Variable label data

Variable Data Printing, Digital Labels, and the Future of Mass Personalization

Consumers have entered a futuristic age of product labeling, and they don’t even see it. Then again, not seeing it is the point.

New labeling technology from companies like Digimarc and HP embeds digitally scannable marks onto labels that are all but invisible to the naked eye. These marks can provide product ID with deeper functionality than UPC barcodes, including enabling supply chain management at the item level.

Combined with other printing technology like variable data printing, short run productions, serialization, label personalization, and the general versatility of modern digital print systems, these hidden watermarks on labels allow manufacturers and everyone following them in the supply chain to manage a diverse-looking product portfolio with a personal touch while enhancing their control compared to homogenous, barcoded product runs.

Overall, this technology promises to help manufacturers achieve mass personalization at scale without incurring headaches, but, rather, enhanced capabilities.

Turning Labels Into Digital Powerhouses

Digimarc’s patented printing process combined with HP’s Link Technology print management solutions can embed digitally scannable marks into the label design itself. This digital label can wrap the entirety of the product label in a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) while also embedding metadata that allows for unique interactivity. Labels can be scanned from nearly any direction or side, and even smartphones are capable of recognizing label data when used in conjunction with a proprietary app.

One of the most critical functions of these digital labels is to enable manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and everyone in the supply chain to confirm a product’s status. Through embedded metadata, a product can be labeled with its exact manufacturing date, batch, production run, and even the specific lines and equipment used to produce it.

Scanning this label can immediately confirm whether or not a product is a counterfeit, for instance. It can also trace the product’s movement through the supply line, informing enterprises on logistics, consumption trends, and more. Manufacturers can track the flow of products to prevent thefts, diversions, and entry into unauthorized “grey markets” that operate outside retailing norms.

During recalls, these labels can prove indispensable since they can allow for individual products to be pulled based on their exact manufacture date and batch production, as opposed to intensive manual serial number scrutiny or mass recalls that sweep up unaffected products.

How Digital Labels Can Drive Mass Personalization Without Mass Headaches

All these capabilities mean that products with non-standard labels can still be coded, tracked, and managed as seamlessly as a homogeneously designed product line. For instance, a production run of “design your own label” consumer products can have a different exterior label for each and every item produced, but the entire run can be coded with metadata to ensure that parent-child relationships are understood and that items can be tracked logistically.

As an extreme example, you can even randomize the product label using systems developed to create a unique label with every item produced, as Coca-Cola Israel has done in a partnership with HP Indigo.

Through cutting-edge packaging and labeling technology, brands can light a path towards standard management of supply chain items that are anything but standardized.

If you are interested in procuring the latest digital labeling technology and achieving greater personalization with your product line, you can speak with an industrial labelling technology consultant today to determine the optimal equipment and systems you need to establish an advanced, cost-effective, and efficient production process.


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