“Packaging can be theatre: it can create a story.”
There’s some debate about whether this quote came from Steve Jobs or his chief design officer, Jony Ive. Whoever it was, we know what they meant. Apple’s trademark ‘built on simplicity’ marketing strategy primes us for the beautiful object hidden inside the box. So successful is Apple’s design philosophy – the brand’s story is told before you even get the box open to hold the product inside. Apple’s product design and packaging speak for themselves.
Of course, this means Apple’s brand story is figurative: a lot is left to interpretation with consumers making up the story based upon what they believe to see.
There is only one Apple. What the majority of the industry – the world’s consumers – is interested in seeing, feeling, touching is more literal.
Enter Connected Packaging
Connected packaging turns your product into an infinite canvas. As much content as you want; as much detail as you need. If It were practical or sensible, you could link to the collected works of Tolstoy through your soup packet or chocolate bar. There are literally no limits to the information, stories, content, ideas and mechanics you can share.
Building Brand Loyalty Through Consumer Engagement
Take Coca-Cola, who created a joined-up, engaging experience for purchasers of their Bundesliga Club-branded beverage cans throughout Germany. Each can was branded with one of the 18 Bundesliga Clubs. Users were prompted to scan a QR code, which linked to an online football game and a competition mechanic with football shirts offered as prizes.
For the user, the can and product were the gateway to a world of branded content. The initial contact – with the branded can – was a brand promise very much in line with Coca-Cola’s well-known international association with football, but the underlying tech delivered on that promise by offering both interaction and reward. In our demanding, connected world, a simple QR code scan with a smartphone camera enabled the brand to deliver instant gratification to delight its fans (with the added bonus to Coca-Cola of extensive and granular data on customer location and team loyalty). Just as the user received a tailored experience thanks to the “allegiance” of the can they scanned, so the brand received a detailed picture of everyone who interacted with the promotion. Rarely has an interactive, online game been able to offer so much depth and detail, and receive so much in return.
Of course, classic competition mechanics don’t work for everyone. Everyone loves a freebie, but some brands’ customers place more value on factors like: authenticity and provenance detail, for example.
Delivering End-to-End Product Transparency
Mowi is the world’s largest producer of Atlantic salmon. The launch of Mowi’s brand was based on a key promise: provenance. But because of Mowi’s complex and distributed supply chain, it was difficult to give its customers the level of detail and reassurance that those customers demanded.
The use of connected packaging solved this by creating a detailed picture of every egg, salmon and shelf-ready product. Each individual fish is tracked through the supply chain and its entire history is available to view, simply by scanning the unique code on the packaging. In seconds, the customer can see the complete provenance of the fish they are buyin: from where it was hatched, to its diet, to its size, weight and age, to where and when it was harvested for sale. Information that wouldn’t have fit on a package ten times the size is now instantly available in a simple, clear format: information that could only be tracked, collected and made accessible by an intelligent product cloud.
Connected packaging, then, offers a brand the opportunity to tell its own story – or, in Coke’s case, its passion through sponsorship – in more detail than has ever been possible. But what if your intention is to tell your story in a more oblique way?
Engaging Consumers and Brands in Recycling Initiatives
The French supermarket giant Carrefour faced exactly this challenge at its Spanish stores. The brand – like many of its competitors – was keen to show its support for recycling and its passion for reducing its environmental impact. It achieved this through a new app called Reciclaya, supported by a connected product cloud. Each shop at a Carrefour Spain store generated a unique code on the customer’s receipt. When scanned, the code sorted the contents of their shop into virtual recycling bins. By doing this, customers acquired points which could be redeemed for discounts on their next shop. By embedding a dynamic experience into the process of shopping, Carrefour’s ongoing recycling campaign rewards good behaviour and normalises the act of careful recycling, benefitting brands, customers and the planet alike.
Connected Packaging – An Infinite Canvas
Packaging is many things. It can tell the buyer about a business’ environmental credentials; it can persuade or grab attention. But never before has it been limitless. This is not simply smart businesses serving customers random content: it is a level of depth and detail that offers a genuine, fact-based connection with a specific product item. Consumer products, mass produced and distributed to dozens of countries and thousands of retail outlets, can now make a direct and dynamic connection with an indiviual buyer. And that connection can be handled and finessed in almost limitless ways.
To take a blue sky example: perhaps, as a brand, you aspire to tell your customers a detailed story in distinct chapters. Perhaps it’s a story of pure creation: a work of fiction delivered in sequential parts. Perhaps it’s linked directly to an ongoing and evolving event – a sports tournament, film festival or a piece of current affairs. The challenges associated with logistics, distribution and retail would hamper your ability to do this through packaging: it would be virtually impossible to guarantee that the correct parts of the sequence were all available at exactly the right time across hundreds or thousands of retail outlets. But by using connected packaging, your brand simply needs a single scannable code across all the products associated with the campaign. The timing of your chapters is managed behind the scenes. There’s no potential confusion for the user and no late nights or worry for the marketing, logistics or product teams. Instead, you simply tell the system when to update the story. All the consumer needs to do is to scan the code to see the correct part of the sequence. It doesn’t matter whether the product is bought in a petrol station, a corner shop or through the website of an international retailer: the user will see the content you want them to see.
Connected packaging brings something truly personal and connected to the macro-scale, infinitely complex worlds of production and logistics – and allows brands to add an entirely new level to the way they interact with their customers. Whatever story you have to tell; whatever need you have to deliver information, prompt behaviour or reinforce your brand identity, connected packaging offers an unprecedented depth, detail and simplicity. You choose the story. All your customer needs to do is scan.