Labels Appeal to Multiple Senses

Posted on 8/26/2015 12:27:15 PM By Hallie Forcinio

Like their predecessors, today’s labels communicate brand and product information. What’s new is the level of interaction that’s possible with multisensory features and Internet connectivity.

An example of today’s multisensory functionality is the front label for Anheuser-Busch’s Oculto beer, which blends lager with beer aged on Mexican tequila barrel staves and infuses it with blue agave and lime. The pressure-sensitive label from Constantia Flexibles reproduces the brand’s signature mask with a tactile ink. Ultraviolet-light-sensitive ink, which becomes visible under black light, enhances the mysterious nature of the product.

Other tactile techniques include conventional embossing and debossing, as well as laminations, coatings and varnishes.

Some tactile features go beyond being intriguing to the touch to delivering vital product information. In Europe, Braille has been required on drug labels for some time. With a global marketplace and strong interest in harmonization, it would not be surprising if other regions adopted the requirement. The United States and Canada already have a voluntary standard for Braille labeling, developed by the International Association of Diecutting and Diemaking, and a number of inspection systems can be configured to verify that Braille dot height and spacing meet specifications and the message is correct.

A more recently developed technology to enhance communication of product information involves near field communication (NFC). An NFC chip and antenna can be integrated into a label so consumers with NFC-enabled phones can access product-related information by tapping the phone on the label.

A Smart Label printer/encoder from FlexStr8, Inc. prints and encodes full-color NFC labels on demand. FlexStr8 supplies the high-gloss, inkjet-receptive NFC labels and integrates its FlexStra8 NFC encoder on an Epson ColorWorks® C3500 Color Label Printer. FlexStra8 NFC software synchronizes printing with the encoding of each NFC chip. Pigment-based inks dry quickly and resist smudging, fading and exposure to moisture. Batch sizes range from one to hundreds.

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Caption: FlexStr8 printer/encoder


Since interaction occurs via SmartPhone, NFC labels could trigger an audible message. Other technologies with potential for creating a label with audible messaging capability include the tiny record/playback devices currently seen on some greeting cards.

Walgreen’s offers this record/playback capability on its Talking Pill Reminder closures for prescription drug vials. Designed to provide audible information for visually impaired consumers, the device can record product identity and dose information for playback as needed. The closure also can provide an audible alarm to remind patients it’s time to take a dose. Printed electronics offer the potential to put record/playback functionality into flatter, thinner form factors even more suitable for integration into labels.

Labels also can appeal to the sense of smell and taste. Scented labels rely on well-established technology used for perfume inserts in magazines, scented garbage bags and scratch-and-sniff applications.

Although not really intended to be eaten, labels made of edible paper sometimes are used to attach a Price-Look Up code to pieces of produce. As the use of 3D printing evolves in the food industry, it seems likely flavorful, edible labels could be reproduced on the product itself.

Whether multisensory or conventional, optimum label performance depends on selecting the right combination of substrate, labelstock, adhesive and application equipment.

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