Stickers Versus Custom Packaging

The advantages of using custom printed boxes are pretty obvious but labels offer some advantages as well.

Launching a new subscription box is filled with many challenges and decisions that may determine the profitability if not the long term viability of your program.

One of the first choices you will have to make is how to best communicate your brand to your consumer/subscribers. You came up with a great, memorable name and you engaged a graphic artist to create a unique eye catching logo for your web site but you may discover your logo is not very “packaging friendly”.

Why is my logo a problem?

We have answered that question many times because most graphic artists today, do almost all of their work for the internet. They create marvelous images for your web page, blog or newsletter but many have virtually no experience creating images for packaging. That is not a fault but it is a reality because not every image created for the web can be duplicated using a flexographic print process which is the process used to print most packaging products.

In addition to potential problems with ink traps (color overlap where two colors meet), flexographic printing requires one print plate for each color. That can be prove very costly if for example, your onetime print plate cost is $500 per color and your graphic artist created a logo with a virtual rainbow of colors. You can see the obvious benefit of keeping it simple. You end up with a better looking product at a lower overall cost.

Am I ready for custom printed packaging?

This is usually the very first question, I encourage people to ask themselves. Sadly, and keep in mind this advice is coming from a guy who sells custom printed packaging for a living, the answer is frequently no. Unless a startup has very deep pockets and/or is absolutely sure about the size and amount of packaging they will need, I typically try to discourage anyone from making the large commitment in print plates and box inventory before they are truly ready.

My suggestion is usually to start out with one of ours or someone else’s stock boxes and accomplish branding with a custom printed label that can be quickly produced on an as needed basis. They can then later make the shift to printed boxes when reaching 300 to 400 subscribers per month because at that point, they have usage history that helps them avoid serious and costly errors. With even minimal history, in terms of size and usage, you can produce packaging able to satisfy your needs for the long haul.

What are the advantages of using labels for your boxes?

The advantages of using custom printed boxes are pretty obvious but labels offer some advantages as well. These include:

  • Unlike boxes (flexographic printing process) labels are typically printed with ink jet printers. That means no print plates are necessary, lower minimums and no inventory.
  • Ink jet printers can usually reproduce any image you or your graphic artist can come up with. Multiple color combinations are possible at minimal up front cost.
  • Label stock can vary from clear to colors and an endless variety of sizes and shapes. High gloss finishes are possible, which is not an option when printing on most corrugated boards with most inks.

In most cases I only suggest labels as a temporary solution until volume increases to a point when the brand owner is able to justify the cost of preprinted boxes. Labels are NOT inexpensive and neither is the labor to apply them so what is possible and makes sense when you are packing 200 boxes per month, will become a major cost and headache when the volume increases to 2,000 subscribers per month.

This is probably a good problem to have but the good news is that there is a solution to every problem at every stage of your business growth. All you have to do is seek the right resource that understands your business and the experience and products to help you accomplish your objectives.

This post was contributed by Dennis Salazar of Salazar Custom Packaging

Dennis Salazar already had over thirty years of packaging industry experience when he and his wife/partner founded Salazar Packaging, 2007, a company focused on eco-friendly, branded products. Since then they have helped launch well over one hundred subscription boxes for companies like Harry’s, Warby Parker, Plated, and others including Green Kids and Conscious Box. Dennis is also one of the most prolific writers in the area of sustainable packaging and branding with work appearing in many magazines and various blogs including his own blog, Inside Sustainable Packaging, which has been acclaimed by the green community as well as the packaging industry. We are pleased to have him contributing to


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About Jameson Morris

Jameson Morris is an entrepreneur and pioneer of Subscription Commerce. As a self proclaimed 'subscription box serial entrepreneur,’ Jameson has founded multiple successful subscription businesses, such as Conscious Box, Escape Monthly and Yogi Surprise.

13 Responses

  1. MsLady

    THIS IS SO AWESOME! We’re starting out with stickers as well. I think it also gives the customer the opportunity to see you grow.

  2. Daniele

    Would be really cool to have a real life comparison ( talking about raw pictures 😀 ) between custom packaging and sticker-packaging.

  3. Tony Ferrara

    Can you provide resources for the best places to find stickers or packaging options? Is it better to find a fulfillment center or outsource immediately?

    1. Check out this report:

      It has 8 sources for non-custom packaging. Some include packing-type materials that can be customized, like tape.

      Re: outsourcing, you should outsource when it makes financial sense for your business, and when you have enough customers to meet fulfillment minimums. I estimate that this usually occurs around the 200-500 customer mark.


  4. andie shaw

    Hello, In your post you mention that someone should start out with one of your stock boxes. How are we able to do this? Is there a place on the website to order the stock boxes so we can label them in our office?

  5. Luke Smith

    I like that idea of haveing a custom box when I get a delivery. I like to see where the box was from like Amazon, etc. Plus some of the designs are really clever.

  6. Antoinette

    I really love that you provide this service. Gives a business just starting out to test the waters before really jumping into a big investment! Also being able to grow with you an move into custom boxes makes me even more comfortable with the whole process. I can’t say enough how much I love this site and what you guys are doing here!

  7. You said that labels should only be a temporary solution. If I was going to get a custom box I would want to ask someone that I trust for assistance when I am designing the label. It might be useful for someone to do some research when they are trying to make a design.

  8. It’s good to learn about custom packaging. I didn’t realize that a lot of different in a logo would make the cost so expensive. So Amazon is smart with their boxes, since they only have black on them. That’s the best example I can think of!

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