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While shopping in a store, one of the first things we notice is the packaging and labeling of the products on the shelves. Often, this is what makes the sale.

As consumers, we might think of packaging and labeling as being the same thing.

Most products require proper packaging in order to keep them covered and protected from contamination or damage. Labeling is what you see on the outside of the package. It includes basic information about the product, as well as the brand names, tag lines, symbols, and images that are designed to entice customers to buy the product.

Labeling allows the package to be more than just a container for a product. Printed on the exterior of the package, labeling includes all of the essential information about the product and its manufacturer. Usually part of the package, this information is sometimes also found on the product itself.

Labeling helps manufacturers communicate details about the product to shoppers, who may use this information to compare one product with another. Generally, the label will include the name of the product and the manufacturer, and, depending on the product, it might also include additional information, such as the contents of the package, features, the date of production, expiration dates, weight, and instructions for using the product.

Labels are designed with the intended audience in mind. Some of you might remember when grocery store brands marketed their products in plain or generic labels, usually black and white or other non-descript colors. Since these products were considerably cheaper than the name brands, the idea was that price-conscious shoppers would choose them over the more expensive alternatives. That worked, to an extent, but it's been years since I've seen plain-label packaging. Clearly, grocery store chains found that their own products would sell better if they utilized labeling techniques similar to those of the better-known brands.

While I have met people who will insist that they are never influenced by packaging and labeling, I cannot say that for myself, and find some of these claims to be suspect. While shopping, have you ever stopped to check a product out because of the way that it looked on the shelves? When faced with a choice between two products, did the appearance influence your decision? As much as we might want to avoid being influenced by advertising, first impressions count, and a poor package design can drag sales down.

When we are looking at products on a store shelf, the labeling might be what we think of as advertising, but packaging plays a part, too. Of course, the primary function of packaging is as a container for the product. Packaging contains and protects the product from damage during transit, storage areas, and store shelves, as well as to prevent someone from tampering with it. However, packaging can also be used to attract shoppers to the product and to differentiate a manufacturer's product from a competing brand. In effect, the packaging can also be used to establish brand identity. This may be done through colors and shapes that complement the labeling.

Together, effective packaging and labeling can attract shoppers to a product and differentiate that product from a competing product. If you're looking for a new shampoo, you are likely to be confronted with dozens of choices. You won't be allowed to take samples of them home to try them out before making a choice, so your choice is likely to be made through a combination of the size and shape of the bottle, the logo, the colors, the design, and the things that are said on the label. Even if you know what you're looking for, the packaging and design are what help you find it amongst all of the other products on the shelf.

Manufacturers recognize the importance of brand identity and the role that is played by packaging and labeling. A product on a store shelf has only a few seconds to impress a customer. The appearance of the product has to convey its branding, differentiate itself from competing products, attract potential customers to take a closer look, and entice them to place it in their shopping cart.

Together, product packaging and labeling build the brand, convey information, and both sell and protect the product.



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