasonal labels with inkjet roll labels. Print 10 of one label design and switch to printing 50 of another. It’s as effortless as it sounds.

How can you work ahead? Take the stress out of the unavoidable need to accept product returns while handling a large holiday volume of new orders by pre-printing return labels and dropping them into every package shipped. Whether you use our sheeted labels on your laser or inkjet printer or have a direct thermal or thermal transfer printer in use, stock up and pre-print them to speed the fulfillment process.

It’s post-Labor Day! Is it too late to purchase and set up label printing equipment in a short time frame? The beauty of inkjet roll labeling equipment is its status as an on-demand printing system that is ready when you are. No need to worry about forecasting sales, stocking huge product inventories, or buying large quantities of labels. Inkjet roll labels come in a variety of label sizes, so mixing and matching labels in smaller quantities is easy. Ordering time and setup are about a week when using Blanco.

Where do I find the equipment and supplies I need for my small company? The best vendor always includes good product support. Blanco makes its own labels that fit in several vendors’ inkjet roll printers. As a manufacturer, we can offer our labels at a lower price point that reflects our direct sales advantage. In addition, Blanco sells major inkjet labeling equipment such as Primera and as well as ink cartridges. Customers tell us being able to buy everything from a single vendor – and get our free phone support to help them solve any printing questions they have along the way – is what helps them rest easy.

Breaking Down Logo Copyrighting

Out of all the assets your company owns, or will come to own, none may be as important as your logo. It’s the defining feature of your company, helping consumers recognize your company when they land on your website, download your app from the app store or pick up one of your products at the grocery store. Without it, your company would be faceless and your customers wouldn’t be able to distinguish your company from one of your competitors, which will cripple your bottom line and your company’s reputation.

Just like you would take out an insurance policy on your car, home or the office your company calls home, your logo is an asset that needs protection. But a logo isn’t a tangible good; it’s a piece of intellectual property or, at the very least, the most important aspect of your company’s brand. So instead of an insurance policy, you can protect your logo using a copyright or trademark. A copyright protects creative works such as books, plays, music, fine art, computer programs and even architectural works and blueprints. Getting a copyright ensures that your company has the exclusive right to publish or distribute your logo, whether you’re in business or not. Copyrighting a logo isn’t the right choice for every business, as some companies can get by just fine with a trademark. We’ll explore all the reasons why you might need to copyright your logo, how to do it and how to enforce your rights as the owner or author of a logo.

Creating a Contract Between You and Your Graphic Designer

If you’re going to copyright a logo, you need to create one first. Some entrepreneurs or small business owners without a lot of startup capital at their disposal may want to design the logo themselves if they have some design skills. But if you’re like most small business owners, you’ll want to hire a graphic designer, whether it’s an employee or a freelancer you find on websites, like Upwork. Most new businesses don’t have the funding to retain a graphic designer on staff, so hiring an independent contractor usually makes the most sense.

In order to hire this person, you’ll need to come up with a contract that clearly stipulates that your company is the sole owner of the end product, giving you the sole right to publish and distribute whatever image the person creates. If you’re passing off the project to one of your employees, this person will most likely already be under contract and another one may not be necessary. If you’re creating the logo yourself, you’re already the sole owner. If you’re not sure how to go about writing a contract for a work for hire, you may want to contact an attorney. You’ll need this contract going forward to prove that the logo does, in fact, belong to you or your company.

Deciding Between a Copyright and a Trademark

Once you have a stunning new logo for your company, you’ll need to decide whether to register for a copyright or if you can get by with a trademark. This tends to be a challenging decision for many business leaders because a logo can fall under multiple categories. It can be used to market goods and services as a part of your company’s brand. Or it can be a truly original work of art that falls under the category of intellectual property. Depending on how you categorize your logo and the level of artistic creativity that went into the logo, you may want to register for a copyright, a trademark or both.

When to Copyright a Logo

You should copyright your logo if it qualifies as an original work of art. If this seems vague, now you know why the decision to copyright a logo can be so challenging for some companies. A copyright is not used to protect names, phrases, colors and simple logo designs like a few letters, the basic name of your company or a straightforward symbol that can be found pretty much anywhere. So, if you’re just using the name of your company in bubble letters to market your goods and services, you don’t need a copyright. But if you or your graphic designer created a completely unique image like a cartoon character, an intricate label design or a symbol that you can’t find anywhere else, you might need a copyright.

When to Trademark a Logo

There’s a clear distinction between a copyright and a trademark. You may need a trademark instead of, or in addition to, a copyright. A trademark protects your logo as an aspect of your brand, so another company can’t use a similar logo to market their goods and services in the same market. This limits confusion in the marketplace, establishing your company as the sole owner of your brand. You’ll need a trademark for your logo if you’re trying to market to a wide audience or if you plan on dealing with stiff competition in the marketplace. In order to trademark your logo, your company needs to be actively selling goods or services or planning on doing so in the future. You can’t trademark a logo if you don’t plan on going into business. In that case, you’re better off with a copyright.

When to Do Both

You may need a copyright and a trademark if you’re going into business, reaching a wide audience and you consider your logo to be an original work of art.

When to Go Without

Creating or commissioning a logo automatically grants you ownership of the material. You may not need a copyright or a trademark for your logo if you don’t plan on going into business and your logo has a relatively simple design. You also don’t need a copyright or a trademark for your logo if you’re a local business operating in a small market, such as a small town. This means you have relatively little or no competition and your logo is just the name of your business or a simple symbol.

Registering with the U.S. Copyright Office

If you decide that you need a copyright for your logo, you’ll need to register with the U.S. Copyright Office. Head over to their official website and you can fill out your application online or print off the form and mail it to the address listed on their website. You can click on the Registration Portal to create your account in the system. To copyright your logo, you’ll want to register your logo as a visual art. This includes logos, drawings, paintings, illustrations and other visual mediums.

The application guidelines vary based on the nature of your logo, how it will appear, where it will be used and what kinds of materials were used to create it. You can use the Deposit Requirements for Registration of Claims to Copyright in Visual Arts Material for more information. At the bottom, you’ll see a list of different mediums and the submission guidelines for both published and unpublished works.

Generally speaking, you’ll need to upload an exact copy of how your logo will appear to the public, including accurate colors, fonts and other defining features. This means you’ll need an image that falls under the following categories:

  • Complete Copy: This refers to the complete copyrightable material, including your entire logo and all other visual features that may be associated with it, such as supporting text or the name of your company.
  • Best Edition: This means the best copy of your logo, usually the largest, most detailed version or the original design with the highest quality.
  • Identifying Material: This refers to three-dimensional works that may need to be broken down into two-dimensional renderings, showing the visual image from different perspectives to ensure the Copyright Office has a complete understanding of the visual image in question.

If you hired a graphic designer, you’ll need to register as a “work for hire.” Registering online for a copyright as the sole author costs $35 and works for hire cost $55. If you register using a paper application, it costs $85. Your submission materials will not be returned, so don’t mail in the only original copy of your design.

Your copyright goes into effect as soon as the Copyright Office receives your application, so you can start or continue using and publishing your logo as you see fit. It usually takes the office around 13 months to process an application. You may want to expedite the process if you’re looking to break into a competitive market right away. If you choose this option or other special handling services such as additional application materials, it will cost an additional $50 to $800.

If you created the logo yourself, you’ll retain sole ownership for the duration of your life plus another 75 years, giving you the exclusive right to publish or distribute the work. If your logo is a work for hire, you or your company will retain sole ownership 95 years after the date of first publication or 120 years after the date of creation.

At any point during the application review process, you can submit a request to check the status of your application or to upload a new copy of your logo. Once the 13-month period has ended, you’ll receive a paper copy of your copyright in the mail from the Library of Congress. This includes an identification number for your copyright, giving you another way to recognize your claim.

Enforcing Your Rights as the Owner of the Logo

Now that you’re the proud owner of a fully copyrighted logo, you’re free to file a lawsuit in federal court if your copyright is infringed upon, i.e., someone copies your logo design or uses it for another purpose. Some companies may hire a copyright lawyer in this situation to represent them in court. If someone infringes upon your rights as the copyright owner, you may:

  • Ask the court to send a cease and desist order to prevent future violations, forcing the infringing party to stop displaying the image.
  • Be entitled to damages for any money your company may have lost due to the copyright violation, including, in some circumstances, any legal fees incurred by your company.

In order to receive damages and stop another person from using your logo, you must prove:

  • The infringing party clearly copied key aspects of your original copyrighted material.
  • The work is fully protected by a copyright and not covered under the fair use doctrine.
  • Your company did not authorize the infringement via a contract license.
  • The lawsuit is being brought within the statute of limitations.
  • The infringing party was fully aware, or had reason to be aware, that the work was copyrighted at the time of the infringement (this is why you should use the copyright symbol when displaying your work in public).

Hopefully, no one has the gall to copy your logo, especially if it appears next to the copyright symbol. This is an easy way to scare off potential copyright infringements. If you are forced to deal with an infringement, it’s usually best to hire a copyright lawyer, depending on the complexity of the case. If the person is in clear violation of the copyright, you might be able to deal with the matter on your own.

Copyrighting a logo is not the right choice for every company. You only need to explore this option if a great deal of artistic virtue went into the creation of the piece. Remember to be upfront with your graphic designer about who owns the completed design by having them sign a contract. Applying for a copyright shouldn’t take up too much of your time, but you should carefully review all submission guidelines. Finishing the application is all you need to copyright your logo and the official copyright should arrive in the mail within the next 13 months once the Copyright Office has received your application. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that your logo is full copyrighted.

The Most Important Aspects of a Logo

Whether you’re selling cans of soup or a new line of haircare products, your logo will be the first point of contact between your company and the customer. It’s like stuffing the entire story of your company into a jar. One look at your product labels and the customer should know who you are, what you’re selling and why they should choose you over your competitors. That can be a tall order, especially when you only have a few thousand pixels to work with.

While you might think that you can always change your logo later, rebranding your company with a new image can lead to confusion among your customers, especially if your company is just getting off the ground. Before you commit to a logo, make sure you’ve done your research. Understanding the connotations of your logo can help you increase brand recognition by up to 80 percent and increase brand comprehension by up to 73 percent. Every color, line and shape can have a sizable effect on your audience and their state of mind. Let’s dive in to the most important aspects of a logo, so you can grow your business and make the right impression on your consumers.

But First: Appeal to Your Target Audience

Before you design a logo, you need to know a thing or two about your target audience. Is it primarily male or female, millennials or baby boomers, business owners or consumers? Once you have an idea of whom you’re trying to reach, you can customize your logo so that it appeals to your target audience. But knowing your target audience is also about knowing how they feel. Your customers should have an emotional connection to your company and the products and services you sell, and logo design is one of the most effective ways to elicit a reaction from them.

We know what you’re thinking: If you don’t have a logo, you’re probably just starting out. And if you’re just starting out, how do you identify your target audience? You can use all of your existing campaigns, testing and beta groups to help understand your ideal consumer profile. Another great way to get a good idea of your most valuable consumer is to look at the audience of your competitors and make educated assumptions. If your audience varies widely, catering to every gender and age group, then try to make your logo universal.

1. Color: Use it to Convey Emotion

The first thing a person sees when they look at your logo is color. It sets the stage for the personality and overall feel of your brand. In fact, researchers believe that different hues color a user’s impression of a brand’s imagery more than almost anything else. Even though the suggestions below are backed by science and do have some clout, it’s important to note that color perception is shaped by personal experiences , context, cultural differences and personal preferences, so you may not get the same response from everyone who interacts with your logo. It’s usually best to limit your color scheme to just two or three colors or less.

  • Warm and Hot Colors — A yellow or orange logo will convey feelings of warmth, positivity, joy and energy. A red logo will encourage feelings of passion, hate, intense love or even danger. Some great examples of warm-colored logos include Nintendo, Coca-Cola, Levi’s and McDonald’s.
  • Cool and Earthy Hues — A green logo will drum up thoughts of the environment, interconnectedness, harmony and relaxation, while a blue logo will conjure up feelings of sadness, progress, leadership and healthcare. One of the best examples of an earth-toned logo is, of course, the famous Starbucks mermaid. Blue logos are also some of the most popular—Twitter, Facebook, Chase, AT&T and Venmo all use blue.
  • Unconventional Shades — Just because most contemporary logos fall into a few popular categories doesn’t mean you can’t think outside the box. For example, a pink logo will strike a chord with female consumers, hinting at themes of motherhood, beauty and romance, but it also signifies something different and rule-breaking— think Barbie, Dunkin’ Donuts and Lyft.
  • Bold or Basic Black — It may not be the trendiest shade in logo design, but black still stands for strength, authority and reliability. And if you want a logo that’s simple, straightforward and signature—like Apple, Nike and Puma—then black is a great place to start.

2. Typeface: Make it an Easy Read

Your logo’s font is right up there with its color scheme in terms of importance. Not only does your chosen typeface have the ability to influence your brand’s overall story and the emotion you want to convey, but it also helps burn your brand name into a user’s brain. Repetition is important to brand recall, and if a customer can easily identify your brand in a sea of competitors, you’ve already got a leg up! Not only is it a good idea to incorporate lettering into your design, but it’s a good idea to make it memorable and eye-catching.

  • Choose Clear, Legible Fonts — A letter-based logo is no good if no one can read it. Make sure that you choose highly readable fonts so that users can read the name of your brand with a quick glance. This might mean opting for a bold, serif font over a script font or making the lettering the primary focus of your logo.
  • Create a Custom Typeface — Instagram, Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, Disney—all of these pioneering brands have one thing in common: They have their very own typeface. And, there’s a good chance that you know exactly what it is without the need to look it up. A good way to add originality and style to your logo is to partner with a font designer to develop a typeface that’s all yours.
  • Tell a Story with Lettering — Fonts are an excellent way to subconsciously affect a user’s perception of your brand. For example, high-end companies usually use high-end and formal typefaces—think Louis Vuitton, Bergdorf Goodman and Versace—whereas playful, disruptive brands keep it fun and casual.
  • Understand Font Anatomy — When you’re researching or designing typefaces for the first time, you’ll come across words like serif, ligature, ascender and swash. Get a basic understanding of how fonts are designed so that you know what to shoot for. A good rule of thumb is that serif fonts tend to be more formal, whereas sans serif fonts are more clean and modern.

3. Iconography: It should Be Iconic

There’s nothing worse than having a boring logo that people can’t pick out from a lineup. Creating a logo is about creating a signature identity for your company, and that identity needs to be unique. That means you need to set yourself apart from the competition. Take stock of the market you’re trying to break into and see what kind of visual identity your competitors have carved out for themselves. Now take your logo in the opposite direction. Find a way to make your company unique by filling the void left by your competitors.

  • Go Bold with Colors — Standing out in a crowd means creating an image that catches the eye. Use bold, contrasting colors but only enough to get your point across. You also need to organize the space in a way that encourages the viewer to keep looking. But don’t take this tidbit too far. One or two colors is usually enough to catch a viewer’s attention.
  • Leverage Your Whitespace — Some of the most unique and talked-about logos are those that use whitespace in a creative manner. Whitespace is simply the part of your logo in between its official design elements. Some great examples of logos that use whitespace well include the FedEx logo, which features an arrow between the E and the X, and the Toblerone logo, which has a bear hidden in the Matterhorn.
  • Make it Scalable — As we’ll cover below, your logo needs to be versatile and scalable so that it looks great in every environment. Choose graphics that are easy to scale and don’t look strange, warped or misshapen when you need to make the logo smaller or larger. You should still be able to identify the core shapes and read lettering on a logo regardless of how it’s been manipulated.
  • Use Visual Movement — Let’s look at one of America’s best-selling brands: Pepsi. Notice how the lines in the logo bend and curve, creating what appears to be a sphere or an eye. It gives the image visual movement, as opposed to a simple circle. Features like these can make a big difference when you’re trying to attract attention.

4. Versatility and Consistency

Your logo will be the face of your company, but your company can take many different forms. From your website to the labels on your products, your logo needs to be consistent. In fact, 90% of consumers expect that their experience with a brand will be similar across all platforms and devices. Maybe the customer is looking at your website on their phone. Can they still see your logo? What happens when you put your logo on a massive banner? Does the quality still hold up? The answer should always be yes!

