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Where Would We Be Without Humble Barcode Labels?


The Lightning Labels Blog is one of the many resources available to Lightning Labels customers. Our blog is over two years old now, and approaching 200 posts. The intention of the blog is to educate and inform people about the world of custom labels and digital label printing.

We realize that not everyone reads the blog, so in this newsletter we are presenting the three most popular posts from the last six months. These posts are all available on the Lightning Labels Blog.

Understanding Barcode Labels

Where would we be without the humble barcode? We would certainly be spending more time in the supermarket checkout line. Pretty much every retail product you buy these days has a barcode. This barcode is known as a UPC code and looks something like the one above. I have written before about how you can obtain a UPC code, but here I am just covering the basics of the barcodes themselves.

The UPC (Universal Product Code) barcode is a 12 digit code used by manufacturers to identify themselves and their products. The first six digits are the manufacturer’s number provided to them by the Uniform Code Council (now known as the GS1 Symbology Committee). The next five digits are the manufacturer’s item number that is allocated to a specific product. Every single product a manufacturer sells including the same item of a different size carries its own unique five digit number. The last number is a calculated check digit that enables the scanner to verify that the number is correct.

Here at Lightning Labels we create UPC barcodes pretty much every day. We use the inbuilt functionality in CorelDraw to create a graphic file of the UPC, but you can also use a software package from such vendors as IDAutomation or Hallogram.

While most of the barcodes we do are UPC there are other barcodes we produce from time to time. The barcode above is what is known as a Code 39 (also known as Code 3 of 9). It is often used on name badges, to track inventory, and the post office uses it to track packages. You can encode letters and numbers, and often you will encode a start and stop character at the beginning and end of the data. If you want to keep track of your products internally this is a good barcode to use - we have a couple of customers who regularly request variable barcode labels using Code 39.

The barcode above is a Code 128 barcode. It is what is known as a high density symbology that encodes numbers, symbols, upper and lower case text as well as returns and tabs. It is known as high density because it takes up less space than other barcodes (such as code 39) as you can see here. To create a barcode 128 you will need a start character, a stop character, and a checksum character. We use the Code 128 Font Advantage Package from IDAutomation to create these barcodes - it comes with the Code 128 fonts and an Excel macro that you can use to generate the correct start, stop and checksum characters.

The world of barcodes can be quite complex and is changing rapidly. But these three barcodes are the most common - and the UPC barcode is so ubiquitous it will be around for a long time to come.

Considering the Product Container for Your Packaging Ideas

When deciding how to make your product stand out on the retail shelf, the label is obviously very important, but your choice of container and other packaging ideas will also have a big impact on the visibility of your product. There are literally thousands of containers to choose from - where do you start?

I would always start by looking at your competitors packaging ideas. You don’t necessarily need to have a very different container. In fact if their packaging is very plain you could choose a similar container and use the product label as a way to really stand out. Alternatively, you could choose an innovative container shape that will become part of your brand. This is the route that Method has done with their product containers with significant success. Or you could use an unusual container with an eye-catching label to really stand out from the crowd.

At the same time you are choosing your container and other packaging ideas, you should also consider the kind of label you want. What size of label is best? Do you want a front and back label, a wraparound label, clear or white? These are the questions you need to ask. Another important factor is the shape of the container. If you have a really curved container you may be limited to the size of the label. Your label needs to be applied to a flat surface in order to avoid wrinkling. You also need to be aware of where your container starts to taper in as it rounds at the bottom - you will need to keep your label above the taper line.

Most packaging companies will be happy to send you sample containers so feel free to experiment first with your packaging ideas. You could narrow it down to two or three containers and then request a hard copy proof with your label order and stick one of the label proofs on each container to see what looks best. If you need some inspiration and are looking for something new and innovative I would check out Web Packaging for ideas. They have a wealth of innovative containers on their site and they even have an RSS feed so you can get daily updates of new containers that become available.

How to Sell a Product to Whole Foods

We have a Whole Foods Market just a mile from where I live and whenever I shop there I enjoy browsing the shelves and looking for products with labels that we printed (there are usually a few). Whole Foods is the holy grail for many makers of natural products, and here at Lightning Labels we have a large number of companies providing these kinds of products. Whole Foods often source locally made products, so even for new companies you have a chance of getting on the shelves there. But how to sell a product to Whole Foods is the question? This week Fortune Small Business tackled this issue, and they provide some very useful advice for any company looking to make it into a big retail store like Whole Foods.

The article covers a range of issues such as when to hire a consultant to help, getting in touch with a Whole Foods "food forager", attending trade shows, and making sure your product stands out from the crowd. If you are graduating from selling your products at the local farmer’s market on weekends to Whole Foods, you will need professional looking labels. Your products will look far better with a high quality, durable label than one you printed on your desktop using blank Avery labels you bought at Staples.

Some people start their company with the idea that they want a professional looking product right out of the box. Other people are on a tight budget and want to do everything themselves. But if you want to sell a product to Whole Foods, printing your labels on your $100 ink jet printer just isn’t going to cut it. Once you are ready to make that leap you need a great looking label, so your product launch has the highest possible chance of success.

We usually write new posts on our blog about twice a week. If you are interested in reading our blog regularly, you don’t have to remember to go the blog’s web site. A much simpler way is to subscribe through an RSS reader. If you use Microsoft Outlook 2007 then you have an RSS reader built-in and you can receive new posts directly in your inbox. If not, there are plenty of free RSS readers out there that are very easy to use. Google Reader and Bloglines are two of the most popular.

By using an RSS reader you will be notified within just a few minutes any time there is a new blog post. Blogs are quickly becoming a valuable resource for anyone in business today. They have proven to be more than a fad, but an effective business resource that will be around for many years to come.

Lightning Labels has been servicing the needs of our customers for over 10 years. We are extremely proud of our BBB rating (A+) and guarantee your experience with us will be a positive one.

Lightning Labels delivers unmatched benefits and value including:

  • 48-72 hour turnaround (following digital printing press approval)
  • No set-up fees, no plate fees, and no added fees for unlimited color!
  • Free printed press proofs for all custom label and sticker orders, in addition to PDF files
  • 100% satisfaction guaranteed

Make your products stand out with custom labels, printed stickers and quality packaging from Lightning Labels. Simply visit our get a quote page, to receive an instant online quote now! You can also visit our free samples page and order free label material samples.