18 Oct

Custom Labels – Let’s Talk About Price.

By Kevin Crimmins

Custom Labels -- Let's Talk About Price

We love answering questions about custom labels at the Label Printers. We’re always happy to talk about the latest trends in label design and the most recent developments in brand protection. And it’s a true joy to walk customers through the operation of our printing technology.

There is one question, however, that we know every customer will have: How much will my custom labels cost?

In our business – custom labels – that’s not always an easy question to answer. Every day, people come to us with a label design already done and want to know what it will cost. Often, they are surprised when we can’t just tell them a price on the spot.

Many factors go into the pricing calculation for custom labels. And while in this article we won’t provide exact pricing for any particular label – we are talking custom work here, after all – we will provide a look at how things work in our industry and let you know the main variables that go into determining your custom label printing quote.

(Note that these are based on what we do at The Label Printers. Other vendors may use different pricing formulas.)

The Size of Your Order

After price, the question we get most often is, “What is your minimum quantity for printing labels?”

We’re happy to reply, “We can print one label for you.” Although, if we do print a single label, you probably won’t be happy about the cost per unit. That one label will cost almost as much as an order of 500 or even 1,000 labels.

This is simply a function of the fixed costs involved with label printing, and commercial printing in general. Whether we print a single label (and we are not advocating for anyone to buy labels one at a time!) or a million, we have to set up the press the same way to get started and then clean it up the same way when we are finished. Those fixed costs are specific to our equipment, and something we rarely can avoid.

 Most of us learned about economies of scale at some point in school. That simple principle reminds us that the more labels you order, the smaller impact these fixed costs will have on the unit cost of each label. When our customers ask us for ways to save money on custom label printing, we often start the conversation by asking questions about their ordering patterns and annual usage expectations. Because fixed costs apply to every order regardless of size, ordering one million labels at once will typically cost less than ordering 100,000 labels 10 times.

Application Method

The way your label will be applied – by hand or by machine – will dictate some of the features your custom label will need, and therefore, the cost of the label.

For example, when we make labels that will be machine applied in a mass production setting, it is essential that we make the labels that will meet the requirements of the equipment that will be used for applying them. Sometimes those requirements even determine the kind of liner we can produce them on. Machine application also determines the roll position - how the labels are positioned on the roll must match how they will come off the roll when the machinery is applying them to a product. As well, there will be requirements regarding the amount of space between labels or for a leader (a length of liner with no labels on it) to be used in setting up the equipment). All of these things contribute to the cost calculation.

(Read all about label format here.)

Hand application presents fewer challenges. But we still need to pay attention, mostly to practical factors.  Will the labels be used as handouts, or perhaps sold as memorabilia? If so, we will recommend cutting them individually or finishing them in sheets. Larger single-cut labels will be easier to apply if the liners are back-slit, which will allow removal of part of the liner while leaving a place to hold the label for positioning. There’s a cost, but it’s almost always worthwhile.

Labels to be hand applied onto many items in a batch (think “sale” stickers going onto loaves of bread in a bakery) will be easier to handle in rolls, but maybe not if the rolls are so large that a person can’t comfortably hold the roll in one hand while applying labels with the other. The larger rolls will result in lower production costs but may be impractical for how you will use them.

Application Conditions

How you apply the labels is one thing. Knowing where are you planning to put the label and what is going to happen to it once you placed it are equally important in knowing how to make that label.

Knowing the type of surface onto which you’ll be applying your labels helps to assure the adhesive we specify will bond appropriately. We also will need to know whether you want the label permanently bonded or not. You would not want us to specify a permanent adhesive if your plan is to place the label on the glass face of a photo frame to be removed before use.  We cover topics like this frequently on our blog because they’re so important.

In addition to application surface, environmental conditions, and product usage all affect a label’s performance. For instance, moisture can cause a label to peel or tear. Sunlight can cause ink to fade. Temperature changes will cause surfaces to expand and contract, potentially distorting or ripping labels. Therefore, the material, adhesive, and ink used for a label to be used only indoors may not be right for a product that spends most of its time outside.

Your label printer will help you choose the most suitable options for your label’s environment and purpose. Some materials cost more than others. Application conditions are among the biggest factors in determining which material to use.  As with most investments, the lowest-cost choice may not be the best choice. It’s always more affordable to get it right the first time than to have to reprint your labels later on due to quality issues.

Tooling

When it comes to custom label printing there really is no “typical” job. Two orders of the same size and shape of label may still have minor variations that require changes to our equipment setup.

For example, we might need to create a new die (a tool for stamping your label out of the print stock) to maximize the efficiency of your print run. Or, we might need to change a die to compensate for thicker or thinner liner material, or to add special features such as perforations. These types of changes lead to one-time charges but may not affect the unit price.

Rest assured, we will explain these nuances to you when we present your quote for custom label printing. If you have flexibility in the final product you’re envisioning, we just might be able to offer cost saving options.

It’s important to understand the variables that drive the cost of your custom label. Ultimately, it comes down to finding the right balance of quality, performance, and cost. We’re always happy to talk you through the possibilities and make sure you get the best possible label at the best possible price. Click here to contact the experts at the Label Printers.

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