What makes a label worthy of winning an international award? Solid design and vibrant colors are two keys. And labels that help to move products off store shelves are deemed successful, of course.
For a more in-depth look into what makes labels stand out, MPR talked with four executives whose firm’s won World Label Awards (WLA) last year. McDowell Label and Screen Printing, Plano, TX, has won more than 300 national and international awards for printing excellence, including its fourteenth WLA in 2012. Its winning entry in the Health & Beauty Category is a private label for plastic bottles of Equaline Sport SPF 50 sunscreen lotion (see photos).
The sunscreen label features a special shape and artwork with multiple screen tones and vignettes, including fading to white, pointed out president John McDowell. “It also required tight registration and reverse-outs,” he added. His company achieved such high quality using a combination of hybrid, High Definition UV Flexo and its proprietary Crisp Dot Technology, “which allows us to feather dots and put dots on top of tops,” McDowell explained.
The firm’s technology VP, Jay Luft, noted that the HD UV Flexo is an off-the-shelf solution that McDowell Label modified to fit its needs. “Our hybrid dot/screen technology yields zero to 100 percent dot line structure throughout the label,” Luft said, “exceeding a 200-lpi [lines per inch] screen.” He added that the technique is run on the firm’s line of MPS presses from manufacturer Multi Print Systems.
McDowell Label has invested more than “seven figures” in its printing presses, according to its president. “And we’ve invested even more than that in our in-house prepress department,” McDowell revealed. “We take a lot of pride in doing things differently and being able to print artwork as it was intended by design. It is extremely satisfying to manipulate files and exceed the criteria of our customers.”
In Canada, ASL Print FX won for its Rennie Estate Winery 2009 Gaia label. “Our mission is to drive revenue for our clients,” said Toni Hamilton-Edwards, marketing director at the Ontario firm, which dates back to 1965 when it was called All Stick Label Ltd. and was built on the business of pressure-sensitive label, promotional and package printing. “We know that the reason consumers buy the first bottle is primarily due to the label,” she said.
ASL Print FX ensures that consumers pull the wine off the shelf by working collaboratively with the winery and its designers, Hamilton-Edwards added, “to achieve the best image and finishing options that portray the personality of the brand. We try to work closely with the designers as early as possible in the concept stage. We educate [them] on our technology so they can develop creative that optimizes the innovation available. We can provide test print runs throughout the concept stage so the designers can see the finished results.” ASL Print FX also works closely with designers and the client to ensure efficient production and costs, she said.
“It is very important to access the competitive shelf set and ensure that our clients finished product breaks through the clutter,” Hamilton-Edwards continued. “This is achieved with a combination of innovation and differentiation.” One such innovative example was produced for Girls Night Out Sparkling Wine. “When our client was redesigning their sparkling wine, we wanted to ensure the bottle would have large shelf appeal and grab the attention of consumers. We recommended a holographic foil be used for a key design element: the dress. This enabled the bottle to ‘pop’ on shelf in the retail environment,” she explained.
When another client, Kruger Wines & Spirits, asked ASL Print FX to help develop a new, competitive entry for the rum category, the label printer created, tested, and optimized Black Cove Spiced Rum. “Since having presence on the back bar is essential to generating trial, we developed a label that would glow on the dark back bar,” said Hamilton-Edwards. “This increased trial and sales for Black Cove.”
In terms of leading-edge technologies, ASL Print FX is constantly investing in top line print presses as well as its prepress equipment. “Over the last eight years, we have invested over $8 million to ensure we can share this innovation with our clients,” Hamilton-Edwards concluded. Its 12 printing presses deliver up to a dozen stations with foils, silkscreens, raised textures, scratch-n-reveal, variable data, laminations, and effect varnishes, all printed in a single pass.
In prepress, its Kodak Flexcel NX plating system provides consistent structure and repeatability on press -- the result of a stable, flat-top dot structure. The firm also was one of the first converters in North America to offer proprietary HDFX screening: “The ability to print a 20-micron dot allows us to achieve close to continuous-tone imaging -- softer shadows, smoother highlights, and near-photographic quality images,” touts its website.
More Vino, Please
In addition to ASL Print FX and McDowell Label, TAPP Label Technologies is one of four other U.S. winners of a 2012 WLA award (see sidebar). A total of 21 WLA awards were presented to firms worldwide. TAPP won for Terravant Wine’s Cloud Valley 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon label, an international winner in the category of Offset Wines/Spirits. “Submitting winning entries at TAPP Label starts with selection and ends with inspection,” explained Bill Knopka, VP of sales and marketing at the Napa, CA firm that specializes in wine and spirits label solutions. “We carefully select the labels that represent the best of what we do, are technically challenging, aesthetically sophisticated, and unique from other labels.
“Our [award] selection process is a year-round endeavor that is a very lengthy and involved, calling upon the various business teams within the company. Our inspection process of potential label contest candidates is where winning labels come to the fore. We review hundreds of labels, one at a time to find that representative portion of the run that is competition-worthy.”
Early in 2013, TAPP Label acquired the assets of nearby wine label competitor Ben Franklin Press & Label. In late 2012, the firm took delivery of an HP Indigo WS6600 digital offset press, the latest model for wine labels with an inline primer unit. Also, arriving in March from the U.K. was a fully loaded ABG Digicon finishing press that provides the high-class finishing of multiprocess labels. This technology bridges the gap between digital and traditional label printing, according to TAPP CEO John Attayek.
“This new HP WS 6600 does the work of the two old ones,” Attayek told the North Bay Business Journal. “That’s how we could justify the capital expenditure, which was a large investment for us, coupled with the new multiprocess Digicon finishing press. We couldn’t have made this investment and done the deal with Ben Franklin Press without TAPP’s dramatic turnaround in the last 12 to 18 months.” TAPP returned one of its earlier-model Indigo models at the plant while keeping one as a backup and for additional capacity.
If your firm wins a prestigious label award, such as WLA, how can your firm toot its own horn and get the most mileage from its recognition? “We make sure award-winning label projects are given a press release, so that our various constituencies are aware of the work we are doing and the recognition it is receiving,” shared Bill Orme, marketing communications manager for Smyth Companies, the 136-year old label printer based in St. Paul, MN. Its Dow Industries subsidiary (Wilmington, MA), acquired two years ago, won for the Dream Angels Glow fragrance wash label it produced for Victoria’s Secret.
“We also feature award-winning and other noteworthy or technically challenging projects in case histories, which we share with prospects and clients in order to demonstrate our capabilities and innovative solutions,” Orme added. Taking self promotion a step further, Smyth often will compose white papers featuring one or more of these projects. “[These] give readers an idea of the lengths we go to in order to develop new labeling solutions for our clients’ packaged brands,” he said.
About the World Label Awards
The World Label Awards (WLA) is a global competition in which presently seven continents participate: Australia, China, Europe, India, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States. For companies to compete and to win an award, their entry has to win a prize in their own local label awards competition first; for example, the Tag and Label Manufacturers Institute (TLMI, www.tlmi.com) in the U.S. Each association (chairman of the jury) then selects entries for the WLA from their nominated or winning entries, which are judged again.
WLA was formed 22 years ago as an informal way for the Europeans (FINAT) and the Americans to “challenge” each other to an annual contest to discover which association could produce the higher quality labels. In 1992, JFLP (the Japanese label association) was invited to join so the organization became truly global.