The following factors may impact labelling:

  • Labelling laws vary from country to country and do not seem to follow any set pattern. For example, every country has its own local labelling regulations which specify the type of information that must appear on particular products, e.g. the name of the manufacturer, the country of origin, the product’s weight or volume, a description of the contents, the product’s ingredients or special information regarding additives, and chemical or fat content. In certain countries prices are required to be printed on the labels while in other countries, it is illegal to give any indication of the retail price on the packaging. A country using the metric system will probably require that all weights and measurements appearing on packaging also conform to the metric system.
  • Some countries, such as Belgium, Canada and Switzerland, which are multilingual, require that labels be printed in more than one language. Other countries, however, forbid the use of foreign languages on label.
  • Government regulations aside, a manufacturer requires that the label on its product communicate information to its customer and facilitate the correct use of the product. This should encourage initial and repeat purchases and promote consumer satisfaction. It is therefore essential that the information on the label be conveyed in the language of the market. An exception might be the marketing of, say. French perfumes or cosmetics, where the use of certain French words or phrases helps to give the product a sophisticated image.
  • Where a great deal of information must be conveyed to the customer, e.g. in the case of technical products or certain drugs, the label may contain a brief description in one language, but this should be supplemented by a detailed multilingual leaflet inserted accompanying the package.
  • Occasionally, a company may use multilingual labels for several countries (e.g. the EU) in order to reduce costs. This is acceptable if a multinational image is likely to impress a customer. In general it is more beneficial to incur the additional labelling costs that will ensure a unique national image.
  • Special attention should always be given to the correct translation of brand names. Coca-Cola’s experience in China demonstrates the negative effects of errors made in this regard. When the company first set up manufacturing facilities in mainland China, translators chose characters that sounded like Coca-Cola but which to the Chinese actually read “Bite the wax tadpole”?
  • Cultural differences influence design aspects and should be taken into consideration when instructions in the form of pictures or symbols are provided on product labels. Symbols can often be misinterpreted in the market place. A six-pointed star used in one company’s trademark, for example, created product resistance in the Middle East where the star was seen to symbolise pro-Israeli sentiments. In another case, yellow flowers used in a trademark resulted in rejection of the product in Mexico, where a yellow flower means death or disrespect.