Being noticed in a plethora of similar offerings, is a challenge that every marketer faces with his product. Ever noticed yourself flocking to buy a ‘Paper Boat’ drink, or to try the new ‘Indulekha Bringha Hair Oil Selfie Bottle’ just because it caught your attention on the shelf?
This is a prime example of unique product packaging designed with an unconventional and innovative approach, which not only creates brand awareness but also eventually helps to create brand recall in the long run. Technological advancements are nudging companies to keep pace with perpetual change, while consumer experiences demand brands to introduce new products in the market that are cost effective and also are profitable. As a result, one of the latest trends is resorting to unconventional solutions to help drive brand awareness, loyalty and consumer value. This is where Smart Packaging enters.
What is it you ask? Smart packaging is a next generation high-tech packaging solution which enhances packaging functionality via two methods – Active & Intelligent Packaging, also known as A&IP in the industry jargon. Active Packaging involves the manipulation of the packaging environment to better retain the antioxidants and antimicrobial properties of the contents – for e.g.: anti-germ coating which prevents mould formation, increases shelf life of the product, prevent malodour etc. Intelligent packaging goes a step ahead and communicates information to the consumer based on its ability to detect and record changes in the product environment – for e.g.: having a smart sensor on the packaging of a perishable product, which would change colour as soon as it senses the product’s expiry date.
Companies across the globe recognize the fundamental role packaging plays in introducing brands faster and at a budgeted cost. Let’s look at a few features and benefits of Smart packaging.
- It connects brands and retailers with customers, wirelessly.
- Incorporates links to websites, tutorials and other information which in turn improves brand interaction and adoption.
- Packaging with unique IDs enable products to be tracked from when the package is shipped to when it it’s opened and used.
- Temperature and humidity sensors can reveal whether products are being transported and stored correctly.
- They can help provide real-time product traceability. Soon, consumers will be able to use their smart phones to access wireless data linked to a specific package and learn about its shipping history, production information and other logistics related issues that might impact product quality
- Smart packaging offers more transparency between brands and customers, which is essential for retaining trust.
How can Smart Packaging be implemented?
- Smart Bar codes on the back of the product to incorporate more information onto the packaging. In 2011, Heinz used augmented reality to launch a digital marketing campaign to promote Tomato Ketchup as a cooking ingredient in a number of different recipes. They used a mobile augmented reality app to turn a ketchup bottle into a fully interactive recipe book viewable on a shopper’s iPhone or Android device.
- Connect packages to smartphones and cloud services in new ways so you can monitor conditions and behaviours and even address counterfeiting issues. Johnnie Walker, the famous whisky label did this by partnering with the Norwegian firm Thinfilm by incorporating a way by which age authenticity of the bottles can be determined. Further, OpenSense NFC tags integrated in the packaging are capable of connecting with smartphones.
- By offering a rich consumer experience while ensuring the use of smart technology. The most apt example is the HP Instant Ink cartridge replacement service. It includes microchips in its inkjet refills, which sends ink level information to HP. When the printer runs low on ink, replacement ink cartridges are shipped to the customer automatically.
- By creating an immersive and interactive sensory experience when the product is bought. Absolut Vodka bottles paired up with Shazam, the popular music recognition app for its limited edition Christmas bottles. The bottles featured a specially designed tag that had visual recognition technology integrated in it. When the tag was scanned using the Shazam app, the customers got access to free brand content which included recipes, trends in cocktails, and a giveaway contest.
Take advantage of hybrid approaches that integrate both technology and usefulness to attain better shelf life, while improving customer experiences. For instance, Michael Brandwin of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was able to synthesise a molecule (TZD) which has anti-biofilm properties that prevent the formation and duplication of microbes and fungi on the surface of fresh produce. Also, thanks to the research team at UC Berkeley, there’s a milk carton design that comes with smart caps that facilitate the detection of bacteria in spoilt milk. Users can shake the milk enough for it to splash on the cap, which has an indicator on the outside.
According to a market research report, the smart packaging market size is expected to reach $39.7 Billion, growing at a CAGR of 4.8% from 2014 to 2020.
As society continues to advance, the expectations of the consumer will continue to advance. The use of active and intelligent packaging will likely become more popular as more technologies make their way to the market and become more commonplace. Perhaps active and intelligent packaging will completely replace traditional packaging itself. And as Paul Gander of Food Manufacture Magazine states, “the trend is towards less packaging, and what there is will be more interactive. Whether 2020 will see packs which literally walk off the shelf is quite another matter” (Gander, 2007; Huff 2008; Maisanaba et al. 2016).