Branding products for shelves and physical distribution to retail outlets is inherently riskier than doing so online. I see funny things out in the world and web sometimes that reinforce this.

Packaged products from America often come with little stickers modifying text by the time they’re on Korean store shelves. Curiosity has led me to partially peel back several, and the alteration is often something like a ‘Great taste!’ sticker hiding buzzwords like ‘Low-fat’ or ‘All Natural’, or in my bathroom, a small color-matched sticker significantly changes the outlook of my moisturizer on life, from a ‘facial recovery accelerator’ to the more hopeful ‘facial accelerator’.

Beyond stickers, I was reading a thread over on Reddit the other day where a product had it’s label and presumably also contents changed, with a ladies’ underarm care product canister being filled with shoe deodorizer. I would hope that the contents are different, as I’m not sure I’d want 99.9% of the bacteria in my armpit to be eradicated. That would be bad, right? Here’s another example of a wrap on a printed can, which someone said was because of a shortage of Arnold Palmer cans.

While you might run out of packaging or product online because demand and inventory re-stocking times could vary due to supplier issues, miscalculations, etc., the sticker problem is one that is mostly alleviated on the web, where gradual, small changes are unlikely to jar users. This is a known thing in web design, though it isn’t always the best approach. However, I can say that it does work wonders sometimes. I’ve used eBay since 1999 and just look at their site then and now. I can guarantee that the current design encourages users to click around and buy more stuff, which means more commission for eBay. It happened gradually; I can’t recall ever being taken aback by the site looking really different, yet here we are. (There have been UX and policy changes that I’ve noticed, but that’s another story!)

When we make copy and packaging for offline channels, we must be even more vigilant about fit and finish. The better it is, the less money and time we’ll need to spend on alterations, and the healthier our operations will be.