Interactive Packaging With QR/AR-codes

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Future packaging innovation will go beyond the visual appearance of the packaging, beyond the specifics of the materials used and beyond the three-dimensional characteristics of its structure. Packaging will move into completely new areas.
Too often packaging is regarded as an illustration of graphic design, as top-notch show of vivid colours and printing techniques. But aside from being the bearer of relevant and essential product details and facts, the modern consumer sees the packaging now as a fundamental instrument in his purchasing process.

Therefore, with the incorporation of electronic devices, packaging is recognized as an important and unique step in the interaction between brands and consumers. Even better it’s an upgradeable functionality, making it the perfect marketing tool. And it goes even beyond that, as it’s also the perfect technology tool.

Asda launched roast-in-the-bag chickens The new line is part of Asda’s Butcher’s Choice range and uses FFP’s Estercook packs, which allow people to cook a whole chicken, from scratch, without ever having to handle the raw bird. The launch supports a campaign called ‘Love Your Leftovers’, aimed at cutting waste, for which each bag is printed with a QR-code for recipe ideas and on-line video tips.

Asda launched roast-in-the-bag chickens
The new line is part of Asda’s Butcher’s Choice range and uses FFP’s Estercook packs, which allow people to cook a whole chicken, from scratch, without ever having to handle the raw bird. The launch supports a campaign called ‘Love Your Leftovers’, aimed at cutting waste, for which each bag is printed with a QR-code for recipe ideas and on-line video tips.

When we talk about electronics in packaging, in general, the consumer thinks, we, the professionals are talking about QR-codes and the applications with a smartphone. Although the smartphone is an electronic device, the QR-code and its many possibilities for packaging, has nothing to do with electronics in packaging.
The QR-code just is a printed image on a packaging. Nothing special, except that it can be read/scanned by a smartphone and then start some interactive contacts. But that’s all and no electronics are built-in in the packaging to achieve this action. In my previous article I wrote about built-in electronics in packaging. Today I want to talk about QR- and similar codes, its usefulness and idiocy in packaging.

QR-Codes and Smart Phones
QR codes are providing a wealth of information for consumer brands, including expanded product information and costs savings in packaging, as products require less in the way of inserts or printed information. Complementary to this are the growing numbers of smartphones and tablets used by consumers to access and share information about products and brands. This behaviour shift has resulted in the emergence of “apps” that help guide consumer purchases and decision-making.

Smart Phone users can download an app which then unlocks the information of the QR code. In 2011 Mondelēz announced its partnership with app maker blippar, and last year, the candy giant licensed a barcode technology through the company NeoMedia, which provided additional information after scanning a QR code with a smartphone. In February Nestlé launched a similar digital scanning system, this time giving smartphone owners access to additional information on the product's nutritional profile as well as a sustainability assessment of its production.

Smart Phone users can download an app which then unlocks the information of the QR code. In 2011 Mondelēz announced its partnership with app maker blippar, and last year, the candy giant licensed a barcode technology through the company NeoMedia, which provided additional information after scanning a QR code with a smartphone. In February Nestlé launched a similar digital scanning system, this time giving smartphone owners access to additional information on the product’s nutritional profile as well as a sustainability assessment of its production.

Thanks to these “apps”, packaging with interactive, scan-able links not only continue to grow in search of information resources, but also enable a more fanciful contact between the consumer and the brand. This trend represents a further shift in the ways that brands effectively can engage consumers.

The interaction
Since the advent of the 21st century, “intelligent” packaging with QR (Quick Response) code, AR (Augmented Reality), and NFC (Near Field Communication) became commonplace. Read the article of Dr. Jay Singh in Packaging World: “Interactive Packaging”. Roughly one billion users have already downloaded a QR reader into their devices. As visual QR codes are easily created and merged into the packaging design many a CPGC (consumer packaged goods company) has included a QR code on its packaging label. They are great space-savers as they eliminate the need to have separate printing space for additional information.

Aurora Bites Pure Flavor mini peppers and Beefsteak Slicer Tomatoes feature a QR code to connect the consumers to the company's Pure Kitchen Cooking Blog for more suggestive cooking options and recipes. Communication portals are also listed to enhance consumer communication.

Aurora Bites Pure Flavor mini peppers and Beefsteak Slicer Tomatoes feature a QR code to connect the consumers to the company’s Pure Kitchen Cooking Blog for more suggestive cooking options and recipes. Communication portals are also listed to enhance consumer communication.

The consumer using wireless media can now interface with time- and location-sensitive personalized information that promotes goods, services, and ideas. Studies indicate that 79% of smartphone owners use their phones to help with shopping, from comparing prices to finding additional product info to locating a retailer, while 70% of smartphone owners use their devices while in a store.