  • Make it Multichannel — Make sure your logo has the versatility to be effective across different applications. Chances are you can spot the Apple logo from a mile away. Why? Because it’s simple enough that you can recognize it in any setting. Your logo needs to look picture-perfect in hundreds of applications, including your App Store icon, website banner, letterhead and product tags.
  • Make Sure it Prints Well — These days, many logo designs exist primarily in a digital format, so sometimes we overlook the fact that they often need to be printed on product labels, swag and more. One of the most important things to consider when printing is that logos need to look clear and legible, even when they’re printed extremely small. Keeping your design simple will help ease the transition to the physical world.
  • Have Multiple Adaptations — In order to make your logo look right at home in any environment—from tote bags to packaging—you might want to consider designing a suite of like-minded logos to ensure that your branding looks great in every application. We can look to sports team logos as great examples of logo suites. For example, the Cleveland Cavaliers use a more complex shield logo with a bold C at the center and lettering at the top, as well as just the C icon alone.

Putting It All Together

So, what’s the bottom line? It’s all about creating an image that’s easy to recognize and tells a story. Your logo is one of the most powerful ways to increase brand recognition and help your product stand out, and if you don’t design it with clear messaging that aligns with the spirit of your brand, you’re missing a major  opportunity. By creating something special and powerful, you’re reinforcing that your company is one to trust.

Creating a logo is all about converting the story behind your company into a concise, effective, easily recognizable image. You only have a few seconds or a few thousand pixels to make your case, so every detail needs to work to your company’s advantage. Learn as much as you can about your target audience and give them a positive, memorable impression of your company. That’s how you turn a casual viewer into a loyal customer.

Get Your Shipping Costs in Shape: 15 Ways to Trim Your Fulfillment Budget

Regardless of if you’re a small business practicing self-fulfillment or have partnered with a logistics company to relieve some of the shipping burden, you know how important a lean yet well-oiled fulfillment strategy is to your brand. Consumers have high expectations—studies show that Amazon has had an undeniable impact on the consumer’s expectation for quick, free delivery—and sometimes they outweigh your ability to, quite literally, deliver.

The key is to find a delicate balance between trimming your fulfillment budget and keeping shipping costs acceptable to your target audience. For most of us, that means getting a little bit creative with how we fulfill, where we fulfill and even what we fulfill. On top of all this, fulfillment costs directly coordinate with your business’s success. When your sales increase, so do your fulfillment costs. So, adopting a budget-friendly approach early on is extremely important.

Of course, we’d recommend starting any reorganization or trimming by giving your shipping and fulfillment approach a little bit of a shakedown. While it’s notoriously hard to know exactly how much you should be setting aside for fulfillment—your budget should be tailored to the type of business, whether you require any special material handling, have special packaging needs and other considerations—you should still be sure to evaluate your current budget and goals before making any adjustments.

Even though it’s often overlooked in budgeting, shipping costs businesses a lot of money—it can account for as much as 25 percent of your overall costs. At the end of the day, you can always do better. And when you shave off some of that budget-sucking fulfillment overhead, you can pass the savings on to your customers.

Trim Down Packaging Costs

Fulfillment should cover end-to-end logistics—receiving, processing, storing, shipping and final delivery. Cost-wise, all of these steps are calculated differently, but one thing unites them along their journey: packaging. For example, boxes cost more to store in the warehouse than envelopes, and heavier packaging weighs down your load, making shipping and freight more expensive. If you need to rein things in at every rung of the fulfillment ladder, start with your packaging costs. There are two main metrics to focus on here: your cargo’s size and weight and how you can eliminate damage to prevent higher costs.

1. Prevent Mistakes — It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s actually a good idea to spend a little bit of money up front in order to prevent goods from becoming damaged, lost or mis-delivered along the way. Let’s say, for example, that you skimp on your packaging and wind up with broken goods that you have to replace—not to mention the cost of refunding the customer. Starting with quality-made packaging, clearly placed barcode labels and verified addresses will help eliminate risk.

2. Choose Parcels Wisely — The simplest thing you can do to reduce fulfillment costs is to reduce the actual cost of the package itself, especially if you practice self-fulfillment. You may remember when Amazon swapped out cardboard boxes for bubble envelopes last year in an effort to lower packaging fees and curb their environmental impact. This is a lesson for all of us: Boxes aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. In fact, much of the time, you’re paying for empty space when you throw everything in a box. Spend some time exploring different types of shipping envelopes instead.

3. Think About Weight — One of the main reasons why cardboard boxes cost more to ship than flat envelopes is because they increase your shipment’s dimensional weight . This metric identifies packages that are large yet lightweight—think of a small kitchen utensil, for example, shipped in an oversized cardboard box (yes, we’re thinking about Amazon). A parcel that’s too big could double, triple or even quadruple your shipping costs for that item. So, don’t just think about how much a parcel weighs, make sure to consider how much space it takes up, too.

4. Buy in Bulk — Depending on the variety of products you ship and whether or not your inventory changes rapidly, buying packaging in bulk may be a good way to save money. But it also opens up the doors for potential over-spending and over-warehousing. Make sure you have a reliable prediction model in place before you make any big packaging orders and take into account the fact that storing large quantities of packaging comes at a cost, too.

5. Leverage Your Labels — One of the things we often overlook when budgeting for packaging is the label. It costs you and your employees valuable time to hand-write labels and can cause confusion and issues if labels are not printed clearly and accurately. Small businesses especially can benefit from investing in a thermal label printer to replace handwriting; USPS actually recommends this because it makes labeling more professional and prevents labels from falling off the package. A thermal label printer can also create branded, custom labels for a more professional look.

invest in technology

Invest in Technology

Everyone knows that robots do the majority of the picking and packing these days, but you don’t have to go full-on automated to get the most bang for your buck in the fulfillment category. The key is to invest in technology that helps you make the smartest possible decisions—primarily with regard to when and how to ship. Because, let’s face it, a system that relies on algorithms and big data to make wise decisions is probably going to help eliminate some human error.

6. Upgrade Your Barcoding System — Using a powerful, easy-to-use barcode software is a smart way to create custom barcode labels whenever you need them. As previously mentioned, clear and well-designed barcode labels can help eliminate costly shipping mistakes, but they can also curb data entry errors and tracking issues. Barcode technology also helps ensure that all your goods are accurately stored and tracked, allowing you to give updates to the customer along the route.

7. Prioritize New Equipment — Whether it’s something as small as a tape dispenser or as large as a palletizer, you can’t let equipment hold you back. We’re not suggesting that you upgrade every time a brand-new packaging solution comes onto the scene—which seems like every day these days—but instead noting the importance of moving along with technology to meet the changing demands of the landscape.

8. Trust in Automation (Sometimes) — Automated software and equipment is nothing short of pervasive in fulfillment, especially in the modern warehouse. There are many scenarios where you can leverage this to lower your costs, like if you choose a packaging software that tells you exactly what size parcel to use for your exact item or a system that integrates into your e-commerce platform to help you manage your inventory. But there are some parts of your fulfillment strategy that still require the human touch, like negotiating, bartering and strategizing with partners. In other words, leave the big thinking to the humans…at least for now!

9. Use Handheld and Mobile Devices — In contemporary warehouses, companies are already figuring out ways to eliminate handheld devices during the picking, packing and shipping process so that employees can work hands-free. Did we mention that things seem to move at lightning-speed in this industry? But for small- and medium-sized businesses, investing in handheld scanning devices is still a worthy effort. These units can help you keep your inventory well-organized without relying on outsourced labor or a fulfillment center, which you may not be quite ready for.

10. Go Digital — Small- and medium-sized businesses have so many more tools at their disposal than they did even 10 years ago, but the ever-changing digital landscape makes these tools hard to navigate. One thing’s for sure, though: The internet is your friend when you want to lower shipping costs. Buying postage online through the U.S. Postal Service or your preferred private shipper can save you some dough. For example, the USPS offers discounts on its Click-N-Ship program to encourage individuals and businesses to buy online.

Focus on the Customer

We mentioned before that consumers demand fast, affordable shipping. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make fiscal sense in a lot of scenarios to offer free shipping. But here’s the thing: You can’t offer both fast and free without raising shipping costs. So, which is more important? Interestingly, these days, consumers actually prioritize fast shipping over free shipping. If you can leverage your budget to get the product there faster with a reasonable shipping fee, there’s a good chance customers will be satisfied. This is just one example of how you can cut the budget while still meeting customer expectations.

11. Offer More Ways to Ship — Adopting an omnichannel fulfillment approach—shipping to and from the store or shipping to a delivery hub—can help you shave off some shipping costs. This is especially important for brick-and-click businesses who have retail locations. By shipping to and from the store, retailers can seriously lower shipping costs while also keeping them aligned with the consumer’s expectations. This also helps contribute to increased online sales because it allows you to ship cheaper while simultaneously bringing more customers into your store.

12. Partner with a Fulfillment Center — Let’s not forget that while shipping your products is costly, so too is storing them. In the age of e-commerce, small- and medium-sized businesses are finding that using a fulfillment center may be a cost-effective option. Amazon launched its Australian fulfillment service late last month, allowing those who sell on the marketplace to store their goods in a local fulfillment center. Amazon then handles all picking, packing and shipping for its companies. Of course, the storage comes at a cost, but it usually lowers shipping and overhead costs while improving your delivery speed and reliability.

13. Reevaluate Your Return Policy —Don’t forget to consider the cost of returns in your shipping budget. While it may seem good for your bottom line to charge return shipping, it actually may be worthwhile to offer easy, free returns. That’s because customers demand it, and also because it helps prevent chargebacks. If you’re in an incredibly competitive space, remember that a consumer might choose another business over yours if he or she prefers their return policy. With that in mind, you can still lower return shipping costs by limiting your free return window.

14. Think About Drop – Shipping — Of course, drop-shipping is only going to work with customers who don’t make their own goods. But if you sell items that pretty much never need to pass through the hands of your business, then this is the method for you. Drop-shipping is a fulfillment method that relies on a third-party to handle and ship the product, effectively eliminating costs associated with storage, packing, shipping, tracking and handling. With that being said, know that you won’t get as high of margins this way and you might run into some costly challenges, like supplier errors that wind up being your responsibility.

15. Offer Flat-Rate Shipping — For many companies, offering free shipping isn’t a possibility. Whether that be because your prices are already rock-bottom or because you have a specialty item that requires special handling, sometimes shipping for free is off the table. As we mentioned before, consumers are beginning to prioritize fast shipping over free shipping, and they’re all about ease. Flat-rate shipping lets you defer some fulfillment costs but still gives consumers an easy, standardized experience.

2017 Review: 15 Companies with the Most Creative Marketing Strategies

From funny tweets to guerilla marketing campaigns gone viral, 2017 was an impressive year for creative marketing. We saw Wendy’s vie for chicken nuggets, Patagonia save public lands and American Express master content creation, all for the sake of brand promotion. The best marketing strategies of the year fall into four primary categories: content marketing, mission-driven marketing, viral marketing and brand-based storytelling. Undeniably, these are the most useful and powerful branding approaches of the moment.

Besides the fact that they all garnered positive responses, these campaigns all have one thing in common–they worked overtime to bridge the gap between consumer and business. When a company is telling you exactly how much a product costs to make or is providing you with a personalized playlist that you’d probably make yourself, it feels more like a friend than a corporate entity. As a result, each of these companies contributes to the case for authenticity. The more authentic and approachable the strategy, the more successful the brand.

The Kings of Content Marketing

If you’re weighing different ways to promote your brand, there’s no better strategy than content marketing. With a relatively high ROI and a massive consumer engagement factor, killer content has the power to revolutionize a company’s image. Here are some of the best content marketing strategies from last year.

  • American Express — The world’s largest credit card issuer is no stranger to smart marketing. Think Small Business Saturday and, back in the 1980s, “Don’t leave home without it.” Nowadays, the company is setting standards in the world of content marketing with the American Express OPEN Forum providing valuable, shareable and wanted content to consumers. The OPEN Forum includes insight, inspiration and advice for small business owners, and its developers say almost every piece is produced because business owners asked them for it.
  • General Electric — GE is another top-tier performer when it comes to content marketing, and it was one of the first to recognize that content goes beyond the written word. It was responsible for the super-popular eight-part podcast series “The Message” back in 2015, and it hasn’t stopped pumping out useful content since. Now, GE stands as a solid example of smart content marketing for business-to-business and business-to-consumer efforts, with its GE Reports blog setting a new standard for content marketers.
  • Airbnb — The hot hospitality platform known as Airbnb made a pretty hefty investment into content marketing in the past year. Not only did they unveil AirbnbMag —an in-print and online travel magazine—in partnership with Hearst, they also funneled some major funds into their Experiences department, adding coverage to 200 more cities. The goal for Airbnb is to become a thought leader not only in the realm of hospitality, but also travel and culture. By taking a broader approach and covering things like food, architecture and design, Airbnb stands to draw in loyalists from various spaces.
  • Casper — Say what you will about mail-order mattresses, but these companies are no sleepers when it comes to content marketing. Our favorite example comes from Van Winkle’s , the digital publication from disruptive mattress-maker Casper. What’s unique about Van Winkle’s compared to every other company blog out there is that it prioritizes magazine-quality content. Take, for example, the Theresa Fisher piece titled “What Happens to Our Sleep in Various Stages of Love?” By zooming out and not limiting itself to works that drone on about the same old sleep-related topics, Casper earned serious points–not only among marketers, but among curious readers, too.

Mission-Driven Marketing Masters

More and more studies suggest that consumers, especially millennials, want to feel like what they’re buying has a connection to something greater and more meaningful . Younger buyers favor companies that prioritize social and political causes, and some brands definitely got the memo in 2017. They funneled more money into charitable efforts and corporate social responsibility–something that helped bolster their overall brand images.

  • REI — REI did something pretty revolutionary in 2016 and 2017: It asked its employees and customers to go outside. As part of its #OptOutside campaign, the company closed its doors on one of the most popular shopping days of the year (Black Friday) and invited its 12,000-plus employees to spend time outside instead. Proving that mission-based marketing has a domino effect, Subaru joined in on the #OptOutside movement and dispatched 30 vehicles to transport shelter dogs and to support the ASPCA on Black Friday.
  • Patagonia — For Patagonia, cause-based marketing isn’t a trend; it’s something that’s been deeply rooted in the brand’s mission since day one. Last year, though, it launched The Cleanest Line, a blog that shares stories about the environment and keeps customers clued into where the brand stands on certain issues. It’s also the face of Protect Public Lands, a facet of the company that helps preserve public parks and establish national monuments. Last year, that was particularly important in the effort to save Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.
  • Everlane — Billing itself as “radically transparent,” San Francisco-based clothier Everlane has gained a lot of positive attention for one simple factor: It shares its pricing model with its customers. Every piece of clothing comes with a transparent pricing guide that lays out how much it cost to make—materials, hardware, labor, duties, transport and company profit—so buyers know where every dollar goes and how much the company profits. They also got radical in 2017 with real model details that let shoppers see info about the size of the model displaying a piece of clothing.
  • Tesla — It should come as no surprise that Elon Musk’s eco-friendly car company is exemplary of brands with a purpose. This year, the company officially launched into the building phase of the Tesla Gigafactory, a Reno battery factory powered by a combination of on-site solar, wind and geothermal energy sources. And then, later in the year, it announced that it would help to build the world’s biggest virtual power plant, which is designed to make energy go further in parts of the world where it’s notoriously limited and unreliable. Although these projects aren’t marketing campaigns per se, their viral factor allows them to serve that purpose, too.

Viral Campaigns We Shared and Shared Again

Even though consumers care a whole lot about mission, they also love a little bit of fun. The proof is in the viral marketing campaigns they produced last year. Some of our favorite brands got super-creative in the social networking world, with hilarious tweets that served an important purpose: giving brands some real personality.

