Before & After: Elmer's Glue


The famous Elmer's glue bottle has just been redesigned:

The folks at Elmer’s Products are calling it a facelift. “A tiny nip here, a minor tuck there,” they say in a company brochure describing the new look for Elmer the Bull and the line of wood glue products he represents. The market leader in wood glue, Elmer’s could have easily said, “It’s not broke, so why fix it?” and continued with the packaging that served it well for 60-plus years.

But being No. 1 in any business means adapting and innovating before the competition. That’s what Elmer’s is doing by changing to a stylish offset neck bottle design wrapped in an eye-catching shrink-sleeve label made from Eastman’s Embrace™ resins.

“Our existing product hadn’t been touched forever,” says Brian King, vice president of marketing for Elmer’s. “The design was old, it was unattractive and it didn’t have any visual impact at the point of purchase.”

This paved the way for Troy Reed, manager of core products for Fort Dearborn, a supplier of decorative labels for consumer product companies. Reed identified the glue market as ripe for change and Elmer’s as most likely to be the change agent.

“In the glue market, basically everybody copies Elmer’s,” says Reed. “So this was a way for Elmer’s to differentiate itself and keep the Elmer’s name out there as top-of-the-line industry leader.”

Using high-shrink Pentalabel® film made from Eastman Embrace™ resins by Klöckner Pentaplast, the bottles are completely wrapped from the neck to the base. “We’ve got more space to communicate information consistently across the product line,” King says. “We can now communicate the important benefits of the different types of wood glue. “It’s easier to shop because the graphics are easier to read and identify the differences between the products. When you get home, the new bottle design is easier to hold and use.”

While the bottle’s offset neck makes it easier for consumers to use, it posed challenges in the label design. Shrink distortions varied considerably, with 16-ounce bottles requiring up to 70 percent shrinkage. “The larger the container, the more challenging,” says Reed. “There’s so much more film to shrink over the bottle.”

In addition to producing the shrink-shrink labels, Fort Dearborn arranged for an interim packager, Verst Group, to hand apply the labels while Elmer’s regular contract packager, Matrix Packaging, retooled its machinery to automate the process.

“The promise of what shrink sleeves can do and, then, applying it to a uniquely shaped bottle was interesting,” says King. “We questioned whether the design was even possible. But Fort Dearborn knows the technology and helped us get the results we wanted.”