Marketing ballyhoo
The current tour-de-force of the brand is to convince the customer to scan the QR-code and overcome his aversion as scanning QR-codes is not his preferred hobby. The success of this step depends on the question: “What incentive does the brand have for me, as customer, to scan the code?”

Peel-off recipe label links to baking video Giumarra Reedley’s Summer 2014 Plum Promotion: “Easy as Pie” stimulates consumers to do it themselves. The 2-lb resealable pouch features a peel-off recipe label and a quick-response (QR) code that links to the YouTube video “How to Make a Fresh Plum Pie” with baking instructions.

Peel-off recipe label links to baking video
Giumarra Reedley’s Summer 2014 Plum Promotion: “Easy as Pie” stimulates consumers to do it themselves. The 2-lb resealable pouch features a peel-off recipe label and a quick-response (QR) code that links to the YouTube video “How to Make a Fresh Plum Pie” with baking instructions.

And thus, before we all jump on the interaction bandwagon, let me give you a serious warning. Indeed interest in interactive packaging has been mounting in recent years, while it might be attractive in its ability to three-dimensioning packaging, it’s, however, a big question whether the consumer doesn’t see and experience it as more than a passing fad.
The technology bears the danger that the consumer sees the packaging as a short lived novelty, or a cheap gimmick, a part of the “marketing ballyhoo”.

Under-the-cap QR codes  Crown Closures came up with an idiotic idea. To enhance consumer interaction Crown incorporates the QR codes by using the billboard space under the cap. In other words on the interior of a metal closure used on food and beverage applications thanks to FDA-approved inks and printing technologies. And Crown Closures argues that brands can benefit from an additional platform to engage consumers in future purchases or encourage them to try different products from the same brand. The idiocy is that the consumer has to buy the product first, as the QR code can’t be read and thus experienced on the shelf. Crown thinks that the non-visible QR code will encourage the consumer to make the purchase, because he must be curious to see the code.

Under-the-cap QR codes
Crown Closures came up with an idiotic idea. To enhance consumer interaction Crown incorporates the QR codes by using the billboard space under the cap. In other words on the interior of a metal closure used on food and beverage applications thanks to FDA-approved inks and printing technologies. And Crown Closures argues that brands can benefit from an additional platform to engage consumers in future purchases or encourage them to try different products from the same brand. The idiocy is that the consumer has to buy the product first, as the QR code can’t be read and thus experienced on the shelf. Crown thinks that the non-visible QR code will encourage the consumer to make the purchase, because he must be curious to see the code.

The conclusion has to be that the brand has to be very selective in applying this technology in its packaging. In other words it only can be used when the packaging effectively guides the consumer into new or additional territories of use for the product.

It’s not surprising therefore that the QR-code is largely considered a marketing failure. Above that the reproduction of the QR-codes on a packaging is from a graphical point-of-view an absolute failure.

Visual appearance
All this codes, interesting to use they might be, have one big disadvantage as they aren’t visually appealing and often frustrate the high-quality printed graphics of a packaging. Fortunately if you thought the quick response (QR) code is the ultimate on-packaging consumer engagement vehicle, you are wrong. In the market of the moment there are several intriguing technologies in development that push past the square or linear worlds of QR and bar codes by layering in another aspect over functionality that’s lacking in most coding symbologies: visual appeal.

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One way this lack of ‘visual appeal’ is solved, is done with the Visual QR code, designed by Visualead. The technology takes the square and ubiquitous, if not unappealing, QR code and stands it on its head as a high-interest visual element that can complement a package design scheme.

The company’s image processing system creates QR codes that convert any image or graphic into functioning, aesthetically pleasing codes designed to engage consumers. Creating a Visual QR Code with the use of the company’s Visual QR Code Generator is promoted as easy and fast, taking less than a minute. The company has introduced the Gen 2 version of its code and is planning further refinements that increasingly immerse the code within the graphics design.

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Augmented Reality
With the QR-code, with or without an attractive appeal, largely considered a marketing failure, it is fortunate for the marketing boys and girls that AR (augmented reality) came along. AR doesn’t need a printed image as the app scans the actual product, which allows the “identity” of the brand to be recognized.
De combination QR/AR allows brands to show videos, recipes, coupons, games, and other interactive elements when a product is blipped. Be aware that AR needs a platform. The success of a platform is its ability to show return on investment, and the brands that use apps receive detailed analytics on what, when, and where customers are blipping.

