Every physical product must carry a label, which may be a simple tag attached to the product or an elaborately designed graphic that is part of the package. Labels perform several functions. First, the label identifies the product or brand—for instance, the name Sunkist stamped on oranges. The label might also grade the product, the way canned peaches are grade labeled A, B, and C. The label might describe the product: who made it, where it was made, when it was made, what it contains, how it is to be used, and how to use it safely. Finally, the label might promote the product through attractive graphics.
Labels eventually become outmoded and need freshening up. The label on Ivory soap has been redone 18 times since the 1890s, with gradual changes in the size and design of the letters. The label on Orange Crush soft drink was substantially changed when competitors' labels began to picture fresh fruits, thereby pulling in more sales. In response, Orange Crush developed a label with new symbols to suggest freshness and with much stronger and deeper colors.
Legal concerns about labels and packaging stretch back to the early 1900s and continue today. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently took action against the potentially misleading use of such descriptions as "light," "high fiber," and "low fat." Meanwhile, consumerists are lobbying for additional labeling laws to require open dating (to describe product freshness), unit pricing (to state the product cost in standard measurement units), grade labeling (to rate the quality level), and percentage labeling (to show the percentage of each important ingredient).
Some tangible products that incorporate packaging and labels also involve some service component, such as delivery or installation. Therefore, marketers must be skillful not only in managing product lines and brands, but also in designing and managing services—the subject of the next chapter.
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