Label PRomotion | Tiny Type Terrorizes Even the Best Eagle Eyes

Right up there with tamper-proof packaging that frustrates young and old alike are the infamous, tiny-type labels that require almost microscope-quality vision to decipher. My latest encounters involved a marine horn and unscented, natural dishwashing soap.

The marine horn episode proved the most potentially health-damaging. Already a small item, the horn’s exceptionally small type showed mostly as indistinguishable black. When I tried it out, its extremely loud volume gave me temporary tinnitus. I looked back at the labeling and saw nothing in larger type or contrasting color that provided a suitable warning. The “directions” in three languages didn’t help.

As for the dishwashing soap, I had forgotten my reading glasses, so trying to make sense of the nearly invisible verbiage in front of me was a waste of time.

Aha! Time for the cellphone magnifier that will turn tiny type into useful information. Yes, it worked. But, I wondered, how many people will use/remember to use this handy app? As the chronological age goes up, I’m guessing usage goes down—way down.

What are some ways to address the problem and generate consumer delight regardless of age or tech-savviness (or at least a nod of approval)?

  • Brainstorm ways to make the type more readable without the use of external aids or references. While some products are bound by regulatory or legal disclosures, there at least can be discussion about how to make type larger by reducing verbiage or extending the terrain. How about creating an oversized wraparound using repositionable adhesive that provides key critical information in large type, then peels away to reveal the original label? Browsers can get the most important high points, while the original label provides all needed disclosures. Buyers will strip away the larger wraparound to open the product, revealing the basic label.
  • Adhere an actual magnifier strip on the product. Obviously, this won’t work in most cases for high-volume labeling, but for those manufacturers selling on a relatively small scale, this hand-applied extra could drive satisfaction, along with some positive PR. Be sure to explain this feature clearly, and make the magnifier fit into a small sleeve or be easily affixed to the label via repositionable adhesive. (Yes, this may create issues with overall product presentation, but it would be interesting to run a test with a small quantity to see what happens—then decide if/how to proceed.)
  • Provide a QR code on the label that consumers can scan to go to a page providing the label information in a decidedly more readable format. Of course, for this to work, you must direct the consumer to use this feature in type large enough for them to read—which may be a challenge if you’re already tight on space.
  • Affix a small audio chip, so that consumers can hear the information. Today’s miniaturization makes it possible to enable audio on just about anything, so why not labels? Again, this is probably practical only for manufacturers with low quantity requirements where a generous label budget and working by hand make it feasible.
  • Provide the retailer a magnifying glass that can be positioned near the product with a query like, “Need a bit of help reading the small type? Feel free to use this magnifying glass to help out.” The downside of this option is the willingness of the retailer to comply, and logistically it may prove challenging with limited space. But, where there’s a will, there often is a way.

Label illegibility is a major issue and challenge. It deserves major attention, and it deserves it now.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. is president of Lusky Enterprises Inc., a marketing communications and content development company. Since 2008, he has worked with Lightning Labels, a Denver-based all-digital custom label printing company, as a content developer specializing in expert advice articles. Lusky presents common-sense ideas grounded in doing what’s real and right for managing and enhancing public image.


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