Stickers vs. Labels – What is the Difference?


Is it a label or a sticker?

Is there anything more frustrating than ordering one thing, but receiving something else because of a misunderstanding with terminology?

I sell online, so I must have adhesive paper for the packages and parcels I post to my customers. But do I order stickers or labels? It’s an important question because they’re not the same, and the difference can affect my productivity


Here’s what they have in common.

  • printed paper, usually vinyl
  • one side is adhesive
  • can be any shape or size

But there are also major differences between them. I think of it like this. When I was a kid, I bought pre-printed stickers for my album. Sometimes they were loose, other times there were lots of them on a single sheet. They were colorful and cut to shape. I peeled off the back and stuck them on to the album’s smooth paper. I wasn’t a quick job, but with stickers, how they fit is important.

Now I’m older I see them used for branding purposes. There are small ones, such as those often shipped with electronic products. And there are big ones in commercial premises. Think of the Central Perk window logo in Friends.


So, what are labels if they’re not stickers?

The growth in online sales has seen the use of labels rise steadily, with no signs of it plateauing. Smithers Pira’s current report values the 2019 market at $41.0 billion, with average annual growth rates of 4.8% expected as far as 2024. For anything to show that level of continuous growth, it has to be special. And labels certainly are.

To start with, I can print on to them, unlike stickers, which I’d have to have professionally printed. Labels also have multiple uses. They can be used for:

  • the customer’s address
  • a barcode
  • mailing label
  • shipping label

Labels come in blank or pre-printed rolls. They peel easily, and the shape of the roll protects the labels underneath from unsightly marks that can affect the quality of the printed matter, which is usually achieved with a thermal printer.

Thermal printers are superior because they burn into the paper, unlike ink, which sits on its surface and is prone to smudging, distorting the content. It’s important to use the right printer with the proper labels. I always follow the supplier’s recommendation. It avoids costly and frustrating mistakes.

Quality is vital. Dymo 30256 labels are particular favorites of mine. Good quality labels send the customer the right message and lessen the chances of other issues. If the label ripples across a surface when it should be smooth, it’s in danger of coming off, leaving the courier with a blank package and no-one to deliver it to.

As well as sticking to multiple surfaces, including cardboard and plastic, some labels can also be peeled off. That’s especially useful if they adhere to the product. No one wants a customer to repeatedly wedge a fingernail between the label and the product, slowly peeling it away, leaving a residue of adhesive behind. It’s not a good introduction to their new product.

So, there it is, labels and stickers might be similar, but they’re not the same. Stickers are great for branding. Their strong adhesive keeps them in place and the thicker paper allows for more colors and designs.

Final Words

Labels are vital for anyone who posts regularly because they’re easy to use, produce clear and clean printed matter, and can be quickly applied to the product or package. And some versions can even be peeled off again.

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