3 Reasons why you shouldn't turn your UPCs into creative graphics
Updated: Feb 16, 2021
Maybe you've seen one – those super cute barcodes that incorporate a graphic.
While I agree that they can offer interest to an otherwise boring back panel, here are 3 reasons why you shouldn't be talked into putting one on your packaging.
1, You may risk a scan failure
When you're new to the world of bringing products to market, there are hundreds of ways you could lose all your profit margins. One such way is to allow your graphic designer to talk you into a customized barcode.
You may wonder why something so adorable as a clever graphic running through your barcode could be a problem but consider what's riding on your barcode. This is the very lifeblood of whether your product is going to scan at checkout. Why would you risk a scan failure after shipping hundreds, if not, thousands of units out to stores?
How could the UPC not scan, you ask?
Well, consider the manipulation that is being done to artwork in its vector format. How do you know if the designer hasn't touched or distorted the bars? Unless the artist can produce a scanner test, you will have to take their word that it checks out.
2. Who is going to pay for this mess?
So you've gone ahead and agreed to a creative barcode. It looks fantastic on the packaging and the designer was able to produce a scan test and it passed.
Skip ahead a month or two – your product is in a variety of retail stores and now subject to newer/older scanners and/or different scanner brands with different optic sensitivities and the barcode is starting to fail at some locations.
These stores are complaining that it's costing them time to manually type in the numbers and they're demanding you fix it or risk a delisting.
It's now become a clean up operation where you have to ship the product back to your warehouse to have a new barcode sticker hand placed onto each returned product to cover up the cute barcode graphic.
You're out the time, the labour costs, the shipping, and several thousand dollars or more and looking for blood. Who are you going to call? Well the designer, of course but he/she may not be willing or financially able to help you.
3. They don't add anything of real value
In the end, a barcode is far too important an item to take this sort of risk with. A customized code doesn't add anything of measurable value to the branding message and because they're usually placed on the back panel, are never going to be the reason why a customer will buy your product.
Creative barcodes have remained a novelty item in packaging design, likely for these reasons. You might want to think twice about putting one on your packaging as well.
The focus should be on your branding message, the design, and making sure the principle display panel is highlighting your best product features.
That's how you begin to build a loyal customer base, not with gimmicks.