Quick Response (QR) and Augmented Reality (AR)

For some time now a whole range of consumer goods companies are introducing QR codes on their bottles, boxes or whatever they are using, with the aim to lure the (potential) consumer into connecting with a fancy website with animation about the product. An explosion in interactive packaging incorporating Quick Response (QR) or Augmented Reality (AR) codes is expected over the next couple of years.

QR codes, when scanned by a smartphone and code reader application, take consumers to a mobile site where they can interact with the brand in various ways, such as reading and submitting user reviews and getting advice for food pairing suggestions.

2D barcode

Although mainly used by marketing to trick the consumer to a website with promotional video, QR codes allow increased transparency for consumer packaged goods as the consumer can identify where the product’s ingredients came from, when they were harvested, and more, depending on what the company is willing to reveal to its customers.
Marketing seems to think that QR codes were developed for providing fun. The truth is that QR codes emerged as tool for traceability.

As usual with new technology in packaging the marketing boys and girls run away with it and make a mess so that many a packaging with 2D, QR or AR code is a big fail. A report, titled “Beyond the Label: Providing Digital Information Consumers Can Trust”, co-authored by GS1 and Capgemini, illustrates that although more than two-thirds of consumers want nutrition and ingredient information, and more than 30% of smartphone users have downloaded a 2D/QRcode scanning application, consumers get frequently let down, depending on where their searches take them and the incorrect product information often received.

QR code

Research shows that 91% of mobile barcode scans return incorrect product descriptions and 75% return no data. The report also cites that 40% of requests processed through a scan application cannot be authoritatively connected to a product.

And do you think the marketeers of brand owners understand the severity of this problem? The report claims that 38% of consumers will not purchase a product if they don’t trust the information they get on a smartphone, and 35% may stop using an app if they get the wrong information. So apparently not, as the QR and AR code are preferably used for fun videos, as if this is what the consumer wants to see.

The situation is even getting worse as the technology is enlarged with the introduction of the AR code.

Augmented Reality (AR) is a way of enriching everyday objects like books and packaging with multimedia information. All that is needed to enter this world of augmented reality is an Internet-capable smart phone with a camera and a previously downloaded software app. When the object is scanned with the camera, the phone immediately displays additional information, either about the product itself or something entirely different. This should awaken the consumer’s interest and help clinch the decision to buy the product.

Unlike its predecessor, the QR code, which was visible as a 2D barcode, AR technology is effectively invisible. Any logo or object can act as a trigger without any change being required to the original packaging design.

There are many recent examples of packages with QR and AR code. I just selected two, to illustrate the point that ‘fun’ seems to be the goal, while providing information to the consumer seems to be of secondary importance to the companies.

Coca-Cola and the QR-code
Coca-Cola, in partnership with Ball Packaging Europe, claims the latest 25cl cans to be a versatile accessory for young lifestyles, creating a mobile link between music and refreshment. In the Coke Sound Up campaign, cans printed with a QR code take smart phones straight to the Coke Music Portal.

The press-release states: “Can in one hand, smart phone in the other and music on the earphones-summer time, and the living is fun”.
Two new design motifs on the new 25cl Coca-Cola sleek can promote Coke Sound Up, a campaign launched by Coca-Cola in spring 2011. In cooperation with participating bands like Mando Diao, Coca-Cola plans exclusive once-only music shows in German cities where the details stay secret till the last minute. Drum and earphone designs deliver an immediate visual link-up to the musical experience. The latest campaign news is online at all times. Consumers can use the QR code printed on the cans to link directly to the Coke Music Portal: Simply scanning the code with the mobile phone’s camera takes the phone browser straight there.

Edeka Hessenring and the AR-code
The grocery chain Edeka Hessenring, also in partnership with Ball Packaging Europe launched a promotion campaign of a very special kind. The chain’s new Cool Cola-Orange flavour hit the shelves in 33 cl sleek cans from Ball sold in an innovative triangular six-pack from Smurfit Kappa Baden Packaging and with the help of an animated 3D animal character. Appealing mainly to the 12-18 age group, the promotion invites youngsters to let out the cartoon in the can and pose with it in photos on a smartphone. Buying one of the six-packs, or at least one of the cans, is the only way to join the fun.

A sticker on the triangular multipack draws attention to “das Sprudeltier” (Fizzy Beast), a cartoon animal character inside. Inside the pack are instructions showing how to let out the 3D animated figure. All it takes is a smart phone with the Junaio AR app. By pointing the phone’s camera at the design on the Cool Cola can, the cartoon figure poses in every photo taken with the camera. Friends can pose together with the apparently life-size figure. There is also an option to post the photos on Facebook.

That were the two. My comment of course is, that I miss the responsibility of the marketing people towards consumers. Do I object to fun animation in packaging? In no way, but I strongly advocate the inclusion of product information. That was why the codes were developed for in the first place. Animation is nice, but marketing boys and girls have to get a bit serious also. The consumer requires it.

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