  • Wendy’s — The creator of the Junior Bacon Cheeseburger got some serious social points last year with the massively viral #NuggsforCarter campaign. It all started when a 16-year-old Twitter user named Carter tweeted at Wendy’s asking how many retweets it would take for the restaurant to bless him with a free year of chicken nuggets. Wendy’s swiftly replied with a number: 18 million. The tweet surpassed Ellen’s Oscar selfie as the most-retweeted tweet of all-time. That’s a lot of free marketing! If you’re wondering, Carter got his nuggets, and the company made a $100,000 donation to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption in his honor.
  • Spotify — Everyone’s favorite digital music service may win the crown for 2017’s most creative viral marketing strategy–not once but twice. First, it unveiled Spotify Time Capsule, a personalized playlist giving every user a set of nostalgic throwbacks that he or she probably played on repeat in their teens and twenties (if you haven’t tried it, it’s remarkably accurate). Then, at the end of the year, the company boosted its annual Wrapped Campaign with personal playlists displaying each user’s year in music. Naturally, both campaigns got a whole lot of shares.
  • KFC — Colonel Sanders is a master of viral marketing, and his 1.27 million Twitter followers are proof. Last year, KFC made some major waves in the world of social when a (seemingly) unaffiliated Twitter user pointed out that the company follows only 11 people on Twitter: five Spice Girls and six guys named Herb. “11 herbs and spices. I need to process this,” the tweet read. It was a nod to KFC’s original recipe containing 11 herbs and spices. The tweet nabbed over 319,000 retweets and 712,000 likes. The fried chicken maker graciously painted a portrait for the user who pointed it out.
  • Domino’s — Why are companies in the food and beverage space so good at viral marketing? We don’t know, exactly, but we love their creative solutions. Case in point: In February of last year, Domino’s unveiled a new take on the traditional wedding registry—a registry for pizza. The Domino’s Wedding Registry allows engaged couples to register for Domino’s pizza—seriously, to-be married couples can request pizza delivery for the bachelor and bachelorette party, engagement party, wedding, honeymoon and just life in general. No surprise here, but the campaign instantly went viral.

Storytelling: Marketing’s Secret Weapon

Brand storytelling should be the foundation of a growth strategy, say the experts. This approach helps customers build authenticity and trust in a company, something that equals major gains in today’s business landscape. Brands told big stories through label design, omnichannel engagement and videos.

  • SoulCycle — The cultish fitness brand knows a thing or two about how to capture engagement with solid storytelling. Traditionally bolstered by word-of-mouth advertising, in 2017, SoulCycle unveiled its very first official branding campaign, and it was impressive. Its Find It campaign focused on the company’s motivational aspect, highlighting the importance of finding yourself to achieve greatness. The new campaign also highlighted SoulCycle’s recent growth and evolution, a smart tactic considering it opened its 74th location last year.
  • Charles Smith — Wine has always had a unique connection to storytelling. Part of that is because a massive 82 percent of consumers make their decisions about which type of wine to buy based on the bottle’s label, so it’s in a winemaker’s best interest to create product packaging that consumers get. Winemaker Charles Smith has been nailing story-based marketing through its labels since its inception, with bold labels that catch the consumer’s eye. Each bottle features an edgy black and white label with a design meant to convey the flavor and spirit of what’s inside. It’s story-based marketing with a visual twist.
  • Nike — The cool thing about Nike is that since the debut of their very first pair of shoes back in 1964, the company has always understood how to pivot its marketing efforts to suit a particular climate. Nike’s always created exemplary work in the realm of brand storytelling–well, at least since it put out a revolutionary commercial showcasing the career of Michael Jordan back in 1999. Now, the shoemaker has shifted its focus to digital video, with an omnichannel approach. Its videos and stories extend across a myriad of channels—social, content marketing, TV commercials and beyond—for a unique, multi-channel approach to narrative marketing.

The Endgame

What can we conclude from this list of impressive marketing strategies? For one, consumers are no longer dazzled by the same old thing. Sometimes it takes a pizza registry or a motivational video to catch your audience’s attention. Secondly, it’s no longer enough to just inform the consumer. You have to be able to inspire them while you’re at it. And here’s the kicker: You must be able to do it in a way that’s authentic and that resonates with your target audience. When you take cues from the masters, though, you’ll be well on your way to a smart marketing approach that inspires and converts.

Top 12 Healthcare Charities Making a Difference

The holidays are the best time of year to give back to charity. The season of giving should encourage you to reflect on your good fortune and express gratitude for the bounties of your life. Healthcare charities are a particularly popular sector for those who are looking for great ways to give back this time of year. They allow you to give gifts in honor of loved ones who have struggled with diseases and conditions that are not widely researched.

All of these charities received a three- or four-star rating from Charity Navigator. This organization rates charities based on their financial health — in other words, whether or not they’re financially efficient and if they have enough capacity to properly serve their specific cause — as well as accountability and transparency.

The American Heart Association (AHA)

The American Heart Association, based in Dallas, is the country’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. The organization focuses on providing public health education — you’ve probably seen the iconic red heart logo on food items to designate that a certain item meets the organization’s criteria for heart-healthy food — but it also provides physicians with science-based treatment guidelines to help prevent heart disease and stroke.

But does it actually make a difference? Definitely. According to the AHA’s 2015-2016 annual report, the organization helped reduce cardiovascular disease mortality by 70 percent since 1968, and helped reduce stroke mortality rate by 36 percent since 2002. The association helped boost survival rates by funding life-saving advancements, such as the artificial heart valve and cholesterol-inhibiting drugs. Charity Navigator gives the AHA a 91.33 out of 100 score, so you can be sure it’s a charity worth your donations.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF)

Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) was founded in 1971 as an independent humanitarian organization. The organization provides life-saving medical care to those who have been affected by war, natural disasters, disease outbreaks, neglect, and other crises. MSF treats people based on medical need alone, and does not take into account race, religion, or political affiliation. After an emergency, MSF provides free, high-quality medical care to those in need.

MSF won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 and currently has around 33,000 staff members on the ground in 70 countries. Last year, it provided over 9.7 million outpatient consultations and treated nearly 700,000 patients, according to the Doctors Without Borders 2016 Annual Report. It was particularly vital amidst the mounting refugee crisis in Syria and Yemen, and was able to treat large numbers of displaced people throughout the world.

Patient Services Incorporated (PSI)

Virginia-based Patient Services Incorporated may not be as recognizable as The American Heart Association or Doctors Without Borders, but it does equally as much good work. This non-profit organization offers assistance with copayments to chronically ill patients with mounting medical bills. The organization was founded by Dr. Dana Kuhn in 1989 in an effort to help his chronically ill patients receive the medical care they needed to survive.

PSI is one of very few charities on Charity Navigator to receive eight consecutive four-star charity ratings. The organization gave over 94 percent of contributions in 2016 to program assistance groups that work directly with patients to help pay medical bills, according to its annual report . Last year, the group provided financial assistance to 20,738 patients — that equates to over $100 million in services — throughout the United States.

MAP International

MAP International’s slogan is “Medicine for the World,” and at its core, that’s what the organization strives to provide. The international, Christian organization provides medicine and health supplies to people around the world regardless of race, religion, gender, nationality, or ethnic background. These vital medical services help prevent disease and promote good health in many regions of the world where resources are limited, including in Africa, Asia, Central America, and the Caribbean, as well as the U.S. and Mexico.

Last year, MAP International gave $485 million in aid to 102 countries, treating about 10 million patients. The organization also expanded its reach to include emergency support for areas hit hard by natural disasters, with $6.6 million going towards disaster relief efforts. What’s more, MAP has shipped over $6 billion worth of medicine around the world since its founding in 1954. It holds a four-star rating from Charity Navigator and is rated as an Accredited Charity from the Better Business Bureau, so you can feel good about giving to this group this holiday season.

American Red Cross

The American Red Cross is one of the world’s most significant disaster relief organizations. Not only that — the foundation provides international services to support countries with minimal resources, as well as health-focused training and certification programs and support to service members and veterans. But the most important facet of the Red Cross’s work is its lifesaving blood donor initiatives, which are a key resource for survivors following natural disasters and other crises. The Red Cross provides about 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply.

The organization also offers essential health-related services to those in need, including vaccinations, free smoke detectors, and shelter services. According to its 2016 annual report, the Red Cross provided more than 1.66 million meals and snacks, delivered roughly 1.4 million relief items and provided over 56,000 shelter stays. All of these initiatives together provided disaster relief to nearly 4.6 million people in 2016. You can give to the Red Cross in multiple ways, not just financially.

Consider becoming a volunteer or donating blood if you don’t have the means to give a monetary donation. The Red Cross is on the frontlines of biomedical innovations, and runs a program called BioArch that allows donation centers to better monitor and collect blood donations through barcode label technologies. The systems are able to easily identify donor information that might prevent a person from being able to give blood, and helps the organization closely monitor blood inventory levels so that it knows exactly how much a community needs at a given time.

St. Jude Research Hospital

St. Jude Research Hospital is a nonprofit medical corporation that provides free pediatric treatment to children with catastrophic diseases. It’s also a pioneer when it comes to researching non-curable diseases that affect children. The organization was founded by entertainer Danny Thomas in 1962 with the mission that “no child should die in the dawn of life.” Although it’s named after St. Jude, Thomas’s patron saint, the hospital is not associated with any religious organization.

St. Jude treats patients from all 50 United States as well as those from around the world. According to its most recent annual report , the hospital has grown the overall childhood survival rate from 20 percent at its founding to more than 80 percent today. In 2015, St. Jude gave over $1 million in total support, with the vast majority of that going to patient care services and research. It has received several major awards and recognitions, and one of its doctors received a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1996.

Cure Alzheimer’s Fund

Massachusetts-based Cure Alzheimer’s Fund is a non-profit charity that works to fund research that prevents, slows, or reverses Alzheimer’s disease. It was founded in 2004 following principles of venture philanthropy — a method of investing that identifies high-risk, high-reward investments to fund philanthropic causes — and has given over $50,000,000 in funds to Alzheimer’s research. Some of that has contributed to key discoveries in the field, including new drugs and treatments for Alzheimer’s patients.

Why is the organization on our top 12 list? For one, 100 percent of all the funds raised by Cure Alzheimer’s goes directly to research and education. Last year, the fund received $15.6 million in donations and was able to fund 56 research projects and 58 researchers. With 89.7 percent of donations going towards program expenses, Cure Alzheimer’s Fund was able to distribute over $50 million in research grants to Alzheimer’s-related research.

Community Volunteers in Medicine (CVIM)

Founded in 1998 by venture capital and leadership from the Women’s Auxiliary of the Paoli Hospital Foundation in Pennsylvania, Community Volunteers in Medicine was developed to provide primary medical and dental care to people who lack insurance. The organization primarily serves Southeastern Pennsylvania, but has set many standards for global healthcare organizations. It holds a four-star rating from Charity Navigator and a 100 percent score for financials, accountability, and transparency.

Despite the fact that it’s relatively small in reach, CVIM was able to give nearly $6 million in care to the community in 2016, according to its annual report. It also provided care to over 35,000 patients, with over 3,000 of those patients receiving dental care. The group also provided 26,000 free prescription medications to patients in the Chester County region. This organization is certainly one to watch in the coming years.

Arthritis National Research Foundation (ANRF)

The Arthritis National Research Foundation has been funding arthritis-related causes since 1970. Its primary goal is to help fund arthritis research in order to develop prevention programs and new treatments for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, juvenile arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases. It also provides funds for researchers to help better understand the causes and side effects associated with arthritis.

The organization typically funds between 10 and 20 grants per year, with over $1 million in research awards given in the 2016-2017 period. What’s so great about this organization — besides its core mission, of course — is that it’s a premier example of a responsibly funded organization. With a four-star Charity Navigator rating for nine straight years, the ANRF is well-regarded because it gives over 90 percent of every donation to research programs.

Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF)

Giving to the right breast cancer research organization can be a challenge. Some of the biggest and most recognizable charities have been heavily criticized for mismanaging funds, so a little bit of research on a donor’s behalf can go a long way. Those who want to help contribute to the field of breast cancer research should consider the New York-based Breast Cancer Research Foundation . This group is the highest-rated breast cancer organization in the U.S., with a four-star rating from Charity Navigator and an A+ rating from Charity Watch.

BCRF strives to provide breast cancer prevention and cure research to worldwide researchers. It was founded in 1993 by Evelyn H. Lauder, and has since raised more than a half a billion dollars for life-saving breast cancer research initiatives. Each year, the organization donates more than 88 percent of its financials directly towards breast cancer research, with about 3 percent designated for awareness programs. The majority of funds go towards researching genetics, prevention, treatment, tumor biology, and survivorship.

Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF)

The Elton John AIDS Foundation was founded by Elton John in 1992 in response to the urgent need for philanthropic support of the global AIDS crisis. Since then, it has raised more than $385 million towards AIDS-related causes. The mission of the EJAF is to provide information and means to prevent the infection, while also helping to support programs that provide high-quality medical care, and treatment for those living with HIV and AIDS.

The EJAF continues to set standards in healthcare charities and received a 100 percent rating by Charity Navigator in accountability and transparency. The organization gives an impressive 93.9 percent of its total expenses to programs that help serve its mission. In 2015, EJAF funded 134 initiatives, which helped to fund HIV testing, education on syringe exchange and the use of preventative drug PreP, and funding for care of those who are HIV positive.

American Kidney Fund (AKF)

The American Kidney Fund provides a wide range of services associated with kidney health. It provides comprehensive programs surrounding kidney health awareness, education, and prevention, and offers financial services that reach one out of every five U.S. dialysis patients. The Maryland-based organization is a 15-time recipient of Charity Navigator’s four-star rating and is positioned in the top one percent of charities nationwide for fiscal accountability, giving 97 cents of every dollar to its programs.

According to the AKF’s 2016 annual report, the organization served nearly 100,000 patients last year with life-saving programs. Not only does the AKF provide essential financial relief for dialysis and other kidney-related medical care, but it also helps patients in need with transportation, nutritional products, and medications. It also provided free screenings to check for kidney and heart health and diabetes, with over 100,000 people in 23 cities taking advantage of these free programs.

Start-up Spotlight: The Dos and Don’ts of Branding

Start-ups are, by definition, disruptive in some manner. They’re the businesses thought up by the crafty thinkers and entrepreneurs who want to solve a problem. So, it’s no surprise that the early-stage entrepreneurs behind the most disruptive companies have some of the most unique branding ideas. Think of TOMS Shoes’ philanthropic angle or Patagonia’s commitment to producing quality-made outerwear that consumers will use for a lifetime: these are examples of cutting-edge branding that resonates.

But as resourceful and forward-thinking as new entrepreneurs are, they often lack in the funding department. When you have a good idea and no money, how do you brand your business? The unfortunate part about this riddle is that good ideas need a good story and a good brand to get off the ground. This is why it’s so important for early business owners and inventors to prioritize branding before they seek investors. If you’re getting ready to launch a new business, you should use some of these helpful tips to build a powerful brand.

Our No. 1 rule of branding is this: partner with good suppliers that value business as much as you do. Once you’ve developed a solid logo and written your story, get the word out there with high-quality labels and printing supplies. You’re only as good as your weakest partner, so make sure that all of the companies you do business with are just as committed to a positive customer experience and brand growth as you are.

The Dos and Don’ts of Telling Your Story

One of the most important parts about coming up with a comprehensive brand is to ensure that it tells a story. But not just any story: your story. Brand-driven storytelling is its very own niche in modern marketing, and there’s no secret behind why. It works, plain and simple.

  • Do Promote What You Care About — Weaving in a social factor isn’t just trendy, it’s also really good for business. Case in point: 57 percent of consumers said they’d purchase a product of lesser quality or efficacy if it was more socially or environmentally responsible. Prioritize corporate social responsibility, but only if it’s true to your brand (see below on authenticity).
  • Do Dig Deep and be Transparent — The story of how your great idea came about isn’t enough to build a compelling story-driven brand image. Dig deep into your history to unearth milestones, personal principles, and experiences that led to your big break. Weave these components into your logo, mission statement and social media strategy.
  • Do Be Authentic, and Not in the Buzzword Sense — Here’s the thing: today’s consumers are super-savvy — the majority of millennials say they don’t like being advertised to — and you have to cater to them in a way that feels real and low-pressure. That means engaging in a natural way on consumers’ terms. A good example of this is partnering with social media influencers instead of using traditional social media advertising
  • Don’t Forget to Let Customers Tell Their Stories — The most successful startups are fast-tracking their focus on customer engagement. Airbnb relies on customer experiences for success — it’s the user-based reviews and host stories that lead to sales — and they’ve handled this flawlessly by prioritizing the customer experience and letting consumers share real stories. Conversely, TripAdvisor recently came under fire for censoring users’ posts, and may soon face a lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Do Develop a Brand Voice — Consumers love consistency as much as marketers do! To ensure that your company has a consistent brand voice — right down to whether you’re going to use the Oxford comma or not — is key to creating a professional brand image that feels trustworthy and reliable. Develop a brand voice guidelines document to hand out to anyone who makes content for your company, from those who design product labels to the team writing your Twitter and Facebook “about us” section.

