For most, October signifies the true beginning of the fall season. Temperatures drop and attitudes typically shift to welcome the cooler weather and the beginning of holiday festivities. But with fall also comes the not-so-welcome cold and flu season. It’s still early, but several of my colleagues are already coming in to work with a cough instead of staying home and not spreading it to me. So, we figured this would be as good a time as any to scrutinize the labels of two over-the-counter “immune support” products designed to ward off a cold, or at least lessen the severity of its symptoms and duration.
1. Does the label announce what’s inside the package?
As we often see with more established products, Airborne seems to be relying on its brand name to communicate the contents of its package. A quick glance at the front of the box tells you the name of the product, the flavor, that it was created by a school teacher, that it’s #1 and that it can be used in the places most of us regularly frequent. The Emergen-C label tells you first and foremost that it is a “Super Energy Booster” with 1,000mg of Vitamin C, 7 mineral ascorbates, 32 mineral complexes, 8 vitamins and that it is a “Super Orange Flavored Fizzy Drink Mix.” We don’t really think a formal winner declaration is necessary, but for consistency’s sake, we’ll just say Emergen-C owns this category.
Note: After speaking with my colleague, he firmly believes that both labels should lose this category. And I definitely see his point. Neither product explicitly states its purpose! While Emergen-C does a better job of describing what’s inside the package, it skips the necessary step of telling you what it’s for. Airborne may even have a slight advantage, as it at least loosely communicates that it should be used to fight those nasty little cartoon germs, but neither expressly states that it is used to ward off a cold. Touché.
2. Does the label attract attention?
These two products make this category particularly interesting, as they’re both different in so many ways. Airborne has used cutesy animations in a seeming attempt to play up the fact that it was created by a second-grade teacher. Emergen-C utilizes different tones of orange (as well as an actual orange) to convey the message that it is packed with immune-boosting Vitamin C. Since the label designs are so different from one another, making a definitive statement about which is more attractive is difficult because it’s so subjective. Personally, we think the Emergen-C label stands out more, with much more vibrant and cohesive colors. But we believe an argument can be made for the kitschy-but-loveable design approach Airborne employed.
3. Does the label instill confidence?
This is also an interesting category for these two products. As we mentioned above, Airborne heavily relies on its “developed-by-a-school-teacher” theme; when it comes to instilling confidence, Airborne clearly believes that the general population feels that teachers are inherently trustworthy, and therefore makes no other distinctive attempt to communicate the potential medical benefits of its product. Conversely, Emergen-C relies solely on the actual contents of its packets – vitamins and minerals. Since these types of products aren’t regulated, companies have to decide how to instill consumer confidence. These supplements took two very different approaches, and although there is something to be said for selling the implied integrity of a teacher, Emergen-C wins for its honest-to-goodness informative label.
We really enjoyed this week’s label comparison. Airborne and Emergen-C chose two clearly different approaches to label design, and despite our conclusion that Emergen-C is the better label, Airborne is still “#1.” But in an unregulated industry, who really knows what that means? There are a lot of vague messages being sent (and not sent), and the fact that neither product states its intended use, we’re a little more confident in declaring both losers. What do you think?
I invite you to participate in the “Good Label, Bad Label” forum. We’ve all seen a bad label or twelve, so please feel free to send us some awesomely bad examples and your submission could be included in our series!
Blue Ribbon Tag & Label offers a wide range of services and products, including food labels, cosmetic labels, pharmaceutical labels, veterinary labels and expanded text labels. If you need a professionally designed label, call us at 1-800-433-4974. We’ll get the job done.