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Decals vs. Stickers vs. Labels

Individual perusing a table filled with a variety of die cut vinyl stickers

Decals, stickers, and labels all have an adhesive backing designed to be applied to a surface of some kind. But these products have more differences than similarities. And using one for the wrong application can result in disappointment. In this post, we discuss the differences between decals, stickers, and labels. And we share use cases to illustrate how to put decals, stickers, and labels to work for your business.

Decals vs Stickers vs Label (side-by-side) infographic

What is a Decal?

Custom Clear Vinyl Decals

Decals make up a diverse category. As a general rule, decals are larger and more permanent than a sticker or label. The logo and lettering on the front window of your favorite coffee shop is a good example of a decal that you see often (if you enjoy a morning cup of joe on the way to the office). Directional signs applied on retail flooring are also examples of decals in action. 

Decals are made up of two layers: a special paper backing designed to make it easy to transfer the decal onto a flat surface, and the decal itself. Decals can be designed to be applied to many different surfaces, including glass, metal, or even a sidewalk. Unlike stickers or labels, decals are ordered in small quantities and are designed to last for three to five years, depending on the application. 

Best Uses for Decals

There are many uses for decals, but they typically are focused on advertising or information sharing. 

  • Signage —Businesses often use vinyl decals and those made of other materials for signage. 
  • Windows —Since decals can be made to scale, they’re often used to display logos and text on the interior or exterior windows and doors. 
  • Walls — Wall decals are another popular way to either advertise or add decorative touches to a space. 
  • Flooring and Sidewalks — Decals can be applied to flooring, sidewalks, and even parking lots.

Most decals are designed to stay in one place but some types can be moved around as needed, giving additional flexibility in how and where they’re used. 

What is a Sticker?

Branded circle stickers for Otherside Hemp on a roll

You’ve probably applied your fair share of stickers throughout your childhood and adult life. Stickers are popular with a wide variety of audiences. Stickers and labels are produced on similar equipment using similar materials, but there are some important differences. Many companies make stickers from a thicker, higher quality vinyl or film material than labels that is designed to be more durable. Since stickers are often subject to frequent exposure to the sun or moisture, many are coated with a UV and moisture-resistant coating to help them look good for longer. 

At Frontier, you can order not only vinyl stickers, but metallic, holographic, clear, Kraft, and more. We prefer not to limit the type of material customers can use for custom stickers because we want them to be just that: custom.

Stickers are produced with a paper backing that protects the adhesive until it’s ready for application. Stickers can be trimmed in two ways: die-cut and kiss-cut. Stickers produced using either cut style are identical as far as the sticker is concerned. But how they’re trimmed during production can affect how they’re used. Die-cut stickers are trimmed out to the exact shape of the die. Both material and backing are cut to the same contours as the sticker itself. With kiss-cut stickers, only the material is trimmed, leaving the backing untrimmed. Kiss-cut stickers allow the possibility of printing advertising or other promotional messages on the untrimmed backing that surrounds the sticker. They also make it easier for users to remove the backing. We use the kiss-cut method at Frontier.

Best Uses for Stickers

The most common business use for stickers is to promote a brand. Companies often include stickers in their product packaging to encourage customers to decorate water bottles, notebooks, laptop computers, or car bumpers with their branding. Stickers are excellent for generating word-of-mouth. Of course, stickers can also be used as a product in and of themselves. 

What is a Label?

Kraft Paper labels for Cheef Botanicals on a roll

The primary purpose of a label is to convey information about a product. Product labels are what consumers rely on to learn what they need to know about a product and to easily identify it on a shelf. Without labels, we’d be faced with rows of nondescript bottles and boxes on the store shelves. Product labels are also an effective way to advertise to consumers since they are ideal for featuring brand imagery and messaging. 

Product labels are generally designed to be thinner and less durable than stickers. They’re usually made from a BOPP or vinyl film that’s easier to apply during mass production than stickers. But labels can be made from a wide range of materials, including holographic, metallic, or Kraft paper finishes

Best Uses for Labels

Product labels serve a dual role. A well-designed product label attracts consumer attention and conveys information about what makes a product unique. An effective product label will communicate your brand’s personality in both the design and material used to create it. A product label also includes important selling points and any government-mandated information like that required by the FDA for dietary supplements.

Labels and Stickers and Decals, Oh My!

Not everything that sticks is a sticker. When it comes to decals vs. stickers vs. labels, there are important distinctions in how each is produced and in the materials each is made of. And each one has its own characteristics that make it ideal for supporting the marketing efforts of your business in a different way. Being knowledgeable about the differences will make your product design and marketing efforts more effective.

If you have any questions about label selection or printing, don’t hesitate to contact the Experience Team by phone or Live Chat! Our team is ready to serve your business with care and excellence.

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