The Dos and Don’ts of Engaging with Customers

We probably don’t have to tell you this, but “customer experience” is probably the second most-popular branding buzzword (after authenticity, of course). How you engage with your customers in the early stages of your business is fundamental to your brand strategy. It sets the stage for how consumers view your brand and leads to a sturdy foundation.

  • Do Focus on Customer Experience — CX is a big deal; it’s just a fact. We all know that brands like Amazon and Zappos were built on a good customer experience, especially when it comes to consumer-focused shipping and return policies. But don’t take two of the world’s biggest e-commerce companies’ word for it. There’s cold, hard data suggesting that CX is the real deal. A good customer experience can improve customer retention by 42 percent, improve customer satisfaction by 33 percent and increase cross-selling and up-selling by 32 percent.
  • Don’t Let Stupid Mistakes Define You — Consumers remember and share bad experiences. If you’re starting a business in the ever-changing and ever-exploding e-commerce landscape, make sure that you have a good shipping system in place before you start sending out orders. You can do this with barcode labels and equipment that will help prevent needless packing and shipping mistakes.
  • Don’t Try to Cater to Everyone — Early-stage investor and New York Times Bestseller Tim Ferris said it best : “don’t make a product for everyone.” Instead, Ferris says, work to cultivate an intense group of dedicated followers rather than a large group of moderately interested ones. Loyal customers are a brand’s most valuable asset.
  • Don’t Stretch the Truth — You may remember that time Naked Juice (now owned by PepsiCo) had to settle a massive class-action lawsuit after misleading consumers with labels falsely dubbing their fruit-based juices “all-natural” and “non-GMO.” And we don’t know about you, but we’re still recovering from the time when Snapchat admitted that it was actually allowing users to save photos without the senders’ knowledge. The takeaway here is to make sure that your brand identity is 100 percent honest.

The Dos and Don’ts of Branding to Investors

We’re not naïve. We know that branding isn’t enough to turn your business into the next Uber or Facebook. Investors help, too. But the thing is, investors are more eagle-eyed in terms of gains and losses than your everyday consumer — it’s their money on the line, after all — so you have to develop a separate brand strategy when you head into those vital pitch meetings.

  • Do Promote Value Props — Try to think of new ways to convey the value of your business, beyond the obvious. Take Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield for example: this mega-successful entrepreneur catapulted his workplace chat platform by marketing it as a “reduction in the cost of communication,” instead of touting the software itself. It worked; Slack is now worth over $5 billion .
  • Do Tell a Story — We’ve all seen “Shark Tank.” Those early-stage entrepreneurs with strong, inspiring stories almost always make a deal. It’s the workaholic, serial entrepreneurs who tend to struggle. Make sure that your pitch tells the story of your brand with passion, focus and, yes, authenticity. At the end of the day, venture capitalists are people, too, and they often invest in the person before the brand. Try your hardest to research investors beforehand so you know how to connect.
  • Don’t Oversell — One of mega-investor Mark Cuban’s rules to early-stage entrepreneurs is as follows: never buy swag . In other words, don’t waste valuable cash on clothing and handouts that promote your business until you’re profitable. “A sure sign of failure for a start-up is when someone sends me logo-embroidered polo shirts,” Cuban said. Over-promotion signals to investors that you’re not spending your funds wisely when it matters the most. On the other hand, affordable marketing materials like business cards are vital.

The Dos and Don’ts of Logo Design

“Design is the Silent Ambassador of Your Brand.” – Paul Rand, Designer

Think of your logo as a first impression to consumers. It’s the first thing they’ll see when they engage in your brand on the web and in-person. The trouble is, most early-stage start-ups simply don’t have the cash flow to hire a big design firm to crank out a quality logo. The key is to look for up-and-coming, independent designers with a good track record.

  • Do Utilize Negative Space — Have we mentioned that creating a unique and compelling brand story is everything in today’s marketing world? One of the simplest ways you can do that is to use negative space in your logo to convey more values of your business. Just take the FedEx logo, for example. The hidden arrow between the E and the X signifies the company’s commitment to speed and precision. Weaving in an extra message helps you get across even more of your brand’s mission.
  • Do Invest in Printing Supplies — When you have a solid in-house system for printing labels, stickers, letterheads, barcodes, and other branding supplies, you can shave off money associated with outsourcing. Put commercial printer supplies at the top of your overhead list so that you can create a professional-looking brand image without draining resources. These supplies — especially barcode labels — are vital to businesses that ship.
  • Don’t Overthink It — Some of the most iconic modern logos are plain, simple, and recognizable a mile away. Think of the Facebook ‘F’ or the Uber ‘U.’ Too much detail limits a consumer’s ability to identify your brand in a split-second, and detracts from your overall brand story. More complex logos are also often more confusing, so keeping it simple is the best course of action.

The Dos and Don’ts of Social Media Branding

There’s no denying that social media marketing is vital to a strong and healthy brand. Why? It all comes down to brand recognition. Every opportunity you get to market your content is a good one, and exposure? helps solidify it into consumers’ brains. Studies show that social media has a 100 percent higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing, and companies with a higher number of social media followers have improved trust and credibility in their brand.

  • Do Get Visual — Social media users are more likely to stop scrolling when they see a compelling image compared with plain text. Early-stage marketers should leverage this by creating interesting, colorful photos that command attention. Make sure that you develop a plan that includes varied images. In other words, don’t post the same photos with different color palates or subject matter every day. Studies also show that video marketing is on the rise, with almost half of all users looking for videos on a specific product before visiting a store.
  • Don’t Target the Wrong Groups — A little bit of market research goes a long way! Not all consumers are on all social networks, so make sure that you know where to promote your brand to find the most likely consumers of your brand. For example, if you’re a producer of steel manufacturing equipment, you probably don’t need to waste any money branding on Pinterest. A good portion of this comes down to common sense, so we don’t recommend sinking a ton of resources into research.
  • Don’t Censor User Feedback — Part of being authentic in an extremely opinionated social media landscape is to take negative feedback and make it something positive. If an unhappy customer leaves a less-than-savory review of your company on Facebook or Twitter, don’t ban the user or remove the comment altogether. The best brands engage with consumers on social media and are hyper-responsive. Correcting the issue in a public forum just means more opportunity for a positive brand image!

 

 

 

Nailing Your Marketing Scheme for Various Demographics

A marketing strategy is only as good as the audience to which it caters. If you’re able to identify your target audience by a single or group of characteristics — age, gender, location or education level, for example — you can get more out of every single marketing dollar you spend.

That’s because more targeted marketing equals more success. Plus, there’s evidence to suggest that customers actually prefer it over a randomized strategy. Personalized marketing is what sets modern advertising apart from the incredibly broad-spanning world of print ads and TV spots of the past. Gone are the days of casting a wide net; today, it’s all about personalization.

All our favorite marketing and advertising platforms have rapidly expanded audience-specific features in the past year. For example, Google recently extended its in-market audience targeting feature (a tool that lets you target audiences based on purchase intent signals) to search campaigns, and Facebook unveiled new tools that let marketers engage with specific Facebook Communities.

In other words, all the platforms you use to market your brand already know that demographic segmentation is key. And if you’re a modern marketer, there’s a good chance you already have all these tools at your disposal. But you should be applying these principles to every aspect of your marketing campaign, from your product labels to your Facebook ads to the “About Us” section on your website.

Target Market Vs. Demographic

Although you’ll often see the phrases “target market” and “demographic” used interchangeably, there are a few key differences that you should note before you hone in on a segmented marketing strategy. A demographic, specifically called demographic segmenting in marketing, encompasses the broader characteristics of your market. Observable socioeconomic characteristics such as age and education level qualify as demographics.

On the other hand, your target market refers to your actual, current customers as well as the high-value potential customers you’d like to target. In most cases, if you put a little time into identifying your target market, you’ll see that many of your customers share similar demographics. Still, some companies must market to a range of different demographics in order to reach the most valuable customers within a target market.

Identifying Key Demographics

Defining your target market should be your first step in creating a tailored marketing scheme with a high return on investment (ROI). You simply can’t waste time or money with too much trial and error. Instead, putting a small amount of your marketing budget towards defining your target market early on in the process will go a long way to ensuring that you spend your dollars wisely in the future.

 

  • Do Some Market Research — If you’ve got the time, the best way to gather intel on your most valuable potential customers is to do some in-depth market research. Private market research firms, eCommerce store plug-ins and other tools will help you study who, what and when drives your business. Once you’ve got a good grip on who is most likely to engage with your brand, you want to create customer profiles based on the results.
  • Create Customer Profiles — Where market research should provide a wide-angle view of your target market, customer profiles help you get super specific. The best way to get to know your customer base is to group audience members together by demographic criteria and psychographic criteria. The first should cover age, location, gender, education, ethnic background and other defining traits, while the second should cover hobbies, values, attitudes and other key characteristics.
  • Study Your Competition — If there are already well-established brands in your arena, you’re actually in luck. These companies may have already done the heavy lifting for you, especially if they’ve been around for longer. Competing companies can provide insight on brand voice — look at their social media pages and website to see their marketing messaging — pricing, customer experience (read those reviews) and more.

Marketing to Specific Demographics

Now that we’ve covered the basics of demographic segmentation, let’s take a deep dive into the actual mechanics. How do you implement all this knowledge in a way that helps boost every marketing dollar? At the end of the day, it comes down to getting to know your target demographic and understanding how they behave, especially in terms of consumerism and digital behaviors.

But before you start to implement your strategy, it’s a good idea to zoom out and take a look at your overall goals. You’ll want to spend money where you think it’ll have the most impact, of course, and identifying key goals will help you zero-in on that. Some goals of your strategy might be to increase foot traffic in your retail store, to create hype around a specific product, to boost your social media followers or to improve customer ratings.

Marketing by Age

As obvious as it may seem, your strategy will look very different if you’re marketing to millennials than if you’re vying for the attention of the aging population. But things get even more nuanced if you have a hyper-specific target age group. For example, if you’re developing a mobile app or pharmaceutical for menopause sufferers, you have to garner a deep understanding of consumer behaviors within a very narrow age window.

But there’s a very simple method to understanding consumers at any age, and luckily, there’s tons of research to help marketers understand buyer behavior from generation Z to baby boomers and beyond. If you’re able to zero-in on a relatively broad window — say, a range of 10 to 15 years — then you can study those buyer personas closely and apply their preferences to your strategy.

  • Know Where They Shop — Even though mobile shopping is at its peak, there’s still some disparity in terms of who shops online and where they do it. Interestingly, more middle-aged consumers shop online, but younger consumers are more likely to use their mobile phones to pull the trigger. What’s more, studies show that those aged 65 and older need to see, feel and touch items before they make a purchase. If you’re an eCommerce store marketing to this demographic, it’s important that you implement (and tout) a liberal exchange policy that gives consumers an in-person experience.
  • Know How They Shop — Understand how your target age group shops — and we’re talking digging much deeper than digital versus brick-and-mortar — will help you tailor your marketing strategy to their needs. Some things to look into include their favorite brands, attitudes towards quality and how they prioritize customer service in terms of value. Surprisingly, more millennials shop around for the best deals. One study showed that 71 percent of millennials visit multiple stores for the best deals, compared to just 57 percent of baby boomers. Your target audience should guide your pricing and help you edge out competitors.
  • Know What They Care About — Measuring your target age group’s values, ethics and principles will also help you create a compelling campaign that uses budget wisely. Different generations have different opinions about corporate social responsibility (CSR). In fact, over half of millennials said they checked packaging labels to ensure positive social and environmental impact, compared with just 12 percent of baby boomers. If you’re trying to reach millennials, it’s not a bad idea to prioritize and promote your CSR efforts on product labels.

Marketing by Gender

From your market research, you should be able to determine whether your product or service is favored more by men or women or that gender has no bearing on purchase intent at all. And this is a valuable piece of knowledge since gender marketing can help you make more for your marketing money. But it’s a delicate topic, and one that you have to enter with a tuned-in approach.

More than half of women believe that gender-specific ads are outdated, and female consumers have made clear time and time again: they don’t need bright pink earplugs, writing instruments or snacks… so stop making them! With that said, women and men have different purchasing habits and interact with brands in different ways. This is the research to focus on when marketing by gender.

  • Don’t Promote Gender Stereotypes — Nothing sinks a brand’s positive identity faster than stereotyped messaging. And companies that overcompensate — ads and marketing messaging that they believe empowers women — don’t always succeed either. Gender stereotyping can ruin your brand image by being plain offensive, and it can also hurt your bottom line because it creates a disconnect between your product and a consumer’s genuine experience.
  • Look at Their Needs — Men and women report different shopping challenges from one another. Women cite fit and sizing issues as eCommerce roadblocks more often than men, but they’re still more comfortable shopping online than their male counterparts. Interestingly, studies show that women now make more buying decisions than men in American households. In fact, they’re now responsible for almost 100 percent of home furnishing purchases.
  • Consider Gender Pivoting — Even some of the most traditionally male brands (Harley Davidson, for example) have begun to “gender pivot,” meaning they’re expanding their marketing efforts to target women. Indeed, this is one of those rare cases where taking a broad marketing approach — and maybe investing in a little bit of A/B testing along the way — could actually help you rack up more sales.

Marketing by Location

One of the simplest ways to reach your target demographic is through location-based marketing. If you operate in only a select few cities — or if you know that, say, your holiday swimsuits aren’t likely to sell out in the Northeast — then there’s no use throwing marketing dollars at regions that just don’t care. You have to distribute them to areas packed with potential customers.

  • The good news is most of your everyday marketing tools — Analytics, AdWords, Facebook, Pinterest and other platforms — already allow you to segment audiences by location. That makes it really easy to make impressions in specific pockets of the world. But there are more location-based marketing tips that can help you ramp up this strategy.
  • Understand the Area — Especially important if you’re marketing to a relatively small area (such as a single city or state), understanding the spirit and history of a place can help you create location-specific ads that feel authentic. Consumers know immediately whether a brand is an outsider trying to look like an insider, and such messaging often comes off as contrived and inauthentic. And everybody knows authenticity is everything in modern marketing!
  • Use Geo-Location — According to the Local Search Association, the click-through rate for geo-targeted mobile display ads was higher than the industry standard in almost all verticals! If this all sounds like meaningless marketing jargon, it’s actually pretty simple. Targeting consumers with ads based on their location — for example, Chipotle using geo-targeted ads in areas with a high number of Chipotle stores — is an excellent strategy for brick-and-mortar businesses and restaurants.
  • Keep it Mobile — Optimizing every single facet of your marketing strategy for mobile users is undoubtedly a good move, but it’s especially helpful when you’re marketing by physical location. Some ways to integrate mobile marketing and location marketing include creating location-based hashtags and geotags on social media, providing incentive for customers to geotag your business and, of course, creating mobile ads that are targeted to a specific area.

It’s All About the Consumer

These are just a few examples of how you can use a targeted marketing strategy to grow your bottom line, improve customer satisfaction and boost positive opinions of your brand. At the end of the day, consumers no longer want — but demand a personalized shopping experience. Step number one is ensuring that they’re paired with the products that are actually relevant to them. These tips will help you keep the consumer at the forefront for a solid marketing strategy.

It’s Moving Day! The Ultimate Checklist for Your Big Move

Moving is one of the most necessary and stressful times in our lives. Whether you are moving to a new house or a new office, there are a lot of tasks that must be accomplished and many things that may be forgotten. This process can be very time consuming and frustrating.

This stress can be alleviated by preparing a good, solid plan. This way you can approach your moving day with an organized plan in place and a clear head. Regardless of what your moving situation is, it is important to start early and create a checklist to help you stay organized and efficient.

Try to avoid common mistakes people make when moving. Common mistakes include forgetting to prepare your new space, failing to label boxes, and forgetting to measure furniture and large items. These mistakes can lead to a disastrous and chaotic moving day.

Here are some tips and tricks to help you with your move, whether you are traveling a short or far distance.

Check Your Calendar

Whether you’re old school and prefer a calendar you can write on or an electronic calendar, it is important to start planning your move as early as possible. Preferably give yourself at least a month to get organized.

Utilize technology to help ease some of the stress. There are several great moving apps that include a pre-filled moving timeline and are a wonderful resource.

