Have you ever noticed a QR code on the milk carton, wine bottle or yoghurt pot? If you scan it with your smart phone camera – it will take you to a connected experience where you will find product information, discount codes, competitions and interactive games or virtual reality experiences.

Effective packaging

This article is part of a series of articles from the WARC Guide to effective packaging.

Connected packaging leverages QR codes, barcodes or image recognition, through a browser-based app, to connect consumers to relevant content and experiences. It could be a questionnaire or a simple game. This technology enables brands to extend their conversations with customers through the packaging, to establish a stronger brand presence and gather valuable insights to better understand their customers.

In fact, according to a recent report by Data Bridge, the global connected packaging market is expected to grow at a growth rate of 7.4% in the forecast period of 2020 to 2027, to USD 31.94 billion by 2027. The connected packaging market is growing as it can increase brand value and help to connect brands and their products directly to customers.

Connected packaging aims to transform simple packaging into digital experiences, through a single mobile phone tap on a QR code. From educating customers about a particular product or brand and encouraging loyalty, to entertaining and engaging them, connected packaging is able to deliver tangible outcomes. It offers brands a way to collect valuable data and interact directly with their customers to inform future marketing campaigns. Here we discuss the reasons why connected packaging is valuable and how brands can make the most out of it.

Connected packaging can provide brands with valuable customer data

First-party data is valuable for brands. People are becoming increasingly privacy-wary, major browsers have restricted third-party cookies and intermediaries like supermarkets sit between FMCG brands and their consumers. Connected packaging has introduced a new way for brands to engage directly with customers through digital experiences, as well as collect data during the process. This enables brands to have a deeper understanding about their customers and means marketing messages can be optimised, targeted and tailored.

Remove all barriers to entry

Connected packaging? Gamification? You are probably thinking about app-based experiences that are not affordable or too complicated. In fact, regardless of how time consuming and expensive it is to develop an app, customers are less willing to download a brand app, which requires data to download and takes up space on their phone.

But connected packaging can be for everyone. Digital experiences can be as simple as creating a series of QR codes and hosting a virtual experience on a browser, depending on what you are looking to achieve. No time-consuming downloads needed.

Boosts education and brand awareness

Connected packaging creates experiences that educate customers about the brands and the products, which results in a brand awareness boost.

For example, Appetite Creative works with Tetra Pak, the multinational food packaging and processing company. From QR codes on the packaging to an eco-themed mobile quiz, the activity educates customers on Tetra Pak’s environmental impact and its sustainability work. Not only do customers understand Tetra Pak’s approach to sustainability and the environment, but the campaign also allows the company to collect customer data including the location of QR codes scanned, time, day, size of the package purchased, even the store itself.

Additionally, we are able to link together pieces of data and understand which brands are more recycling conscious, which regions of the country or countries as a whole are more educated around sustainability. Not only do these experiences help educate the audience, but also the brands in how to position their messaging.

Boost engagement and brand loyalty

Through connected packaging, customers are engaged in the entertaining and rewarding connected experiences, from games and quizzes, to videos and recipes, sometimes even pledges. They are rewarded through discount codes for future purchases. The engagement leads to a deeper connection between customers and brands, as customers appreciate being involved and understood, and come back for more. In fact, according to a study in 2018, customer brand engagement does have a positive influence on brand loyalty.

Heinz, the Ketchup brand, is also one of the pioneers using connected packaging. In 2012, it launched its “Join the Growing Movement” campaign. Customers were able to scan the QR code on the packaging – a bottle made from up to 30% renewable material derived from sugar cane. They were then led to a special app which invited them to make simple changes to their daily routines and encourage more environmentally responsible living. For each pledge taken and shared on social media, Heinz would help plant a tree. Not only did it show consumers that Heinz was becoming more eco-conscious, but it was also very engaging and customer-centric. As a result, Heinz planted 57,000 trees, and the campaign was a massive success.

Drive revenue

The digital experiences in connected packaging, whether it’s a quiz or a game, often involve vouchers as prizes. Customers are incentivised to spend more with coupons or discount codes, which in turn ramps up revenues for companies.

Bacardi, the spirits brand well-known for its white rum, was looking for some extra help to make a lasting impression on customers in 2019. In response to Bacardi’s challenge, Appetite Creative created a gorgeous looking, rum shack experience in conjunction with Shazam. The app included a host of engaging activities offering a chance to win a bottle of Bacardi or a voucher to redeem a mojito in participating bars. As a result, 12 bottles of rum were given away and over 900 mojitos. Users were immersed in the Bacardi brand throughout the customer journey online and offline. While having free drinks, people consumed other Bacardi products and built brand loyalty along the way – revenue was driven up as an unsurprising “side effect”.

The essentials: How to make the most out of connected packaging

Link to the right audience with the right gamification strategy

Different target audiences are attracted to different connected experiences. Brands need to be clear about their demographics, psychographics, and behavioral segmentations of customers, to ensure they choose the right strategy for the target group.

