Connected Packaging: Brands’ Most Powerful Marketing Channel

When seafood company Mowi wanted to bring more transparency to its business model, it found a solution that lay not outside the box – but on it. 


Mowi’s challenges were twofold. Getting a sustainability message out while cutting through the crowded marketplaces of digital, print and on-air advertising; and proving its eco-friendly chops amid countless brands’ similar claims. 


Connected packaging provided a way for Mowi to address both challenges. A unique QR code placed on every Mowi product item instantly links consumers to real-time product data collected via a unique EVRYTHNG Active Digital IdentityTM (ADI) managed in the EVRYTHNG Product Cloud®. Consumers simply point their smartphones at the QR code on the Mowi package to access item-specific provenance information on their fresh seafood products – where the fish inside came from, where and when it was caught, where and how it was processed and packaged, and how it reached the retail shelf.


Hook, line and shopper

Connected packaging also created a direct and dynamic line of communication between Mowi and its consumers. No longer can unpredictable third parties interfere with the connection between a brand and a consumer. This includes the interface, algorithm and demands for content optimisation (here’s looking at you, Google, Facebook and co). Instead of grabbing a potential customer’s attention while that consumer is disinterestedly scrolling on their phone, Mowi can now interact with them when the consumer is engaged and actively looking for relevant information. 


Yet much like a dynamic digital ad, messages between a brand and a consumer can now change situationally. This is made possible through the product item’s unique ADI, as well as the constantly-updating intelligence within the Product Cloud. Consumers now receive fresh, compelling experiences with each scan of the product item.


If the packet of salmon is still on a supermarket shelf, the code might direct the consumer to the salmon’s origin story – reflecting the consumer’s interest in sustainability information and brand transparency at the time of purchase. If the package is scanned again after purchase by the same person, it might direct them to recipe suggestions and nutritional information. If the package is  scanned close to the salmon’s sell-by date, it could provide safety information or recycling tips. 


Crucially, the line of communication can stay open and adaptable, for as long as the product remains in existence. 


Packed with potential

Mowi’s connected packaging story is just one example of the revolution in physical packaging since packaging met the Internet of Things. No longer just an opportunity for companies to send consumers to a generic website, sign-up form or payment page, the transformative power of scannable packaging – whether through a QR code, NFC, Bluetooth or other tagging technology – lies in the ability to connect to sophisticated cloud-based intelligence such as the Product Cloud. This allows customers to get genuinely personalised, exciting and useful experiences from connected packaging. 


Beyond fish, an ADI can tell the stories of any consumer goods product. A jacket produced in Southeast Asia. A pair of shoes made in Italy. A bag of coffee grown in Colombia. It could be one of the 1.9 billion bottles of Coca-Cola that are purchased by consumers around the globe each day. 


And it’s not just sustainability a consumer might be interested in – consider growing consumer demand to know the working conditions of people along the manufacturing line, the materials used in a product, the authenticity of an item, and so much more.


A two-way street

Of course, the first step for businesses is convincing consumers to actually scan items, ideally multiple times. Doing so is underpinned by a combination of market research, strategy, design and copywriting. Long-term use of QR codes can only be cemented if consumers find value in the experience – information on sustainability and recycling, unique discounts, loyalty programmes, tutorials, or any one of the infinite other opportunities for personalisation. And of course, we are reminded that consumers’ use of QR codes has been boosted by the public’s increased use of scannable codes during the COVID-19 pandemic.


A key benefit brands receive from this direct-to-consumer marketing channel, and arguably the most important one, is the near-unparalleled level of engagement the consumer has with the brand. Consumers are asking brands to tell them something specific and/or unique about digitized product items while holding the item in hand. In turn, brands are able to interact with consumers in a way not possible through social media, advertising, or websites. Making connected packaging even more popular as part of a brand’s business strategy is that this direct-to-consumer media channel comes without any additional ad spend. 


As the general public becomes more comfortable with scanning codes on products, brands are able to learn more about their customers – where they are located, how engaged they are with a product item, what time of day they engage, how often they engage, and more. Further brands can identify whether a customer is a new or repeat purchaser – personalizing the on-pack experience accordingly. The value of this data set grows over time, as customers make repeat scans and provide more information about who they are and how they use the product.


The value for the business is in the accessibility and useability of the data collected through the product – ultimately informing business and marketing strategies with real-time intelligence.


New-look retail 


In its 2021 Retail Industry Outlook, Deloitte advised brands to “embrace technology and redesign the retail journey,” specifically by “leaning in on their digital, omnichannel and in-store technology ambitions.” That’s because consumers are increasingly fickle when faced with overwhelming choice, the ease of online browsing and the closure of many brick and mortar stores. Those old marketing cornerstones – building a community around a product and increasing brand exposure – are truly more valuable than ever.


This is the promise of social platforms – and they have delivered quite successfully.  But to say social channels are now saturated with brands would be an understatement.


Connected packaging achieves the same goals set for marketing platforms like social media but without the constraints of third-party media owners or the need to share valuable data. When connected to the Product Cloud, scannable codes present businesses and brands with the greatest opportunity to talk directly with consumers since packaging itself, in all its simplistic printed glory.

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