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Advantages and Uses of Variable Printing for Labels


You don’t need to personally meet your customers to give them a personalized product experience. Thanks to digital printing technology, your product label can do that for you.

Variable data printing allows businesses to customize and personalize their labels through digital printing. Back in 2013, Coca-Cola started a personalized brand campaign in which it printed “nearly 800 million personalized bottle labels for the campaign, using more than 10,000 names, in more than 10 languages and five alphabets.” In 2016, Diet Coke launched the “It’s Mine” campaign, in which every single 12-ounce glass bottle label featured a different design.

While Coca-Cola had a lot of success with their campaigns, you don’t need to be a massive company to leverage the benefits of variable data printing. All it takes are a few ideas and a digital printing company with the technology to make it happen.

What is Variable Data Printing?

Variable data printing, sometimes shortened to just variable printing or VDP, is a form of digital printing that allows you to change certain elements in a design, such as a headline, image, name, or color, The key to variable data printing is that it enables printers to make these changes without interrupting the printing process.

How Variable Data Printing Works

Personalization is a powerful tool for promoting products. Whether you want to create a label for a specific individual or add some variety to your products like a new flavor, scent, or color, variable data technology allows you to customize aspects of your label in a way that changes how your users interact with your products.

Variable printing is powered by data. This data is in a spreadsheet or some other file format and can include a wealth of elements, such as text, colors, graphics, or other features. From there, you can institute a set of rules that determine when and how an element is modified.

This process allows you to tell a printing press what should be printed and when, giving you the ability to take a single label design and create multiple personalized pieces. For example, this technology allows dispensaries to print out labels for different strains of cannabis without having to create a whole new design every time. The same concept can be applied to many other markets, including specialty food and health and beauty products, which gives you plenty of ways to be creative.

Benefits of Variable Data Printing

As eluded to above, one of the biggest benefits of printing variable data digitally is that it doesn’t slow down the printing process. Unlike other types of printing, you don’t need to change out plates to create variations on the same label. All the variable data is stored digitally, so the press can be programmed to create a range of labels in the same run with no need to stop the presses. This lets you get your variable labels faster and cheaper than if they were done traditionally.

Variable label printing performed by an HP Indigo digital print engine.

Creative Ways to Use Variable Data Label Printing

From color variation to image personalization, there are many ways brands have utilized variable data label printing technology. Here are a handful of examples of how you can leverage this technology in your label design.

Diversify Your Label Art and Personalize Products

Mixing up your label’s artwork is a potential way to intrigue potential buyers. Jones Soda became famous for this strategy when the company featured customer-submitted photographs on their labels. Now Jones even allows customers to create and order their own custom-labeled soda for a premium price.

While you don’t have to fully commit to an idea like Jones, you can still use variable printing to add some flair to your products. With variable data, you can print a variety of labels featuring local art, user-submitted images, or even completely randomized designs like the Coca-Cola “It’s Mine” campaign. Not only will this give you the ability to take on higher-value custom orders with ease, you can also use this technology to create personalized prizes for contests and promotions that will help your business endear itself to special customers.

Customize Your Story

Every label doesn’t need to say the exact same thing. Variable data printing allows you to tweak your message to help target a specific part of your audience or add some fun to your label. One option is to have a multi-part story that people can read on your products if they collect every label variation. If you sell your product in multiple locations, you can change text to target people from those areas. Regional pride has a strong influence, so tying the text on your label to a target area can be a clever way to call attention to your product.

You could also customize bottles, so they feature different phrases or slogans. If you’re a brewery and one of your beers has a music theme, you can use variable data printing to showcase famous quotes from different musicians on your beer label. Not only is this a fun way to add to the theme, you may even have some buyers try to collect every variation of that bottle. That’s a nice bonus for some simple variations.


A vape jucie label made with variable data printing.

Use One Design Version for Multiple SKUs

Variable printing can help you turn a single design file into a wide variety of product labels. Let’s use vape juice labels as an example. Vape juice companies generally need to find a way to pack in a lot of information into a small label space. These same companies can also have dozens of different SKUs that each require a different label. Instead of creating a different design file for each SKU, you can use a single design layout and a variable data spreadsheet to print labels with updated sections like flavor and nicotine strength without having to create multiple design versions.

Keep Count of Your Products with Consecutive Number Labels and Serialized Barcodes

Sometimes you need to have a way to identify your individual products. Serialized barcodes and serial numbers can make it easier to keep track of products, equipment, or anything else that can use a label. Through variable printing, you can systematically add these numbers without having to create individual designs for each product or writing serial numbers on products by hand.

Find a Variable Data Label Printing Company

Before you can take advantage of variable data printing, you’ll need to work with a label printing company that has the right technology for the job. Thanks to our state-of-the art HP Indigo digital print engines and digital printing expertise, we can help you use variable data to make intriguing, high-quality labels for your products. Contact us today to talk to one of our experts about a variable data printing project for your company.