Create a realistic timeline and allow yourself plenty of time for each task, as packing away your contents will often take more time than you budgeted. Add each task to your calendar, or follow along with the checklist in your app. This will alleviate the stress you are feeling and allow you to focus on your future. It will also ensure that your moving day runs smoothly.

Prepare Your New Space

Many people overlook this crucial step. Make sure you prepare the new, empty space where you are relocating. Grab a bucket of your go-to cleaning supplies, a vacuum, and head to your new space.

It is especially important to clean the walls, floors, and baseboards before moving things in. Tiny crevices and corners are likely to trap dust. While you are there take note of any cracks or other aesthetic issues. Make sure you address these issues with the seller or property owner before you move in.

Take Out Your Measuring Tape

When you are looking at an empty bedroom, it will appear much larger than it does when you move in with your king-sized bed and your 16-drawer antique dresser. You need to account for this change in perspective by measuring each room and each piece of furniture that you intend to bring with you.

In addition to your tape measure, bring along a pencil, level, and paper. Measure properly by starting your calculations at the zero mark on your tape measure.

Once you are done measuring each room and each large piece of furniture, it is time to measure doorways. Make sure there is enough room for furniture to fit through the door opening.

This is a Good Time to Purge

After you have finished measuring, there are likely to be large items, appliances or furniture that simply cannot fit in your new space. Many of us amass too many possessions during our lifetimes. Most of us have at least a few items of clothing or pairs of shoes we don’t wear anymore. If they are old and destroyed, it is probably best to just discard them.

Use this time to purge any unnecessary belongings or oversized items. If the items are new or gently used, donating them is always a possibility.

Reach out to friends, post items for sale online, or consider donating to a local charity. Several charities will even come pick up the items.

Buy Packing and Moving Supplies

Moving is an expensive endeavor. It is best to plan and purchase moving supplies early, so you aren’t scrambling to get the necessities at the last minute. If you are packing yourself, visit your local grocery or wine store and ask if they have any free boxes you can use.

You can also purchase moving boxes and packing supplies from your moving company. Other essentials you may need are packing paper, foam, or packing peanuts to protect fragile items like glasses, silverware, and fine china.

Many movers experience a moment of panic when they realize they have run out of tape and need to take time out of their busy, moving day to go and buy some more. Avoid this issue and purchase a tape gun and plenty of refills. Hardware stores typically sell these in sets of two or three, so it is a good idea to purchase them there.

Printed labels are crucial. You must organize each box and its contents to make moving day and unpacking in your new place simple. Prepare labels and have them ready to go prior to sealing each box. There are many different types of printed labels to choose from, so you should have no problem getting the printed labels that fit your needs.

Buy New Furniture in Advance

Most furniture stores do not have the items readily available in the store, and they will have to custom-make the pieces or ship them in from their warehouse somewhere else. Even if they have the pieces in stock, most places do not offer same-day delivery. Prepare furniture shipments at least a month in advance, especially if the pieces need to be custom-made. This way, you also have a better chance of getting a delivery date and time that works best for you.

Set Up Your Utilities Before You Move

It would be devastating to move into a new place and not have electricity, gas, and water, or no internet to stream your favorite Netflix shows. Make sure you make the appropriate phone calls to your new utility providers to ensure your utilities are set up prior to your move-in date. Keep in mind that many local utility companies make you wait a few days until your electricity or other utilities can be turned on.

Change Your Address

Be prepared for your move by ordering sheeted labels with your new address printed on them. This is the best way to ensure you are directly informing your contacts you have changed your address.

Keep track of any incoming mail you receive prior to your move. Immediately send these contacts back a labeled envelope informing them of your upcoming move. Additionally, you will need to send a similar notice to everyone in your contact list.

It is best practice to also make sure to change your address with the United States Postal Service (USPS). This only takes a few minutes online and costs a nominal fee of one dollar. Of course, you can also still go to your local post office. It is important to do this at least a week in advance of your move because it takes USPS a few business days to process the request and start forwarding your mail to your new address.

It is not only important to notify USPS about your upcoming move. There are numerous other people and businesses who may need to know. You should also advise doctors, schools, and any other professional organization you are affiliated with that you are moving and need to change your address. Make sure you change your address for magazine and other mail subscriptions, too.

Safety First

Many times, the place you are moving has been inhabited before, and the previous tenants may still have keys. It is best practice to change your locks and set up a security system if you think you need it. Many companies that sell home and office security systems offer great incentives for new accounts.

Pack a Separate Box for Moving Day

You should always have a box with essentials you will need while you are moving and unpacking. Consider this similar to your airplane carry-on bag. Bathroom essentials, medications, and clothing are the main items you will need to pack in this box.

Pack It All Up

Packing can seem like the most daunting part of the move. It is physically demanding and emotionally stressful. Having what you need in advance will be a huge help when moving into a new home or office. Organize boxes by room and category. For example, your obscure electronics like a router, TV remote, DVD player, and the like should be assembled in the same boxes designated for your living room.

It is arguably better to separate heavy items in smaller boxes. This makes them more manageable to move, and it is also safer for you to move them. If you have lightweight clothing, leave them in your dresser. Just make sure that your drawers are taped shut during your move. If having the drawers in the piece makes it too heavy, remove them. These tips will make unpacking a lot less difficult when you get to your new place.

Label Everything

Printed labels are essential to the moving process. You can never be too organized when moving. They will help you easily determine what is in each box, and what room those boxes belong in.

Printed labels make things much more convenient, and there are endless options to choose from. Sheeted labels are available and helpful when you are printing numerous labels with similar text. Consider colored labels if you would like your printed labels color-coded by room. More complex direct thermal labels are available if you are moving to or within a very cold state, as they can withstand the cooler temperatures.

Printed labels also help you prioritize unpacking your belongings. A box labeled “kitchen essentials” is likely a higher priority than one labeled for the attic or basement. Printed labels make it easy to glance at a box and know immediately whether it is a priority.

Protect the Fragile Items

No one wants to get to their new home or office and find their prized framed photo of a 70’s Grateful Dead poster shattered at the bottom of a box. Buying packing paper and bubble wrap is the best way to prevent this from happening during the move.

Packing supplies and extra padding will protect your valuables. This helps prevent the emotions that can come with breaking something that has sentimental value or is one-of-a-kind. Make sure your fragile belongings, especially glass, are wrapped up and sealed tightly with tape.

Additionally, you should have printed labels marked “fragile” ready at your disposal when packing. This will ensure your box is clearly labeled and not to be mishandled or roughly moved around when packing or unpacking. Make sure to separate your fragile items into these designated boxes. If using a moving company, you should keep these fragile boxes with you in your personal vehicle or ask the movers to place them in a designated space within the moving truck.

Moving Day is Here

When moving day comes, gather your supplies. Make sure you keep your calendar and a checklist on hand to ensure you are handling each necessary item as intended.

Recruit movers, friends, or family to assist with the move. It is best to work your way from one end of the space to the other, going room by room. Also bring along a toolbox, box cutters, as well as a dolly or cart.

Make sure you wrap heavy furniture in moving blankets to ensure the corners are not damaged in the move. An alternative is to intentionally leave out fluffy towels and comforters to aid in this process by using them to wrap smaller items and pieces of furniture.

Be mindful to angle furniture vertically rather than horizontally. This will aid in the process of loading and unloading bulky items. Lifting straps are another solid investment that will make moving furniture much easier.

Conclusion

Moving is extremely difficult, but smart planning can help alleviate the stress. Prepare in advance so you can make the appropriate phone calls to your contacts, utilities, and post office.

Printed labels are an essential part of moving, as this process requires an enormous amount of organization. Consider what type of printed label best suits your needs: direct thermal labels for high heat or humid conditions, colored labels for greater visual organization, or sheeted labels for those requiring a greater quantity.

Keep your moving checklist or app in-hand on moving day, and follow these tips to ensure a successful move. This way you will be less stressed out and more likely to be focusing on your future home or office.

Industry Spotlight: Pharmaceuticals

The pharmaceutical industry, a significant sector of our economy, works to develop, produce, and market a variety of pharmaceutical drugs for use as medications. The scope of these medications covers everything from itchiness to end-stage cancer drugs.

The companies may deal in brand name or generic medical devices and medications. To keep the public safe, the federal and state governments subject the companies and products to various regulations and laws that govern the processes of patenting, testing, safety, efficacy, and marketing.

THE GLOBAL PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY

Europe and the United States house the leading pharmaceutical corporations. On sales from prescriptions alone, Pfizer, based in NYC, is the world leader. Sales during 2016 reached almost $53 billion. Other leaders in the U.S. include Merck, Johnson & Johnson (one of the world’s most widely recognized labels), and AbbVie.

The big five out of Europe are AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline in the U.K., Roche, and Novartis in Switzerland, and Sanofi in France.

As a global sector, the massive importance of the industry is undeniable. Total revenue worldwide in 2014 surpassed one trillion USD for the first time in history. The biggest portion of these revenues come from North America, due in most part to the U.S. holding a large leadership role.

The largest portion of revenue from the pharmaceutical industry comes from patented, branded medicines. In 2016, over $16 billion in global revenue was generated by the anti-inflammatory drug, Humira.

Drugs for cancer, or oncologics, continue to lead revenue numbers among the therapeutic drug classes. Global revenue was just shy of $79 billion in 2015.

Dependence on research and development is more important in the pharmaceutical industry than in any other sector. The majority of new substances introduced in pharmacology trace their roots back to the United States. It is vitally important for new drugs to be invented regularly to combat losses from patent protection.

An excellent example of this is the most commonly prescribed drug in the United States, Lipitor. Used to combat high-cholesterol, it is the all-time best-selling prescription medication and earned Pfizer $81 billion by 2012. When their patent expired, rather than lose an estimated 80% of sales, Pfizer made an unprecedented move, working with prescription process companies and insurers to cut a deal that would make Lipitor available for the same price as the expected generic versions.

 

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

Local apothecaries were the beginning of today’s modern pharmaceutical industry. During the early 1800s, botanical drugs were dispensed frequently, especially quinine and morphine for pain. In the later part of the century, the development of synthetic chemical methods started the growth in pharmacology science, allowing scientists and researchers to create new drugs and structurally change the composition of each discovery.

By the mid-1800s, apothecaries began to step away from their traditional role as dispensaries and focus on manufacturing drugs for wholesale. Pharmaceutical industry giants such as Eli Lilly, Merck, Upjohn (currently part of the Pfizer Group), Abbott Laboratories, Burroughs-Wellcome (currently under the umbrella of GlaxoSmithKline), and Hoffman-La Roche got their start as local apothecaries.

 

PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCT LABELING

One of the most crucial aspects of dispensing any pharmaceutical product is ensuring it is labeled correctly. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), compiled a sequence of regulatory steps in the 1970s and set them in place to ensure all labeling on prescription drugs is concise and clear.

Every label needs to be in compliance with federal and state regulations. All necessary information must be clearly and correctly conveyed regarding proper product storage, a method of administration, and dosage instructions.

Label quality is of high importance because it relates to how the patient perceives the product’s value. If they believe the product is inferior due to shoddy labeling, there could be dangerous implications on the patient’s prescribed regimen compliance and their proper use of the medication.

Regulations currently in place by the FDA require labels to incorporate extensive product, safety, and quality information. It would be difficult to imagine what the pharmaceutical industry would be like without these regulations. Medicines and other drugs produced by manufacturers would be of no use to anyone if they were labeled incorrectly.

 

LABEL INFORMATION REQUIRED BY LAW

Many pharmacies work with their label supplier to pre-print their phone number, address, and name on their prescription labels to save time. The following eight pieces of information must also appear on the label as per regulations:

  1. The full, legal name of the patient.
  2. The name of the medical professional prescribing the medication.
  3. The initial date of dispensing.
  4. The serial number of the prescription.
  5. Complete usage directions and any applicable warnings.
  6. The beyond-use date (or expiration date).
  7. The name of the dispensing pharmacist.
  8. The name and strength of the drug (in compound prescriptions the active ingredients must be listed).

An auxiliary label containing the statement, “Caution: Federal law prohibits the transfer of this drug to any person other than the patient for whom it was prescribed” is also needed for controlled substances under schedules II, III, and IV.

Recommended label information included the allowable number of refills and either the volume of the product or total dosing units dispensed.

 

PROPER FORMATTING FOR LABELING OF PHARMACEUTICALS

In general, most labels on prescription drugs follow the same format so that it is easy for the patient to recognize quickly where the important information is. An example is shown below:

Bayside, Queens, NYC 11361
891-0046
Rx # 987654 – Dr. No Name
Jerry Cann – 4/4/04
Take two tablets every three to four hours as needed for pain.
Acetaminophen 500 mg, Codeine sulfate 20 mg/tablet (#60)
0 refills; Discard after 4/30/04
Dispensed by C. Yulater R.Ph.

 

GENERAL LABELING GUIDELINES TO FOLLOW

To ensure labels are concise and understandable by all patients, there are some guidelines used when printing actual prescription labels.

  1. Do not use abbreviations
    For example. “Take one tablet three times a day,” instead of “Take one tab three times.”
  2. Always use words in place of numbers.
    For example, “Take two capsules every day,” not “Take 2 capsules every day.”
  3. When articulating quantities, it is essential the patient is familiar with the prescribed unit, and they are likely to have a device at home appropriate for measuring it properly. For example, “Take one tablespoon every six to eight hours,” not “Take 15 ml every six to eight hours.” In certain circumstances, an exact volume may be critical for the safety of the patient, such as 1.5 ml. When this happens, the pharmacist is responsible for providing the patient with a measuring device properly calibrated for the volume unit.
  4. When the prescription is not intended to be used orally, the administration route needs to be specified. For example, “Apply cream liberally to affected area.”
  5. When it comes to the dispensing of bulk medications, like creams, suspensions, solutions, ointments, or emulsions, a percentage is used to express the strength of the active ingredients. For example, Hydrocortisone cream 2.5% is commonly seen on prescription labels.

 

LABELING GONE WRONG

Even when labels are correctly done, problems arise often. When it comes to following the instructions printed on medication labels, only 33% of people do it correctly according to studies. There are 66% of Americans who never bother to take any of the medications they are prescribed, and of these, almost 50% do not fully understand the directions.

Not only are these numbers astounding, but they can have fatal consequences. Many people subscribe to the theory that “two is better than one” and take twice the number of prescribed drugs. While this may only result in some nausea if you are lucky, when it comes to controlled drugs, there is a real danger that you may die.

Over 1.3 million Americans suffer some type of injury from a prescription error every year. When patients pick up a prescription from their pharmacy, they are trusting that the information they are receiving is accurate and will keep them safe from harm. They need to believe the drug they are being given is going to make them feel better.

The pharmacist is the only link between the person who prescribed the medication and you. As such, they are your only line of defense.

It is no secret the healthcare system in America is overworked and understaffed. Doctors are human, and they do make the occasional mistake, especially when they are nearing the end of a 48-hour ER rotation. A good pharmacist notices when something doesn’t seem right in dosing or strength and contacts the doctor to confirm it.

However, with the constant pressure to fill pharmaceutical prescriptions as quickly as possible, errors do occur. Pharmacy staff rushing to get medications done are eventually going to miss something. Whether it is stocking a drug that has expired or incorrectly labeling a bottle, the results could be catastrophic, including poisoning, overdose, toxicity, or death.

 

REPERCUSSIONS

Even with the best prevention, some errors you can never see coming. Consider a doctor who prescribes an antibiotic for a child who has never had them before. If they have an allergic reaction, either uncomplicated or severe, there was no way to predict this outcome.

Medical malpractice suits are the dread of every physician, but not every mistake is automatically a malpractice case. If the doctor were to prescribe an incorrect medication or dosage and the patient suffered no ill effects, there is no legal case for malpractice.

They would very likely lose the patient though, and since there is a good chance the patient will caution others from going to this doctor, their reputation and organization could be negatively impacted.

Pharmacies fill billions of prescriptions annually. The most common mistakes made in the pharmacy include failing to identify drug allergies or interactions, giving prescriptions to the wrong patient, confusing drugs that look or sound similar and getting the label right but the contents wrong.

Pharmaceutical products save lives but only when they are prescribed, dispensed, and used correctly. One trend making this easier is the increase in the use of electronic prescriptions. This eliminates the problem of the illegible scrawl doctors are so famous for with handwritten prescription.