Starbucks for example, ran a campaign in 2019 targeting consumers between the ages of 18 to 35. Following the insight that people tend to use their mobile single-handed when drinking coffee, Appetite Creative developed the cup flip game. Designed to particularly appeal to millennial consumers, a user could with one hand attempt the tricky task of flipping an instantly recognisable Starbucks cup.

The campaign turned out to be successful with a 30-second dwell time, a 90% engagement rate and an average of 60 secs engagement time per user. Voucher download targets were smashed by over 110%.

Use the right technology to deliver your message

When it comes to mobile use, older people are probably not the first audience that comes to mind, but roughly one-third (32%) of seniors own a tablet computer in the US, according to a recent study by Pew Research Center.

That is to say, when brands decide which audience to target, they also have to take the technology and the users of that technology into account, including which screen size to target – mobile, tablet, etc.

Set clear objectives

The data that can be collected during a digital campaign can vary from personal information about consumers such as age and gender, as well as dwell time including location, peak hour and duration of the engagement. It’s also possible to collect product-related information such as favorite products and or flavour, and even social media preferences.

However, brands need to be sure about what data they would like to collect from consumers at the outset, which involves having clear objectives and being compliant with relevant data regulations. Belated changes might involve difficult tradeoffs once the digital experience has been created and implemented.

Ensure you use supporting social media

Another critical point before kicking off a campaign, is that customers need to be aware of the existence of digital campaigns, and they should know how to use them. This is where social media can help. Social media posts shared by the brand, which could be a short educational video for example, can demonstrate how connected packaging works, how to scan a product and start the digital experience. Customers will be able to take the first step into the digital campaign and start to have conversations with friends about it too.

Brands need to enable the social media sharing feature and make sure that customers are incentivised to use social media to support the campaign. Activating rewards such as coupons or discount codes after sharing always help, as customers will be encouraged to share it with their friends and family to give the campaign another push.

Connected packaging considerations:

  • Target the right audience with the right gamification strategy and technology. The crucial first step is to be clear about the objectives and target audience, then use the technology and develop the gamification strategy aligned to these needs.
  • Don't fall into the trap of thinking connected packaging means app-based experiences – it can be simple and affordable.
  • Be crystal clear about what you would like to know about your customers and make sure you have everything agreed before the digital campaign goes live. Once it does, there is no going back.
  • Take full advantage of social media. While it functions as a communication channel where brands can educate consumers, the prevalence of the digital campaign also requires thousands of shares on social media, neither of these can be overlooked.

Case study

Founded in 1907, Swiss dairy company Emmi has an impressive history preceding its current status as a market leader in value-added dairy products.

Emmi wanted to be one of the first on the market to engage with consumers digitally, while also educating their key audience about the benefits of their range and their new Emmi Good Day Milk Drink – a non-lactose milk drink including high-quality protein, easily digestible milk fat as well as a multitude of valuable minerals, including calcium and vitamin D.

Appetite Creative developed an interactive online quiz that would educate customers about the benefits of Emmi’s products. Customers could enter the quiz by using their mobile phones to scan a unique, one-time-use QR code. Each pack had a unique QR code, giving Emmi access to an array of information including which variety from the range was scanned, the time and location of the scan, helping to facilitate additional customer data collection. The one-time-use QR code helped Emmi engage with individual customers with a view to understanding them better.

Using Emmi’s design, we built a responsive mobile web app and a fully responsive Wordpress site that works across all screen sizes, with comprehensive site hosting. Our interactive quiz solution proved particularly effective for user engagement, while the data collection solution we created was integrated into the company's cloud system.

The average time spent on the quiz page linked to Emmi’s website was 2:13 mins with an impressive quiz completion rate of 94%, simultaneously helping to educate consumers and raise the profile of the Emmi good day milk drink.

Due to the outstanding results of the first campaign, Emmi wanted to create four games, each corresponding to one of their four milk products: Balance, Oat Milk, High Protein Milk Drink and Milk Drink.

The games include a Tinder style personality quiz to find your perfect Emmi product and get a discount for that product. They included an Emmi Jump game where users have to jump higher and higher collecting Oat Milk along the way while avoiding the sugar; an Emmi Flip game where users have to continuously try to flip the Emmi milk correctly until all the sugar is gone; and an Emmi Fall game where users have to try to catch the falling products gaining points for each one collected and losing points every time the sugar is mistakenly caught.

For the winners of the games, they could either enter their details and submit a picture of their receipt to obtain a chance to win a prize, including Airpods (daily) or Fitbits (weekly). Or through a random draw where sharing with friends can get them an extra chance to win the draw, and by inviting others to play via social media to get a discount code, depending on the games.

The campaign objectives were to get users involved with entertaining and rewarding games, introduce the new flavours and educate them about the product features, including the low sugar nature of this product range. In addition, the campaign aimed to generate new customers and collect a pool of data that the brands could never get from supermarkets.

The data collected from the games included different entry points, age and gender, the duration of engagement, peak hours of use, purchase location, demand for each flavour, and social media preferences. The new data enabled Emmi to target consumers in a more insightful way with its marketing strategy and provided reference for future product development.