Branding, Design, Innovation, Retail Brands, Technology

Smart-Packaging: Is The Future Of Packaging Interactive?

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Smart Packaging

Smart companies have been utilising innovative and exciting packaging as part of their consumer product experience for a long time now, but recent developments in commercially accessible technology mean that things are about to get very interesting.

Many of us will know the giddy excitement that comes when we are eagerly tearing at the packaging of a product, practically salivating at the prospect of getting our sweaty mitts on the treasure contained within. With a well-integrated brand with well-designed and coherent packaging, seeing the packaging and holding it in your hands will intensify that excitement tenfold.

Think about the sleek, all-white modernism of Apple packaging and the way it makes you feel about the product you are about to open. Would it be the same sense of anticipation that you are about to have your very own piece of the future in your hands if the phone came to you in a no-descript, brown cardboard box?

What if the packaging contained more than just the product though? What if the packaging became an interactive consumer experience?

Packaging Innovations

The world of science and technology is beginning to have a noticeable effect on the world of packaging, both in terms of improving durability and safety as well as making the box that a product comes in an interactive part of the consumer experience.

In 2011, the BBC reported that researchers form Strathclyde University were developing a kind of ‘intelligent plastics’ that can be used for food packaging. The basic idea is that the packaging will actively change colour in reaction to the depreciation in freshness of the food. The hope is that this kind of innovation will allow consumers to substantially cut down on the amount of food they waste, which is estimated to be around to be around 1.3 billion tonnes (or about the a third of all the food produced each year).

Similarly, initiatives like the Disappearing Package project are spearheading the use of inventive packaging materials and designs to reduce the environmental impact of packaging. The project features such genius ideas as packaging for soap that dissolves completely in water and a kitchen roll package design which only leaves a strip of printed paper at the end.

Other crazy materials that are likely to revolutionise the face of product packaging are fungal foam, aerogel, stone paper and water soluble glass.

But what about the other side of the coin and the possibility of ‘smart’ packaging being used to create an interactive and more inclusive branded customer experience? Well, the key to this is the on-going adoption of augmented reality…

Augmented Reality and ‘Smart’ Packaging

Augmented reality has been kicking around for a few years now, eliciting gasps of amazement from consumers and excited pronouncements about the future of product promotion from marketing gurus around the world. For those not yet on board the bandwagon, augmented reality is a process by which consumers can use smartphones and tablets to add computer generated inputs onto the live view of the physical world provided by their cameras. Some video demonstrations are likely to get the idea across much more efficiently than words ever could.

You may be starting to cotton to the incredible potential of augmented reality for marketing, but recently people have begun to extend the technology to the actual packaging of the product. For many people, using augmented reality to turn the once humble product package into an interactive wonderland of brand and company information, games, competitions, videos, product information and extras.

Take for example, the use of augmented reality by Nestle to turn normal, everyday cereal boxes into gaming devices and Lego offering visual representations of what the finished model will look like.

The clear way that augmented reality features on product packaging can help a brand is through increased consumer engagement with the company. It is not unreasonable to assume that customers will form a greater attachment to your products if you use augmented reality in a way that is suitable and coherent with the message you are trying to put forward.

Let’s say you were buying a gift for your child on their birthday; you are likely to be confronted by a gaggle of boxes for different products, all featuring ecstatic looking children, bright colours and action shots of the product in question. It can be difficult for a grown adult who no longer plays with toys to work out the difference between these products and decide which one is best suited for the child in question. Now, what if one of the boxes had an augmented reality that allowed you to bring up a 3d representation of the toy so you could see exactly what it looked like, would this help you to make your decision? More importantly from a marketing perspective, which product is the customer going to trust more, the ones that only have a photo on the front of the box or the one that offers customers an accurate, warts –and-all representation of their product? The deal is made all the sweeter if the packaging contains other features such as videos showing the toy in action or instructions showing the parent how quick and easy it is to assemble.

This is the way in which augmented reality is likely to change the way we view packaging in the future. Instead of simply being a container for our products that’s value is exhausted once said product has been removed, the product packaging becomes an integral part of the buying experience and one of the chief ways companies can communicate information to their customers.

How Close is the Future?

The future of ‘smart’ packaging is very much right in front of our faces, or at least just around the corner. However, it is dependent on two main factors. The first is the continued widespread adoption of smartphones with the ability to make use of augmented reality by mobile phone users. This seems to be a steady process, with the percentage of smartphone users rises every year as they become more affordable and older models are phased out.

The second factor is the ‘big bang’ moment where one company, or a group of them, makes use of the technology in such a way as to completely redefine the realm of the possible with regards to the use of augmented reality. This is the piece of the puzzle that both industry watchers and consumers are waiting for with baited breath.

 

What do you think about the use of augmented reality on product packaging, is this the future or is it all just a fad?
 
 
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James Duval

Tech & Business Editor at GKBC Inc
I am a freelance IT technician, a business and tech editor at GKBC and a regular writer about the way that business and technological innovations interweave in the modern world.
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