The evolution in barcode technology is also working to reduce the number of mistakes in dispensing, along with advances in software to flag allergy issues or possible drug interactions.

The FDA is also taking steps to reduce mistakes originating from drugs that look or sound the same. Packaging and new drug names from manufacturers are being analyzed and rejected if the potential exists for confusion with drugs currently on the market.

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Every time you go and pick up a prescription, don’t just pay for it and leave. Take the time to open the bag at the counter and look at it. Ask any questions you may have and confirm that what you have is what is supposed to be there. Just because your name is on the outside of the bag’s label, the containers inside the bag may be labeled with someone else’s name.

Most people are too busy to take the time and accept the pharmacist’s offer of counseling before they leave the store. This can end up being a critical mistake. Not only does the pharmacist inform you of the crucial information relating to the drugs, but it also presents a second opportunity to catch any mistakes.

Don’t be shy to ask exactly what the drug is for and how it works. Find out how long you need to take it and the exact way it needs to be taken. Also, ask about any potential side effects and interactions with other medications you may already be on. It is always a good idea to carry an updated listed of your current prescriptions and dosages so you can easily discuss any issues with a pharmacist or physician.

If you catch an error in your pharmaceutical prescription, it is essential you make the pharmacy aware of their mistake. By doing this, you will give them the opportunity to document the mistake, determine the mistake’s source, take steps to correct the error, and prevent the same thing from happening to someone else in the future.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

The importance of pharmaceutical products of all types being properly labeled can never be overstated enough. Almost everything has potential side effects, even innocuous over-the-counter (OTC) drugs like Tylenol or Benadryl.

Too many people never take the time to read OTC labels for their safety information. Did you check the bottle the last time you bought Aspirin? There are laws in place to make sure you receive all the information you need to make an informed decision – it is up to you to read it.

With the potential hazards that exist, taking the extra few minutes to be certain you understand your medication and how to take it is critical. Carefully read everything, confirm that you understand it properly, and always ask questions. It could honestly save your life!

Beating the Market: Small Companies vs. Industry Leaders

To put it plainly, small business is now big business. With roughly 30 million businesses operating in the United States, one surprising statistic is where the job creation is coming from. In the two decades preceding 2013, small businesses were responsible for the creation of more than 60% of new jobs.

Seventy-five percent of all these businesses are self-employed, and roughly 50% of small businesses will still be in operation more than five years after opening. How are they managing to keep their heads up when the competition is fierce for a market share?

The Small Business Revolution

Consider all the small businesses that cross your path daily. They are everywhere. Your local coffee shop (assuming you don’t crave Starbucks), the dry cleaners on your way to work, a favored boutique close to home, or even the massage therapist you call when the need arises.

It takes commitment, labor, and extensive amounts of time to make these places into something truly special. The owners deserve and should, in fact, command respect for their ability to bring their concepts to life and keeping them that way. So why is it there are so many consumers who drive the extra five miles to Rite-Aid for prescription refills or go out of their way to pick up a loaf of bread at Trader Joe’s?

The reasoning behind this phenomenon is simple – they make all the wrong assumptions. The average consumer assumes they save money by purchasing at large chain store because they have the buying power to offer them a lower price. Many also tend to forget about the benefits small businesses have to offer them, such as specialized promotional coupons, or the exceptional customer service that is often lacking in big business.

Small Business Misconceptions

They have smaller inventory selections – Vendors sell to both small and large businesses. While your local shop may not have the item in their inventory, in most cases, they will go out of their way to contact the vendor and get it for you right away. Considerations like this are often lost in big chain stores.

It is stores who set the prices – For the most part, vendors are the ones who decide the price of their products. This is their MSRP and stores usually have no say in what this is. It is only when items do not sell for long periods they finally are marked down, whether the business is big or small.

There is no diversity in products or options – Large merchants carry exactly the products you expect to see in each of their locations. Local stores will surprise you with the variety of interesting things they have to offer. Bigger stores are more hesitant to allow locally sourced products to sit on their shelves, generally because their corporate division does not allow for deviation from shelving schematics. How many times have you walked to the cash register at a local business and found small displays of products crafted in your community? Examples of these include handcrafted soaps or lotions, baked goods, and pickled harvest vegetables like pickles or beets. These advantages to the customer cannot be found in the majority of larger merchants.

Customer service will not be their focus – Customer service is what matters the most to small business owners. They fight hard to get and keep their customers and have greater flexibility to make real connections. They will intentionally strive to make every customer’s day better, and when they thank a client for their patronage, they mean it. Large companies do not worry about the bottom line if several customers refuse to return due to poor customer service. I stopped going to Wal-Mart about seven years ago for reasons relating to poor customer service. The last time I checked, they had not closed because of it.

Helping them does not help the community – Local business owners are the ones willing to support the efforts of the community. The more money spent locally, the better the outlook for your neighborhood will be. Local charities and causes often receive support from local business owners over consumer giants.

What defines an industry leader?

A dominant position in the market place does not just arrive overnight, and keeping the position once you achieve it takes hard work. Advantages such as customer loyalty, brand recognition, and pricing power are what the industry leaders bring to the table. Small businesses can become industry leaders too. They just need to dominate locally before conquering globally.

There are several ways this can be done, and they share equal importance.

Strategic management – A consistently clear vision allows businesses to practice the art of anticipation – what changes will come in public policy, how industry standards may change, and what factors could affect consumer behavior. Seeing the big picture is of the utmost importance. Smaller companies have the advantage in this respect because they can rapidly adjust to changes.

Operational execution – To be a true leader, the simplest things must be done correctly every time. Continuous improvement and investments in training to keep errors at minimal levels, always having products stocked, watching costs, and investments in marketing are examples of what leading companies practice daily.


Innovation – New product development and launches keep businesses in the minds of their customers. The only constant is change, and innovative owners know they must keep ahead of the trends.

War of the Names – Brand vs. Local

Certain brands are instantly recognizable to most people. Heinz Ketchup, Coca Cola, and Oreos come quickly to mind. They are what people reach for, just because they are so familiar and it is what they know.

If you take the time to allow your eyes to wander ever so slightly, you may be amazed to find there are dozens of brands of ketchup available. Larger companies manufacture some, but more often, there are local brand options to consider. These smaller businesses are starting to make names for themselves, and are garnering their own chunk of the market.

A personal example could make you understand the point I am trying to bring across here – small brands do not always stay small. Diana BBQ sauce was created in a town near where I grew up. As a local product, it was so popular all the local stores carried it. Heinz purchased the company more than 20 years ago, and retail giant Kraft Foods now own them.

When walking down almost any store aisle, it is possible to spend 20 minutes or more examining all the local/natural/craft brands offered. Almost every item has similar options.

What is it that catches your eye and draws you in? Their choice of labels is what makes all the difference.

Bracing for Competition

Many small business owners feel as if they have no hope of competing effectively with big name brands. Where this may have been true decades ago, today’s consumers are well informed, and they are looking for more. Their money needs to stretch farther than ever before, so it is essential to provide solutions that offer what they need at prices they can afford.

The biggest growing trends are in the natural and organic markets. People are health conscious not only about what they put into their body but with products they use around the home. They need to feel as if they are somewhat in control of what happens around them.

Now questions are being asked by consumers. They want to know what, and they want to know why. Never before have so many people learned to read and understand the nutrition and ingredient labels on the products they are considering for purchase.

Industry leaders in retail were slow to catch onto these trends. Small companies began manufacturing and selling small batches of food items, beverages, body care products, and home products. These products caught on like wildfire, almost forcing big businesses to put their own versions on the shelves or risk losing the market completely.

There are signs that it may have been too late, however. Many consumers, especially those in the 35 and under age group, will reach for original products put out by the smaller companies. They seem to equate the efforts of conglomerates that have been using chemicals and pesticides in their products for years with a “bad” choice, even when purchasing their natural label items.

This adds up to good news for all the smaller companies. They have built up a measure of trust and brand loyalty that will not easily be pried away. The one thing they all have in common is the need to distinguish their products from all the rest.

Setting Them Apart

You could have the best product in the world, but if your label is “blah,” potential customers will keep on walking. There needs to be something that will grab their attention and make them take a second look. The saying “you only get one chance to make a first impression” is the cornerstone of the retail world.

The impression you choose to make – the face you put out to the world – must be dazzling, a complete showstopper. This does not mean you need to spend every cent of your capital on designing packaging. However, you do need to create stunning labels that set you apart, have high visual appeal, and are cost effective for your business.

An excellent example of where this makes a difference is with seasonal, local, or high brand food labels. Many small companies produce food products that scream for consumers to buy them. All that is required to make the sale a done deal is the perfect label.

Maple syrup is one product produced in small batches by thousands of small companies. They have a short season, so it is essential they sell as much as possible in the time they have. There is nothing like the taste of pure maple syrup from a local maple tree!

Primera printers produce labels of superior quality that are optimal for gourmet foods, cooking sauces, honey, and many other small-batch products.

Marketing Effectively to Win the Battle

One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is viewing marketing as an expense. It should be seen for what it is – an investment in the future of your company. Putting money into a business in the form of equipment is universally seen as an investment. Marketing the products you are going to be selling should be too.

The potential benefits of investing in marketing will yield massive returns in the form of new customers clamoring to buy what you are offering. Too many companies fail to see the value in marketing, and often they neglect to funnel funds in that direction, preferring instead to concentrate on hard assets or stock accumulation.

Smart owners know that results-oriented marketing is about more than the odd commercial or newspaper advertisement. People routinely use their DVR or streaming devices to avoid the commercials big businesses spend millions of dollars on and print advertising is declining rapidly with the availability of online media.

What that leaves is your product itself and the labels used for your brand recognition. Sheeted labels are an excellent choice for printing in-house. They can be used in either ink jet or laser printers and have the durability to withstand heavy handling.

Sheeted labels work with the most popular software programs so you can ramp up your design capabilities. You also have the freedom to experiment with a variety of layouts until you find the label that will give your products the “wow” factor that may have been lacking.

Final Thoughts

Your business does not need to have unlimited funds and thousands of employees to beat the market. What it needs is dedication, the refusal to give up, and brand marketing that will set you apart from all the others in your class.

Focus on marketing to reach new customer bases. Increase your sales by your willingness to go the extra mile for every client. Work on building brand loyalty. Be flexible and willing to change ahead of the times.

When something does not work, adjust until it does. Remembering to keep the big picture in your mind will force focus on where you want to end up – the winner in the brand war.

Tips on Optimizing Your Artwork for Printing

Custom label printing often involves specialized fonts and coloring for logos and other artwork. It can be difficult for non-graphic designers to understand exactly what criteria they need to provide for the printer to optimize the artwork for printing.

Labels need to look just as professional as storefront signs and require attention to detail with time and money invested. After all, the product bearing the label is what the customer will take home, and will see over and over. Store signs only get seen in passing. Thus, the quick-print labels are the ones that businesses often use because the high-quality printing of art labels is so perplexing.

Take a little time to learn about label artwork design and printing to ensure the labels on your products aren’t wasting your or your printer’s resources while potentially losing profit for your business.

Here is everything the non-graphic designer needs to know about label printing, with nine tips for optimizing your artwork for printing.

Learn Basic Adobe Illustrator

Illustrator is a vector graphics editor, meaning rather than using pixelated squares like a bitmap, or raster image, it uses polygons, making much smoother images which can be enlarged or otherwise edited more smoothly. It’s ideal for printing because the image is cleaner and crisper even after multiple manipulations.

To give an idea of how flexible vector imaging is, the same logo file used for small label printing can be used for giant highway billboards. A bitmap image may show pixelation if you enlarge it from a product label size to even just a business card size, and certainly couldn’t be used on a billboard.

Illustrator and Photoshop, along with other Adobe suite products, used to be cost-prohibitive for non-designers to own, but Illustrator can now be purchased for less than $20 a month, or $50 for all Adobe programs. This price means you can use it once for $20, or for $600 paid gradually in a year you can use all the products. If you only use it once, Adobe even often runs specials where it is free the first month, so you can have a feel for the programs before committing on making a purchase for the whole suite.

There are now free courses to learn Adobe Illustrator online, as well as built-in tutorials in the program.

For the Final Product, Use High DPI Images and a High DPI Printer

DPI stands for dots per inch, and printers spray color in dots. Hence, a higher DPI produces much higher-quality artwork printing for labels. The highest DPI printers are typically LaserJet with inkjets, capable of up to 720 DPI (that is low-end for laser) which can handle up to 2,400 DPI.

Screen images also deal in dots per inch. Common mistake non-designers make is thinking they can pull their logo off their website and use it for printing. Obviously, the image quality must have the same or higher quality DPI than the printer to achieve the result needed in printing, but web images usually degrade the DPI.

 

A good image should be printed at minimum 300 DPI, but the recommendation is a minimum of 600 DPI while images downloaded online are often only 72 DPI. Using 72 DPI is all that’s required to make an image look good on a monitor.

Make sure copies of all logos are saved in files so they never must be downloaded from your website for last minute jobs.

Decide Whether You’ll Use CMYK or Spot Color

The easiest way to explain CMYK color is that with all four colors mixed in custom combination, most colors in the spectrum can be printed. We learned as children in art class that C (blue/cyan), M (magenta), Y (yellow), and K (black, because a B would be confused with blue) make up all colors, and that’s the formula used in CMYK color.

However, exact shades are hard to produce, as are the fine black lines often used in text or outlining. For highly specific shades such as those used in logos and fine curved lines, spot color is the standard. Especially because of color issues, never approve final copy on a label based on what you see on your monitor.

Proofs are needed for CMYK color and drawdowns for spot color or, if you’re printing on your own, simply print one to see how it turns out before you waste your resources on ink and label sheets.

If you’re not sure which one to use, you can use the Adobe Illustrator color picker. The color squares will alert whether they fall into the CMYK gamut with a little alert triangle if they are not within the gamut. Illustrators can automatically pick a shade that is close and within the CMYK spectrum, and you can choose whether you like it or wish to use spot color.

Consider your budget while printing. The more color you use, the more expensive the job will be. Black and white are usually the cheapest, with CMYK next. Anything outside of CMYK becomes costly.

Outline Your Fonts

Everyone loves to use fancy fonts, especially graphic designers, so don’t let the complaints fool you! The problem is, there are countless fonts available with graphic designers creating new ones every day. Every font must be loaded onto your computer for it to show up. Depending on your program it will look like a generic block font, or it will bring the entire file up as an error. In Illustrator, it gives an error message. You may even be surprised to find your designer doesn’t have a font you use all the time, and the reason is simply that even if they’ve used it before, they need to make hard drive space occasionally and will remove fonts they haven’t used in a while.

So how do you use the font you love? There’s an easy way and the right way. For the non-designers, the easy way is to let your designer know what the font is and where you got it. The designer can pre-install and will have no problem with the file. The right way is to use Illustrator to outline the fonts. It’s easy! Simply select the type, go to the fonts menu, and select “outline fonts.”

Decide on Alias or Anti-alias

You might not know what this is, but you’ve seen it, and it drives you crazy. It’s quite technical to explain, but essentially it goes back to vectors versus bitmaps and black and white versus color. Anti-alias is when you have a black image or text on a white background, and it looks like it is bleeding into the white. This issue is especially a problem with curved lines. In Illustrator, black lines on a white background should be set to “no anti-alias.” The same is true in Photoshop but with the extra step that of the background is color and the text black, set it to “anti-alias.” Anti-alias is good for placing a color text or image over a background or photo because of the gradual fade, but it makes black and white look sloppy and pixelated.

Include a Bleed if You Want to Print to the Edges

It’s recommended you print all the way to the edge if your labels use a background color. It’s virtually impossible without intensive monitoring and a lot of waste (which in turn make your costs skyrocket) to get the labels to center exactly perfectly. Therefore, if color is intended to leave a blank edge, any unintentional off-center printing will be very noticeable. Printing only to the edge is even worse, as it will look off-center every time and will be the first thing customers notice. If your label screams “billboard,” you want that billboard to feature your product, not sloppy graphic design that looks like sloppy printing.

If you want the label to print to the edge, you actually need to print over the edge. It’s called a “bleed” because it bleeds over the edge of the label. While this is best for printing, it isn’t headache-free.