From the point of view of the brand owner, this is an interesting opportunity to extend a brand into the consumer’s world, but it’s up to him whether he is able to interest the consumer for what’s behind the code. The PR benefits are priceless, but it still has to be proven what’s in it for the consumer.

New concept for lovers of good food and cooking Consumers are put off by the uncertainty of how to get the most value from fresh herbs and spices. After using it in one recipe, there is always some left which usually ends up in the fridge and then thrown into the rubbish bin. This waste is unwanted. The concept under the name Puro Aromo for fresh herbs, cress and other spices offers suggestions on the packaging: "What shall we do with the rest?" A QR-code on the packaging navigates directly to the Puro Aromo site for more advice and ideas, so the herbs are used as much as possible with the least chance of wastage.

New concept for lovers of good food and cooking
Consumers are put off by the uncertainty of how to get the most value from fresh herbs and spices. After using it in one recipe, there is always some left which usually ends up in the fridge and then thrown into the rubbish bin. This waste is unwanted.
The concept under the name Puro Aromo for fresh herbs, cress and other spices offers suggestions on the packaging: “What shall we do with the rest?” A QR-code on the packaging navigates directly to the Puro Aromo site for more advice and ideas, so the herbs are used as much as possible with the least chance of wastage.

The consumer world is full and almost overloaded with useless QR/AR applications, as companies seem to think that they might attract consumers with low-level animation and fun games. On the contrary, if the consumer good companies want to avoid a complete disaster with interactive packaging, they should concentrate on usefulness and the added value to the consumer. And that still can be fun.

Camus marks 150yrs with Elegance redesign Camus, the largest independent Cognac house launched a new clean-cut design for its Elegance range. Each bottle has a screw cap and a unique QR code, serving both as an anti-counterfeiting traceability system and providing consumers with an opportunity to further their knowledge and experience in real-time via a direct link to www.camus.fr.

Camus marks 150yrs with Elegance redesign
Camus, the largest independent Cognac house launched a new clean-cut design for its Elegance range. Each bottle has a screw cap and a unique QR code, serving both as an anti-counterfeiting traceability system and providing consumers with an opportunity to further their knowledge and experience in real-time via a direct link to http://www.camus.fr.

In the next edition of this article I will relate about two brilliant recent examples, both of very ordinary and well-known products. The marketing departments of these companies have been able to create a useful active (interaction) packaging in relation to special events.

4 responses to “Interactive Packaging With QR/AR-codes

  1. Anton, will you be at Interpack next week? Would like to connect…

    Sent from my iPad Ben Miyares Packaging Management Institute

    >

    • Ben, I’m very sorry, but I am tied up in Brazil at this moment and have no chance to go to Europe before September next. That’s too late I suppose, as you will be back in the US at that moment. A pity really. I should have liked to meet you.

  2. Anton, your comment on the Crown Closures under-the-cap codes seems a bit harsh. You mention that the code serves to “engage consumers in future purchases or encourage them to try different products from the same brand”, in other words, to cross-sell. Cross-selling is generally accepted as a post-purchase goal (the pre-purchase goal is to convince the consumer to buy this package, the post-purchase goal is to engage the customer, make them aware of other available products). Very often, we will put the cross-sell in a secondary space, such as on the instruction sheet, not on the package itself, so as to make the most of the available space.
    Regardless of whether or not consumers are actually interested in scanning QR codes (our research shows little user engagement, but that’s another discussion), the choice to put the code inside the package is a sensible one, given the information that the code is sharing.
    Note: my agency was not involved in this project, and these are my personal views on the matter.

    • Thanks for your comment. Harsh? No, not really. It’s time for the marketing boys and girls as well as the designers and agents to stop killing new developments in packaging. I know cross-selling and I see its goal, but using such a “fragile, sensitive and promising” development as QR/AR for cross-selling is asking for irritation of the consumer. You say it yourself: “our research shows little user engagement”. You forgot to add, “Thanks to the misuse of the technology by marketing people”.
      Have you ever seen a consumer opening a jar AND looking in the cap, whether there is anything of interest for him? The inside of a cap often is dirty and thrown away, before even thinking. A waste of resources and an irritation for the consumer, if he discovers later that he has missed something interesting. Even worse when he cleans the cap and discovers a QR/AR, which he has to scan (which he hates to do), leading him to nowhere. Trying to engage the consumer is alright, but using promising technology in the wrong way, creates aversion to that technology and is as such counterproductive, even incorporates the danger of rejection over the whole market place.
      Harsh? No, it’s time we start using our resources, technology and possibilities selectively and effectively. Let’s stop with the marketing ballyhoo and the inherent risk that the consumer sees (continues to see) QR/Ar as a joke/a fad.

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