More than Just a Label: Shrink-sleeves elicit consumer emotions

Because the average shopping list usually mentions a product type rather than a specific brand, many times a brand choice is made in-store. Research suggests that even when a consumer goes into the store looking to buy a specific brand of spray disinfectant, for instance, that consumer is still vulnerable to an eye-catching product with a uniquely shaped bottle or brightly colored label. When scanning the shelf of cleaning supplies, it is difficult for the consumer to ignore a dramatically differentiated product with enhanced shelf presence—regardless of brand.
Improvements over the last 10 years in high-shrink-sleeve label technology have made full-body coverage more aesthetically pleasing and more cost efficient. The newest shrink-sleeves permit greater than 75% shrinkage, meaning that the label can accommodate a four-inch wide package that tapers down to one inch. This provides exceptional container design freedom by allowing brand owners to differentiate products with compellingly contoured shapes that attract shelf attention and more ergonomic designs for user-friendliness.

Proven success on the shelf
Prior to the growth of the full-body high-shrink-sleeve label market in the 1990s, top-to-bottom decoration of contoured packaging was impossible for bottles and jars, and designers had to avoid compound curves in container design. New shrink-sleeve label products require less material for complete coverage compared with other labels and they prevent distracting curved-edge “smiles” and “frowns” at the tops and bottoms most high-shrink labels.
Though shrink-sleeve labels expand package aesthetics and design potential, research suggests that consumers can perceive them as a relatively expensive label type, causing them to suspect an unnecessarily heightened product cost. However, shrink-sleeve labels provide secondary, unseen savings by allowing brand owners to eliminate tamper-evident drop bands, remove colorant from closures and bottles, and reduce or eliminate UV inhibitors in the package. Total package value should be considered, both when spurring consumers to try your product and when building loyalty.
Mintel’s GNPD IRIS database provides anecdotal evidence that many successful brands are dressed in shrink-sleeve labels. In some categories, most of the leading brands are in full shrink-sleeve labels. For example, Campbell’s V8 V-Fusion is one of the most successful new beverage product launches in the past several years. Figures from the Mintel GNPD IRIS database illustrate that midway through its first two years on the market, V8 V-Fusion’s 46-oz. packages sold at a rate 10 times that of the average new juice product launched in the U.S.
During this same period, average sales for all new juice products labeled with shrink sleeves out-paced the average of those with other label types, including wrap-around plastic, paper, stretch sleeve, in-mold label, and self-adhesive. The Campbell’s story was exemplary; however, additional primary research confirms the added value of shrink-sleeve labels for other products in the beverage segment.

Covering consumer emotions
To isolate the effect of shrink labels and quantify the value of the package, Eastman Chemical Company commissioned AC Nielsen to conduct a study of 800 consumers to help understand consumer preference for label format. The study confirmed on-shelf effectiveness of, and preference for, high-contour bottles featuring shrink-sleeve labels. The study also demonstrated that shrink-sleeve labels create stronger consumer emotional connections than traditional labels and act as a key influencer of initial product trial and long-term sales.
For this particular study, product packages of soft drinks, functional waters, shampoos, and juices were evaluated. Research methods that neutralize brand preference were used to isolate the packages’ effects on measures of empathy, persuasion, and communication. In the functional beverage segment, the Nielsen study analyzed consumer responses to containers with a range of bottle and label types, including plain bottle with plain label, contoured bottle with plain label, plain bottle with shrink-sleeve label, and two contoured bottles with shrink-sleeve labels.
Results showed packages with shrink-sleeve labels on highly contoured bottles consistently ranked higher than those with plain labels in all five categories: package impact, attention, uniqueness, empathy, and appeal. All shrink-sleeved packages ranked positively in empathy and impact, setting them above any bottle with a plain label.
A surprising, compelling story about emotional response is revealed here. Shrink-sleeve labels combined with high-contour bottles not only possess a superior overall appearance but also create a stronger emotional connection to consumers.
In addition, results demonstrate that women and early adopters were up to three times more likely to indicate a desire to purchase—and even a willingness to pay more—for high-contour, shrink-sleeved products in the functional beverage category. As a result, reaching these primary shoppers and trendsetters is key for revitalizing brand performance or maintaining it in the face of enhanced competition.
These findings reinforce the benefits of full-body labels both in inducing initial product purchase and in building brand loyalty. Brand owners can simultaneously increase point-of-purchase product appeal while creating emotional consumer connections with differentiated consumer packaged goods.

Addendum:
Cost-Benefit Analysis
Because not all the benefits of full-body shrink-sleeve labels are knowable and quantifiable, some consumers and brand owners perceive the labels as a relatively expensive label type. It’s easy to calculate the higher per-piece price of a shrink-sleeve label compared with an oriented
polypropylene (OPP) wrap, but more difficult to compare the sum of other packaging savings from using shrink sleeves (e.g., eliminating tamper-evident seals, removing colorant from closures and bottles, lightweighting, reducing UV inhibitors). It’s also difficult to quantify the total value of creating an emotional connection that may spur initial product purchase and build brand loyalty.
Nevertheless, a simple price comparison can shed some light on the tradeoffs between traditional pressure-sensitive and shrink-sleeve labels. Customary pressure-sensitive labels can be economical in price (from approximately 2.1 to 2.6 cents per piece on average), but they require brand owners to use two labels to cover both the front and back of a package, or 4.2 to 5.2 cents total. In contrast, shrink-sleeve labels range in cost from 3.7 to 5.7 cents.
In terms of the raw “real estate” value, traditional labels typically allow 40% coverage while shrink-sleeve labels provide nearly 100% package coverage and a compelling billboard effect. This translates into 150% more container coverage and greater opportunity for emotional connection for only an approximate 25% cost increase. And, of course, these labels provide designers with the freedom to design containers in new ways that grab attention and expand a brand’s reach.

Matt A. Dudas is the global market development manager for the shrink film resin segment of Eastman Chemical Company. Dudas has more than 20 years’ experience working with glass and plastic containers, plastic closures, and decoration methods. He can be reached at mdudas@eastman.com.

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