Stickers, Stamps, or Custom Packaging

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Launching a new subscription box can be 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’ll make is how to best communicate your brand to your subscribers. Though you hired an artist to create an eye-catching logo for your website, you may discover that logo is not packaging-friendly.

Why is my logo a problem?

Because most graphic artists today do digital work, they may not consider how their designs translate to a physical product. They can create marvelous images for your webpage, blog or newsletter, but many have no experience creating images for packaging. This can pose a problem because not every image can be duplicated using flexographic printing –– the most common process for customizing boxes.

Flexographic printing requires one print plate for each color. If your one-time print plate costs $500 per color and your logo has a virtual rainbow of colors, it will cost you a lot. Keeping a logo simple will give you a better-looking product at lower overall cost.

Do I feel ready for custom-printed packaging?

This is the very first question I encourage people to ask themselves. Honestly, the answer is frequently no. Unless your startup has deep pockets, we recommend waiting to order print plates or a large box inventory.

Think about starting out with a Cratejoy stock box at BoxUp and accomplishing your branding with a custom-printed label or stamp: these can be produced quickly on an as-needed basis. Later, when you reach 300-400 subscribers a month, you can make the shift to custom-printed boxes.

Tip: BoxUp offers Cratejoy sellers 15% off their first order of boxes and 5% off for life!

At that point, you’ll have a usage history that helps you avoid serious and costly errors. Then, you’ll have a good sense of size to produce packaging to satisfy your needs for the long haul.

What are the advantages to using labels for your boxes?

Image: Busy Bee Stationery

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

  • Unlike boxes that require flexographic printing, manufacturers create labels using inkjet printing. That means no print plates are necessary, they have lower minimums, and you don’t have to worry about inventory.
  • Inkjet printers can usually reproduce any image you or your graphic artist come up with. You can order multiple color combinations for minimal cost upfront.
  • Label stock can vary from clear to colored and comes in an endless variety of size and shape. High-gloss finishes are possible as well, which is not an option when printing on most corrugated boards. This allows you to jazz up the look and feel of your package.

If you’re just launching your subscription service, we suggest labels as a temporary solution until volume increases to a point when you can justify the cost of preprinted boxes. Labels are not inexpensive and neither is the labor to apply them. What makes sense for you when you’re packing 200 boxes/month could become a major headache when you’re at 2,000.

What are the advantages to using custom stamps for your boxes?

Image: Scribbler

While it may appear less “exciting” than a sticker or customized box, stamps definitely have their pluses as well.

  • Purchasing a customized stamp can save you money in startup costs while maintaining your branding. You’ll only have to buy the stamp once, after all!
  • It can give off a “DIY” or “gritty” vibe that emphasizes artisanal curation. This can work well for “domestic” subscriptions, like niche food products, bath and beauty, or stationery.

Some of the more successful merchants on the Cratejoy Marketplace have done well with customizable stamps, like Scribbler and Match Made Coffee.

Scribbler says: “We purchased blank boxes through Lumi for the first three months at $1.10 per box (that included shipping), and also bought a large typewriter stamp through Lumi. We paired it with custom tape through Sticker Mule. It looked like a custom box, but cost much less ($1.15 in total with box, stamp ink, and custom tape).”

Lumi is no longer producing rubber stamps, but there are plenty of alternatives. Zazzle and Vistaprint offer a wide range of stamps starting at under $10, and they’re easy to use; just upload your logo/image and the site will do the rest of the work for you. (The latter also lists recommendations on how to utilize each stamp, if you’re unsure about what size to order.) Simply Stamps and Holmes Custom offer custom logo stamps in a variety of sizes and shapes starting at $19.95. Alternatively, the offerings from RubberStamps start at $2.99 and include embossers as well as traditional stamps.

The Bottom Line

While this may be overwhelming, there is a solution to problems at every stage of your business growth. Just remember to seek for resources that understand your business, the experience, and products to help you accomplish your objectives.

This post was contributed by Dennis Salazar of Salazar Custom Packaging.

Dennis Salazar had over thirty years of packaging industry experience when he and his wife/partner founded Salazar Packaging for eco-friendly, branded products in 2007. Since then they have helped launch over 100 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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