Guest post by Peter Renton – The Impact of Variable Data Label Printing

When you visit the supermarket or liquor store you will see thousands of different product labels. But hone in on just one product and you will notice every label for that product is identical. Well of course it is, you are probably thinking, because the product is the same. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Take Jones Soda (, the American soft drink maker, for example. If you see Jones Soda on the shelf in a retail store you will see many different labels on the same product. Jones Soda has made custom labels a part of their brand. They encourage their customers to upload wacky photos and they use these photos on their bottles. They use digital label printing to print different photos on their labels so each six-pack will have a different looking label. Since this program launched back in 1996 they have received over one million customer photos for use on their bottles.

St. Francis Winery in California ( has taken a slightly different approach but is still leveraging variable data label printing. Their “RED” wine comes with 12 different background designs on their wine labels, so when a customer orders a case of wine they will see a different label on every bottle. And on the shelf in the liquor store customers will also see the different labels.

With digital printing technology it is very easy to make every label different. But there are so few companies taking advantage of this. Yet. In the two examples above these companies have made their unique labels an integral part of their brand. Of course, it is important to keep some components of your label the same so you can have a somewhat consistent look but having a part of your product label be variable can really differentiate your product from the competition.

Let’s take an example to illustrate this point. Say you sell premium coffee sourced from Brazil. You could feature beautiful photos of Brazil on your coffee bag labels. Stock photography is so inexpensive these days you could buy photos on places like for just a few dollars each. You could then position your coffee as the company that has the beautiful photos of Brazil and make this part of your promotion for the brand.

In a few years time this kind of branding will be common place. But there is a window of opportunity right now that allows companies to stand out from their competition by leveraging the power of variable data labels. It is becoming more difficult for companies to do something really different that can attract the attention of consumers. Take advantage of the digital printing technology in this window of opportunity and do something different with your product labels.

Peter Renton is the founder of Lightning Labels, an all-digital label printer based in Denver, Colorado. He writes regularly about the label industry on their company blog at