The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Let’s start defining Active and intelligent packaging
Both active packaging and intelligent packaging involve functions, which go beyond the containment and protection of a product. The difference between the two is that while active packaging acts directly with the packaged product, by interacting chemically or biologically with it, the aim of intelligent packaging is to detect and communicate information about the condition of the product, without taking a direct action.
Packaging that is active and intelligent promises to extend shelf life, monitor freshness, improve safety and convenience. This is a market segment with huge potential for the future.

But it`s not what we will talk about today. Active and intelligent packaging ansich are for another day. Today is for “interactive packaging”, a derivative of the above.

As we can see from the definitions active as well as intelligent packaging has a serious goal to achieve. So what do we do with the fun side of the newly hyped connectivity of packaging, the side the marketing boys and girls get aroused with, which more often than not results in trespassing the consumer privacy in the most useless and ugly way.
Well, a lot of people like to call them: smart packaging, but de facto they aren’t smart at all (but smart packaging sounds so deliciously sappy) and it’s better to call them interactive packaging, a cheap derivative of active or intelligent packaging.
In other words the packaging can interact with the smartphone of the consumer for the goal to entertain them. In a good, a bad or an ugly way.

It’s in this smart packaging category where we find the bad and ugly and every now and then also a good one. In previous articles I have written about the ugly and ridiculous use of connectivity and warned for the backlash they might have on a brand. No reason for me to give a list of the bad and the ugly, as we try to dodge them on a daily basis. Just take a look at the image here below, and see what I characterise as bad and ugly.

The “glorious” introduction of the interactive Medea Vodka bottle as an “innovation” and mindlessly hailed by the international packaging media, must be classified as one of the “shameless” pollutions of this area. Brandon Laidlaw, founder of Medea Vodka, stated that “Our customers are thrilled the bottle can be personalized. People are eager to share the uniqueness of the bottle with friends and family”. But asked by, whether consumers aren’t ultimately more interested in the product than the packaging”, his answer showed a gross negligence of the primary interests of the consumer, as he responded with: “If that were the case, we would simply ask them to try our vodka”. This is typically one of those marketing stunts with a backlash.

May I remind my readers of a press release some time ago from Nestlé stating: “As technology is fundamentally changing the way consumers buy products and engage with brands, there is a need to create highly engaging and meaningful experiences online”.
The keyword here is “meaningful”

And Nestlé continues by saying: “They [the consumers] engage with brands they trust and those that allow them to make personal connections. Traditional one-way “push” advertising is a thing of the past”.
Here the keyword is “one-way “push” advertising is a thing of the past”.

Add to these statements that Gen-Z (the contemporary youth) and Gen-X (Millennials), together by far the largest demographic, like to keep it simple. And as they are overly busy and time-strapped, they have to be selective and aren’t interested in useless and time-wasting connections with websites, which they just see as a covert way to try to sell them crap they didn’t ask for.

But fortunately there also are some smart uses of the interactive packaging. Let’s have a look at some, which really serves a goodie to the consumer from which the consumer can benefit in a meaningful way.

Heineken GPS bottles
Heineken is probably one of the first, who used the possibilities of interactive packaging in a serious way.

In 2015 Heineken placed dozens of bottles ‘secretly fitted with a GPS system’ on green round bases in the most popular public places in the centre of Amsterdam. The compass mechanism in the GPS meant that once the holder started to walk, the bottle vibrated and the iconic red star on the cap lighted up and the cap itself began rotating. A tiny glowing spot on a point of the star guided the people through the city centre to various interesting locations around Amsterdam, taking them on a cultural and historical journey.

This idea aimed to attract visitors to the Heineken Experience, the brand’s branded museum, which sees some 750,000 visitors annually, mostly from the US, the UK, Italy, Brazil and Spain.

The last few years we have seen some interesting smart packaging applications with Coca-Cola. The most recent for its Romanian market is breath-taking in terms of packaging as well as marketing. Marketing boys and girls of collegial brands should take a page out of Coca-Cola’s book, to connect with consumers on a meaningful level, instead of using packaging only to grab the consumer’s attention and the “smart” part only to collect consumer data and consequently bombard the consumers with irritating messages they don’t ask for.

Let’s have a look at the Coca-Cola wristband action in Romania.

Coca-Cola wristband
Under the slogan: “Rather than use novelty techniques to catch a consumer’s eye, appeal to their interests and you may end up developing a deeper relationship with them”, Coca-Cola Romania and McCann Bucharest developed detachable Coca-Cola wristbands labels that doubled as music festival entry-ticket for some of the country’s hottest music events.

The created labels featured detachable wristbands with a unique barcode on each one. Fans had to scan a promotional barcode on the label with a smartphone app to see if their bottle was a valid ticket. For some lucky purchasers, the barcode revealed a major prize, i.E. tickets to one of the participating music festivals, including Untold, a large music festival in Transylvania.

To find out if a bottle of Coca-Cola is a winner, all the purchaser had to do was buy a bottle, download a special app, detach the wristband and scan the barcode. The wristband did more than just give consumers a chance to win tickets to a music festival, however.
The eight colourful designs are a hot commodity with Romanian teenagers, who collect festival wristbands as fashionable reminders of memorable summer moments.

In a press release from Coca-Cola, Gregory Bentley, packaging engineer at Coke’s R&D Lab in Brussels, explained the decision behind the material used for the wristband:
“Initially, the idea was for a fabric wristband incorporated into the label, but this proved too time consuming, expensive and complex to create. That is how we started developing the wristband made from our label and hot-melt glue. This solution seems obvious now, but you have to understand nothing like this has been done before, and we needed to investigate many alternatives before deciding on the most viable.”
Between selfies, trips to the pool, and of course, music festivals, the wristband had to hold up. Bentley goes on to explain the durability of the design:
“When I tried on the first sample for a quality check, the wristband stayed on for over three weeks in which time I ran the equivalent of nearly two marathons and travelled to Japan for a business trip.”

Packaging Perspective: There are a lot of ways a label can stand out, but an iconic brand turning a label into a fashion accessory while capitalizing on the interests of teenage consumers, is brilliant.

The wristband labels have reached 75% teens in Romania and resulted in an 11% sales bump. Coca-Cola Romania is developing a toolkit to scale the concept to other country teams.

Lucozade Tap-to-flow
As part of its summer marketing campaign, Lucozade, one of the top selling energy drinks in the UK, created bottles that offer commuters a free journey on the London Underground. Each bottle contained a contactless chip in its base that, when tapped on an Oyster card reader, offered the recipient one free journey on the underground.

Developed by The Big Kick agency in collaboration with NFC and payment specialists, Lucozade, one of the top selling energy drinks in the UK, distributed 5,000 NFC enabled Lucozade Energy Orange and Original 380ml bottles that provide Londoners with one free journey across the London Underground network, simply by tapping in and tapping out as they would with a contactless payment card or Oyster Card, thanks to a chip in the base that works like a contactless payment card at barriers.

The limited edition NFC bottles were handed to commuters and day-trippers alike at Oxford Circus station during ‘Whoosh Hour’ – a time-period during the day when Lucozade Energy will be helping busy Londoners find their flow. Commuters wanting to get their hands on one of the exclusive bottles needed to head to Oxford Circus. This is the first time in the UK an FMCG brand has delivered a contactless travel enabled product.

In the follow-up article (to be published Monday 26) we will see the Glenfiddich virtual reality whisky experience and how a Japanese e-commerce site allows customers to choose by aroma.


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