While designing your label, your settings bleed over the edge. You’ll want your text and graphic images to not go quite to the edge because they’ll bleed over, too. This overlap screams even louder to the client than the color bleed mistake does. So, for example, if you’re printing a 3-inch by 5-inch label, make the artwork for the label 3.125 inches by 5.125 inches.

You’ll want the actual text and graphics for your label to be designed within a space of 2.875 inches by 4.875 inches. That leaves .25 inches all around for a margin of error in printing. A professional graphic designer and printer won’t need that much margin, but it’s good for those designing the label on their own and printing on their own.

Make Borders Tight – or Better Yet, No Borders

This ties into the bleed issue. A lot of home printers love borders on their labels. Granted, when printed perfectly, they make a nice clean edge and call attention to the information within the border. But it isn’t necessary. Even with professional printers, there is movement and misalignment in the print and dye-cut of a label. If you want it very close to the edge or very thin, it will be noticeable, no matter how high-quality and highly skilled the printer is.

Make Sure to Proofread! And that Includes Checking Links and Graphics!

This idea seems like the one piece of advice no one should have to read, but it’s the most common error on labels. The printer doesn’t have time to verify you typed your business name, address, telephone number, or website correctly and certainly won’t catch errors in more detailed information such as nutritional values.

Complete the proofreading before you submit for printing! It’s understandable why so many misprints don’t get caught. For example, you’ve had the same phone number for ten years, so you type it in fast, and you don’t catch the error when you invert two digits. It happens all the time. But you’re the one who must catch it, not the printer and not the customer whom you may never hear from again if they don’t have the right phone number.

Checking links and graphics is less of a problem if you’re printing on your own or using the latest Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, but older versions are an issue. Graphics must be embedded, or when the printer opens it, they’ll be missing. Some will be noticeable, and the printer will request confirmation before printing, delaying your print job until you correct the problem. Others won’t be noticeable, and you’ll end up with a mass-produced error on your hands.

Use the Right Format and Size It Correctly

This one’s easy to do but it can be a nightmare if you aren’t paying attention. If you work in Photoshop and Illustrator, there shouldn’t be any problems. Every printer can handle those formats. They’re the industry standard and print the highest quality product. But don’t send your printer a PDF or BMP or some proprietary file type. Send an EPS or TIF or, if necessary, a very high-resolution JPG.

Sizing is important too. If you’ve sent a high-quality file, the printer can increase or reduce file dimensions, but sometimes sizing variance is intentional. If you’re sending a 4-inch X 6-inch image but want it printed 5.25 inches by 4.125 inches or 10 inches by 12 inches, you need to say so, or you may end up with a lot of white space or a bleed so large the labels are unusable. The best way to avoid this is to send it in exactly the size you want your labels printed!

Conclusion

Following these tips will get you exactly what you need from your printer to have the highest quality labels possible, even if the printer is you. Labeling your products with exactly the information your business needs to convey to the public is your responsibility, and a professional, high-quality label prepared by you, with or without the assistance of a graphic designer, before being sent to a printer, makes that significantly easier.

How Have Subscription Services Been So Successful?

In the twentieth century, the subscription business model essentially belonged to magazine and newspaper publishers. As these publications have shifted their presence to be primarily online, and it has become easier to get the news for free, the type of businesses we think of when we hear “subscription” has also changed. Subscriptions can get consumers past online pay walls, or they might still deliver physical goods, or they might offer a set price for access to goods or services the consumer would otherwise have to pay for individually. The entire thinking around subscriptions and what they can get consumers has evolved.

Millennial consumer habits have radically altered the way businesses market themselves and the way they sell their products. Now more than ever, we live in a subscription economy, and the success of the most lucrative subscription businesses has depended on a multitude of factors, such as the quality of the service and the way the service is marketed.
Subscription giants like Netflix and Amazon may seem like overly ambitious models for small subscription start-ups to emulate, but because subscription services are in such high demand, newer businesses can also carve out some of the success for themselves.

Let’s explore the ways that honing a specific service and making smart decisions about product packaging and labeling has resulted in such a wide variety of subscription services, from luxury care packages to discounted shipping.

A Brief History of the Subscription Model

In the seventeenth century, subscription publishing was a higher-end publication model used to distribute works like atlases and history books to wealthy patrons who paid ahead of time. The author of the work would often print his or her subscribers’ names in the front of the book as a way of acknowledging their financial contribution. In some cases, the subscription publication model produced sizeable literary works. For example, John Milton’s Paradise Lost, listed over 500 subscribed patrons.

In the United States, monthly publications such as Harper’s and The Atlantic gained popularity in the 19th century, and by the early 20th century, the new mass media era resulted in specialized news and culture publications reaching millions of subscribers. However, the 21st century has seen a complete overhaul of how people get their news, and overall magazine subscriptions have declined. There’s an argument to be had about the death of print, but the subscription model is certainly not dying with the print magazine; it has simply taken root elsewhere.

Amazon, that behemoth of e-commerce and cloud computing, launched its popular paid subscription service, Amazon Prime, in 2005. For $79 a year, subscribers had access to free two-day shipping and discounted one-day shipping on all eligible purchases. In 2012, Prime also started including free video streaming. The price rose to $99 in 2014, the same year that Prime unveiled Amazon Music, which provides unlimited free music streaming on millions of songs. Since 2014, Prime has been announcing added services to its package multiple times each year. Amazon, having been founded in 1994 as an online bookstore, has grown to surpass Walmart as the most valuable retailer in the United States and the largest internet company by revenue in the world, in large part due to the successes of the Prime subscription.

The Streaming Service

As exemplified by the popularity of Prime streaming, one of the most popular forms of subscription service today is the streaming service, which generally provides unlimited streaming of movies, TV, music, or some other form of media. Here are some of the streaming services that have defined how contemporary consumers think of subscription services.

Netflix. With 103.95 million subscribers worldwide as of July 2017, it’s funny to think that Netflix offered to be acquired by the now defunct Blockbuster in 2000 and was turned down. That was the same year that Netflix dropped the single-rental model and switched over completely to a subscription model. As DVD sales began to decline after 2006, Netflix’s business continued to grow as they invested more in streaming services. Finally, cementing its position as a media giant, Netflix debuted the TV series House of Cards in 2013, beginning a new era of original programming distributed by the streaming service.

Netflix is a great example of a company that puts the emphasis on its subscribers rather than on its products. Having converted almost entirely to a streaming service, it’s odd to remember that Netflix started in the ‘90s as a DVD rental company. Subscribers are attracted to Netflix because it offers a convenient way to consume media fast. The company recognized this was their strength and stuck to it rather than clinging to outdated technologies.
Spotify. Spotify is a music streaming service and longtime competitor of Apple Music that has gained huge popularity with young listeners due to the convenience of a subscription service rather than a single-purchase model. Spotify has faced criticism from huge names like Taylor Swift, who claim the streaming services do not fairly compensate the artists whose music it streams. Whether Spotify’s model of compensating artists is sustainable remains to be seen, but as of right now the convenience and cost efficiency of not having to pay for individual songs makes it a huge threat to other music streaming services.

The Care Package

In an era where people have become so used to making their purchases online, subscription services that deliver a physical product have found a way to differentiate themselves from the impersonal feel of online shopping. Millennials like to treat themselves, and these subscriptions feel like curated care packages sent to them on a regular basis without them ever having to reorder (provided, of course, they make the payments). Part of the excitement of these care package subscription services is the feeling of receiving a gift, as the subscriber does not know exactly what will come in the box when it’s delivered.

Furthermore, with some services that offer samples of brand names at a better value, customers get to try out multiple products before ordering the real thing. These subscription services deliver the physical options of a retail location to subscribers’ doorsteps.

Beauty boxes. The cosmetics industry has taken the subscription business model by storm with notable services like Birchbox, Ipsy, and Play by Sephora. Birchbox pioneered the business idea, debuting their $10 a month beauty boxes in 2010 for women who want to sample makeup products before buying them without having to go to the store. Birchbox’s founders have agreed that a large part of their appeal is their beauty box’s gift-like appearance; people who subscribe to Birchbox look forward to receiving cosmetics hand-picked just for them in a carefully designed package.

Geek and Fandom boxes. These subscription services are for hardcore fans of just about anything. They deliver “nerd gear” on a regular basis to subscribers who want to express their love for any given franchise through material goods. MySubscriptionAddiction.com, a website exclusively dedicated to advertising and reviewing subscription services, has compiled a list of the best geek subscription boxes, and they range from miscellaneous to highly specialized.

Specific Item Services

Similar to the care package model that promises convenience and personalization, specific item services are, as their name suggests, all about the product, where care packages are more about the experience. With these subscription services, customers know what they are getting, and the appeal stems from the removal of tedious shopping experiences. Yet again, the product packaging and labeling play a huge role in the success of the service. Consumers want to feel as though they are receiving a personalized, artisanal product. These subscription services follow this rule while delivering specific products.

Dollar Shave Club. The Dollar Shave Club deviates from the norm in that it strips its product of all branding. After all, much of name-brand razors’ price is a product of the brand’s perceived value. By producing generic razors, Dollar Shave Club can sell them at a fraction of the price. However, this doesn’t mean they haven’t considered the aesthetics of their subscription experience. Dollar Shave Club customers expect high-end customer service and packaging. So even though the subscription itself goes for as low as $1 a month, the company has been shockingly lucrative for its founders.

Manpacks. While Manpacks now offers men’s underwear, socks, toiletries, shaving products, and other basic needs, it started out simple and sold just underwear and socks. Targeting male consumers who are either too busy or too lazy to shop for these basic items (as well as female consumers who are buying for their male family members), Manpacks currently has more than 10,000 subscribers. While its offerings of basic men’s goods may not seem revolutionary, Manpacks was the first American subscription service to specialize in this category.

Vilago. This business is proof that a small business can make it among larger subscription service competitors, Vilago is a mother and son team working out of Colorado to send all-natural soaps in 100% green packaging out to their subscribers. The subscription model has allowed them to escape the already competitive market for artisanal soaps they would have encountered had they chosen to sell on Etsy or Amazon.

Do Subscription Models Work for all Business?

There is a staggering demand for subscription services, and certain luxury subscription services like Scrimption and Carnivore Club have been forced to start wait-lists to keep their distribution exclusive. Even niches that have been filled many times over are seeing more competitors as entrepreneurs think of new ways to create value.

However, there are scenarios in which hopping on the subscription service trend may not help a business. If the product or service a company is selling has not yet been perfected (or at least proven to leave customers wanting more), there is no reason to think that customers will want to set a recurring payment for that good or service. Furthermore, a culture of membership extends beyond a subscription pricing model. To keep customers hooked indefinitely, the service needs to evolve with customer desires.

How a Product’s Label Impacts Consumers’ Perceptions

The perceived value of a product depends on a lot on its packaging. With subscription boxes, the packaging is the first thing the customer sees and sets the tone for the overall experience. If the service is targeting a certain demographic, the packaging should reflect this choice and appeal to that population.

Business owners can use labels to identify their products as well as advertise their other products or services. Essentially, a label serves a miniature visual sales pitch to the customer as they receive the box in the mail.

Equally important is the brand accountability that a printed label can lend to a product. Customers may view products whose printed labels lack contact information as untrustworthy, especially with goods that are meant to be eaten or applied to the body. For such items, labels that lack an ingredients list may also turn off customers who want to avoid certain allergens or ensure they are buying ethically-produced merchandise.

While subscription business owners will want to provide a printed label for their products to establish a brand identity, they’ll need to identify the right type of label for the job.

With some products, labels should stay on for as long as possible, while customers remove the labels from other products soon after purchase.

Specific to subscription products that reach the customer via mail, labels need to hold up through the wear and tear of the shipping process.

For every bit of thought given to the product or service, an equal thought must be given to packaging and labeling.

Final Thoughts

After looking at the staggering list of subscriptions available on MySubscriptionAddiction.com, this corner of the market may seem completely saturated. However, many recommend the subscription model to budding businesses, as it offers an alternative to the already saturated online marketplaces and creates a steady cash flow. With a little innovation and a lot of attention to detail, new entrepreneurs can hop on this profitable trend in retail.

Growing Barcode Trends

Growing barcode trends

Barcodes have been used in business for more than 60 years. Their usefulness and importance to commerce are both undeniable. From scanners at the grocery store to automated inventory systems, businesses continue to find new and innovative ways to utilize these powerhouses of information.

Now, more than ever, there is a need for them in the workplace.

Barcodes remain relevant worldwide, helping individuals, companies and corporations make daily purchases, sending items across the globe or communicating with new customers at the scan of a product label. The relevance of barcodes has only become more germane to every enterprise, as the basic job of a barcode is to keep operations running more efficiently.   

There have been a few changes and upgrades to barcodes over the years. Consider the information below to gain a better understanding of where the barcode is today and where barcode trends of the future might be heading.

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Standard Barcodes

Standard barcodes use 20 characters to relay information with a quick scan. A lot of information can be communicated with just 20 characters, but with advances in barcode technology, we can do a lot more!

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Two-Dimensional Barcodes

Two-dimensional barcodes have been around for a few decades, and they continue to be a strong force behind the success of many businesses. Two-dimensional barcodes differ from one-dimensional barcodes in a few ways. However, the main benefit is they can hold up to 7,089 characters. This allows the encoding of a lot more information.

Barcode

In a world where consumers are almost always relying on their phones for up-to-the-minute information, having the option to scan something like a 2D barcode is simple and straightforward, with an almost immediate reward. Many companies use the most common variant of the 2D barcode, the QR (Quick Response) codes, to interact with consumers. By downloading a simple reader to smartphones, a consumer can scan a QR code to get immediate access to a web-site, current sales, promotions, product information and more.

In the fast-paced consumer world, the QR codes continue to flourish because they can offer real-time information. Businesses can take advantage of sharing their websites, social media platforms and other information at the scan of their barcode.

It’s some of the simplest, yet most effective marketing to be had, so companies seek out quality labeling that can print out clear, easy-to-scan QR codes for their businesses’ needs.

In addition to companies using QR codes to interact with their customers, many industries use 2D barcodes for sophisticated inventory systems, shipping labels and airline boarding passes, to name a few. The possibilities for QR codes in business are endless. If a business or industry wants to keep track of anything, a barcode can be used to do it!

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Growing Reliance on Barcodes in the Healthcare Industry

It’s clear in all industries that the need for reduced human error and better work efficiency continue to increase. Any tools that can help to ensure a smooth, error-free process from one step to the next are invaluable.

Barcodes are used in the healthcare industry in many ways. They are used from patient identification to updating medical records.

When it comes to the healthcare industry, the need to remove human error is of the utmost importance. One wrong move could mean the difference between saving a life and losing one. In the healthcare field, the goal has always been to continue to find methods to help patients in the quickest way possible.

Barcodes have become one of the most popular methods to hold information about an individual. Information encrypted in the barcodes will permit smooth admittance to the hospital or other healthcare facility, provide complete and up-to-date medical and personal information and record a patient’s stay from admittance to discharge.

This trend of barcodes in the healthcare industry has become even simpler, with the use of smartphones and tablets to scan codes and gather information. Generally, healthcare professionals can scan codes before they even meet with a patient, thereby cutting costs and saving time, as well as improving patient and caregiver safety. It has been reported that transcription and medical errors can be reduced by as much as 41% with the use of barcodes.

With quality-printed barcode labels, patient status, dosage amount changes and more are instantly available. The information is up-to-the-minute, fast and reliable with the help of smart barcodes. All of these updates make worrying about gathering information obsolete; now, caregivers can simply worry about offering the best care possible.

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Need for Smarter Barcodes

As with all things, once we get used to the latest model on the market, we’re already looking for the next best thing. While the basic barcode is still just as valued as it was when it was first invented, people expect, and companies continually look for, technological improvements.

A new trend in barcode printing is the continuing refinement and development of smarter barcodes. Businesses eagerly embrace any type of barcode that adds value, such as the two-dimensional design with the much larger data holding space.

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Increased Security

Today, people are looking for barcodes to do much more than just hold information. In fact, consumers want barcodes to include variable data that not only encrypts data but protects it as well.

Medical barcodesSecurity has become a top priority for businesses. So many companies rely on online resources to transmit information, as that thefts and hacking have become so widespread. The ability for a barcode to not only hold, but also protect its information, is very important.

This kind of protection aspect is especially critical in sectors like healthcare, banking and business. Developers have started designing smarter barcodes to make certain that only authorized individuals can retrieve the barcode data to ensure better consumer protection.

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Product Production Information

Smarter barcodes allow a barcode to hold much more information about the production of a product. Previously, barcodes would offer end-state information and skip all the details about the product’s previous status.

That is no longer the case.

For example, smarter barcodes would inform us about where the product was assembled, where its parts are from, the supply chain it worked through and other data. This could be extremely helpful to companies, especially for those attempting to track where their products are coming from and for companies trying to adopt an eco-friendly production process.

Having this kind of supply chain information helps companies improve productivity and stay competitive, along with helping with customer relations.

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Changing Consumer Habits

Barcodes aren’t just for scanning products a consumer has already decided they want. Barcodes have the power to upsell to consumers in very discreet and convenient ways. Growing trends in the barcode industry are embracing the two-dimensional barcode as a means of communicating on another level with customers, even after they’ve already chosen their purchases.

Because two-dimensional barcodes are capable of being scanned by smartphones and tablets, companies are taking advantage of the design by adding in extra information and perks from their company straight to their consumers’ phones. The information can be anything, from day-of promotions to coupons and information about future sales.

eCommerce barcodeThis kind of trend is increasingly important, as more and more consumers are likely to have their smartphones and tablets on them at all times, making it the perfect tool for companies to take advantage of to help their businesses.

Customers are enticed to scan barcodes throughout the store or at checkout, and, as a reward, can apply discounts on their current purchases or download coupons for future use.

Companies can also use these in-store and online barcodes to lead customers to a store’s online presence, whether it be a website, social media platform or another form of communication. This kind of approach helps keep clients engaged with the company’s brand, making existing clients more likely to remain loyal.

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Increased Inventory Accuracy

Inventory accuracy has always been an important part of any successful business’ operations. Every day, customers or warehouse employees will endeavor to determine if a specific product is available for purchase or needs to be shipped to a store or warehouse. An accurate inventory system, built using barcodes, will determine if the supply chain is meeting the needs of the end user.

Store workers can use programs that will tell them whether an item is in the store, how many sizes are available, what colors and whether the item is in stock and where. Enterprises enhance customer experience by instantly determining if a wanted item is at the current location or perhaps in stock at partner stores in the area.

Inventory accuracy is vital to meeting the daily sales goals for retail stores. If a store scan reads there is a specific item in-store, but it cannot be found, there’s likely going to be an unhappy customer. Keeping inventory in check is crucial to making the sales. Barcodes help accomplish this.

Barcode quote

It’s not just in retail malls where inventory accuracy has become a necessity. Any business that manufactures goods needs a highly efficient inventory system to meet consumer needs daily. For companies with online stores, this requirement is a necessity if the business wants to stay competitive.

In e-commerce, barcode scanning and inventory counts occur multiple times per hour in many cases. Whether it is clothing, home décor or pet food, having the proper inventory accuracy can mean the difference between a smooth day of shipping and a product management nightmare.

As e-commerce continues to be a growing trend for shoppers (worldwide e-commerce sales  reached over $1 trillion in 2016), huge masses of inventory must be handled, imported, exported and stored in the most efficient way possible.

Growing barcode trends divider

Conclusion

Growing barcode trends help businesses find larger, smarter and safer models that can ensure proper management of a business’ inventory without errors, excessive cost, and lost time. Newer barcode updates work to connect the business and consumer, making transactions as flawless as possible.

For those companies just beginning to build their business, it’s important to take barcoding seriously. Barcodes are not simply for scanning a product to purchase—they contain every piece of data related to the particular item, from the time the product is made, throughout the shipping, delivery and ultimately the consumer purchase steps.

Implementing barcoding has become a necessity for any company in today’s high-tech world.

What Are Thermal Labels?

Thermal labels are an integral part of successful businesses. This type of labeling is responsible for a wide variety of labeling requirements throughout each step of a business’s operations, including storage, inventory, and product information. Companies that invest in quality thermal labeling can expect long-lasting, durable labels that stand the test of time and can stay intact regardless of age and exposure. Continue reading “What Are Thermal Labels?”

Top Labeling Mistakes to Avoid

Proper labeling is critical to a business’ efficiency. It doesn’t matter how great a product looks or how much advertising you put into your brand name. If your basic labeling isn’t done properly, you’re setting your company up for a potential disaster.

Businesses require the proper type of basic labeling for identification purposes, organizational purposes, inventory scanning and more. While customers receiving the goods may not concern themselves too much with this process, these kinds of labels are critical to getting products where they need to go.  They must also stay readable, despite exposure to elements and providing the correct, detailed information.

Don’t overlook the importance of proper labeling, since mistakes with labeling can often lead to lost product, disorganization (including poor customer service) and safety hazards. Companies should be diligent with their labeling processes, ensuring that this part of operations continues to function smoothly.

The following are the top labeling mistakes to avoid, to ensure that your business has an efficient labeling process.

hand magnifyer over word typoAvoid Spelling or Barcode Mistakes

Once you’ve set your printer to make tens of thousands of labels, tags or barcodes, you will want to double-check and even triple-check for any kind of discrepancies or spelling errors. The importance of proper barcodes and labels is undeniable, and there is nothing more frustrating than putting time and money into printing thousands of labels that are rendered useless because of one wrong letter or line.

Not only can small mistakes stop your production line, costing you money, but re-printing means additional time spent correcting the problems, something that could have been avoided by planning more carefully.

Have an employee double-check or spot-check all the labels prepped for printing before approving the start of production.

Using Direct Thermal Labels That Will Be Exposed to Sun and Heat

Direct thermal labels are ideal for a variety of needs, and many companies rely on them for labels that only require a short shelf life. However, it’s important to note that direct thermal labels are not ideal for any job that includes exposure to sun and heat.

For any kind of job that will include exposure to outdoor elements or high temperatures, thermal transfer labels are the ideal candidate. It is not worth it to chance using direct thermal labels, as they will likely wear quickly when exposed to the elements. While it might seem cost-effective initially, this labeling mistake often results in labels that are worn down, hard to read or non-existent after their exposure, resulting in costly operational mistakes.

For companies who will likely require both short-term and long-lasting labels, it’s a better idea to invest in a Thermal Transfer Printer, which can meet the needs of both kinds of labels to save businesses time and money in the long run.

ripped advertisement sticker on cement

Clear and Readable Design

You must have a label design that is clear and easy to read. You want to highlight your brand as much as possible. Every package should look the same with the same brand message or symbol.

Color management is an important part of this process. Ensure the colors remain consistent and clear.

Watch out for blurry images. A bad printer, faulty plate or a file error often cause indistinct images to print.

Make sure the label is the right size and does not have too much information.

Materials

Use the correct materials. Choose your BOPP, biaxially oriented polypropylene, material or paper wisely. If you expose your labels to extreme heat or cold, wet environments or freezing conditions, choose your material and adhesive accordingly.

Application

Pay careful attention to the application process. Apply your labels carefully. This is especially critical if a bar code is used and will be scanned.

barcode numbers on product

Conclusion

Labeling is very important, and making mistakes with your labels can be detrimental to your business’ success. These common labeling mistakes should be avoided to ensure that your labels can do their jobs properly and efficiently.

Be sure to cover all your business’ potential needs ahead of time so that you know exactly what kinds of labeling requirements you’ll have and what type of equipment and materials are best for the job.

How to Use Labeling to Keep the Warehouse Efficient

There is nothing worse than having a warehouse of inventory in complete disarray. When your inventory rooms are unorganized, there’s a very good chance that items go missing, shipments aren’t dropped off in the right place and customers aren’t getting what they want on time. A well-run warehouse is imperative to the success of any business.

There are lots of different ways to make a warehouse more efficient, including hiring more staff, utilizing a larger space and having a concrete set-up and clean-up systems. However, even with all of these items incorporated, there is one component that cannot be overlooked: labeling. Labeling is the key when it comes time for workers to know what is what and where it needs to go.

If you need some ideas to help your warehouse run like a well-oiled machine, consider the following suggestions on how to use labeling to keep the warehouse efficient.

Warehouse team labeling boxes

Loading/Unloading Labels

The very first problem you’ll have with a warehouse that isn’t labeled, is trying to direct loaders and unloaders to the right area. You’re in for a lot of confusion if you’ve got some boxes coming into the wrong dock, and often you’ll have customers with the wrong packages by default.

Labeling every door and dock is the first step to an organized warehouse. As long as you know what’s coming and what is going, the rest can be figured out amongst your team.

Load bays in warehouse

Overhead Labeling for Shipments

 

Every company is working with different products and materials, but they will all have the same success if they have overhead labeling in their warehouse. Regardless of what labels you use, having overhead prints that clearly define what should go where makes it easier for workers to organize shipments.

For example, your warehouse might have different “Showroom #1”, “Winter Collection”, “Metals” or even “Top Sellers” and “High Volume” labels, for items that are coming and going the most often. If you want to make it even easier for workers, have the barcodes also read what are the item needs to fall under so they can quickly find its proper place.

Cycle Counts

A lot of businesses are required to perform cycle counts throughout the year, to ensure that their inventory numbers are correct. Cycle counting allows a company to count the number of items in a grouping without having to scan every item individually, which can save a lot of time.

In this way, small groups of inventory are counted throughout the year, in order to ensure that the larger annual inventory counts will be completed quickly and without discrepancies. To have a successful cycle count, expert labeling is necessary to organize the products and to group them into proper units to be scanned. Proper labeling is necessary to add up the number of units in each group and to double check the inventory as well. Labeling makes cycle counting much easier, and avoids the time-consuming option of counting by hand. Labeling for cycle counting helps to keep warehouses organized and up to date throughout the year, so it’s a great idea to incorporate this labeling system into your warehouses.

Warehouse label scanner

Labeling Machinery and Tools

Aside from disorganized inventory, a warehouse can also become cluttered and inefficient when machinery and tools have no place. Labeling can easily help with this kind of problem, simply by having signs and proper labeling to educate workers about where machinery should be stored.

For example, tools should have group labeling to keep storage organized, and you may even provide labeling to inform workers about how and when to use specific tools. Larger labels might be made for overhangs, to indicate where forklifts and other large machinery should be taken at the end of the day.

Safety with Labeling

Labeling your warehouse is important, because without organization of all of your tools, your inventory can quickly end up in disarray. Not only that, but without labels for tools and machinery, your warehouse could become a possible safety hazard.

Conclusion

Businesses that use warehouses to store their inventory need to ensure that everything runs efficiently and effectively. To do this, one of the tools that can help include intelligent labeling. Labeling will not only help to keep things where they should be, but this can also help your workers to find items quicker, organize in a more efficient manner and educate your team on how to use warehouse items properly.

Thermal Printer & Printhead Maintenance Tips

Thermal printers are manufactured to generate crisp, clear images and text in high volume environments. Properly maintaining the printer is critical to ensuring that your printer continues to generate high quality images and text.

There are two main types of thermal printers.

  • Direct thermal printers generate the desired printed image by heating coated thermal stock. A printhead is used to apply the heat in the desired shape for text or images, turning the paper black where heated.
  • Thermal transfer printers print by melting a coating of thermal ink onto the paper. Here too, a printhead is used to apply heat to a thermal transfer ribbon, melting the ink in the desired pattern and depositing it onto the paper’s surface.

Maintenance of Thermal Printers

There are a number of factors that an impact the performance of your printer – humidity, dust, heat, wear on the printhead and printer components, and the quality of the thermal transfer ribbons and paper stock used when printing. It’s important to keep the printer’s environment as clean as possible and to use high quality supplies and materials for the best results.

The most critical element to ensure clear, high quality printing is the performance of the printhead. If it is dirty, clogged, worn or abraded, the quality of the printed product will degrade. Cleaning and maintaining the printhead will extend the useful life of the printhead, and your printer. And, as printheads are expensive, maintaining it and extending its useful life will result in cost savings for your operation. Some maintenance tips are:

  • Clean the printer frequently to remove dust and residue from paper, foils, and the environment. It is recommended that the printer be cleaned two to three times a week in moderate use operations.
  • Clean the printhead to remove ink residue, paper dust, or coating residue to prevent streaking and incomplete printing. Cleaning will also help prevent clogs which can permanently damage the printhead. Printheads should be cleaned when the thermal transfer ribbon or thermal transfer label roll is changed. As the printheads (and rollers) are fragile, you should avoid touching them anywhere expect on the edges and use only approved cleaners. The most common methods for cleaning printheads are using isopropyl alcohol wipes or swabs or cleaning cards.
    • Isopropyl alcohol cleans the printhead, dissolving any residue without leaving residue from the cleaner. It’s important to make sure that the alcohol fully evaporates (dries) before using the printer.
    • Cleaning cards clean the printhead and remove any build-up on the rollers. They should be used for periodic cleaning, as they can abrade the printheads and rollers, damaging them.
    • Some thermal transfer ribbons have built-in printhead cleaners, providing continuous cleaning and maintenance for the printhead.
  • Replace printheads that have become worn or abraded.

Follow the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations for your printer, including regular preventative maintenance. Periodic inspections of the equipment can identify potential issues before they become problems and can minimize downtime while reducing the cost of repairs and service and, most importantly, extending the life of your thermal printer.

Blanco Labels carries a supply of printheads, thermal transfer ribbons, and labels for a wide range of thermal transfer and direct thermal printers. We are known for the quality of the printer supplies we carry and our stock and custom labels for thermal printers. Our customer service representatives are available to help you with your labels and printer needs – and to ensure that we meet or exceed your expectations.

Label Removal Process, Tools & Applications

Today’s labels are manufactured using a range of adhesives to provide the level of adhesion required by the application – whether it is to keep the label attached permanently, such as a safety label or product label for a bottle or jar, or a label designed to be removed after purchase, such as a label for kitchen and bath products. Removing these labels and the underlying adhesive completely requires care to ensure that you do not damage the surface material or, if needed, the label itself.

The key elements to consider when removing a label are:

  • Label material
  • Surface material
  • Type and strength of the adhesive used to apply the label
  • Whether you are interested in preserving the label

Industrial Label Removal

Label Strippers

Laboratories, bottling plants, and processing plants need to remove labels from reusable glass, plastic, and metal containers. High volume label strippers remove the label and adhesive in one process using air-cushioned blades. These machines are custom-designed for the surface material and the level of adhesion of the labels, removing the label and adhesive completely while protecting the surface material.

Friction Removers

Label removers designed for recycling processes use friction to remove labels. These machines can handle a range of labels, from wraparound labels with spot adhesive to single labels with full adhesion. These machines are engineered to fully remove the label and adhesive without the need to protect the surface material.

Small Volume and Personal-Use Label Removal

Soaking the label

The easiest way to remove a label is to soak the bottle, jar, or product in hot water. This will loosen the adhesive and the label can be removed. Adding ammonia or other solvent to help dissolve the adhesive can speed the process. This method can be used for most surface materials. Soaking may damage the label, so if you are interested in preserving the label, this is not the best method of removal.

Label Remover Applications

If you are interested in protecting the label during removal, the best solution is to use a label remover application. These applications are easy to use and provide maximum protection for the label itself. A label remover application kit contains clear plastic sheets coated with an adhesive remover on one side. The plastic sheet is applied to the label, allowing the remover to dissolve the adhesive. The plastic adheres to the label, protecting it during removal and allowing you to peel the label off intact.

  • The plastic can be left on the label for a period of time if the adhesive is strong

This method is used mainly for glass surfaces.

Many label collectors use this method to remove labels, as it not only keeps the label intact, but also helps to preserve the colors and patterns of the label.

Solvent-based label removers

Solvent-based removers break down the adhesive so the label can be removed completely. Available in liquid or aerosol form, solvents provide fast removal and are useful for removal of older adhesives. Special formulations are designed to protect metal and plastic surface materials, allowing the container to be reused. Solvent-based removers generally do not protect the label.

Steam label removal

Steam can be used to remove labels from glass, metal, and plastic surfaces. The steam dissolves the adhesive, making the label easy to remove. If the steam is applied carefully, the label can be preserved. Alcohol or a solvent can be added to the steam to help dissolve the adhesive.

Blanco Labels

Blanco Labels offers both stock and custom labels to meet the needs of customers from small specialty orders to full production runs for manufacturers. Our modern printing facility has the capabilities to manufacture full-color labels that meet your exact specifications. Blanco is known for the quality of our labels and our superior customer service – ensuring that every project meets or exceeds your expectations.