Digital tools have become essential for all businesses and creating virtual experiences has been especially beneficial for brands across industries. Connected packaging is one of the major technologies that allows consumer packaged goods brands to deploy curated digital connections for customers.
“Connected packaging offers a world of possibilities for engaging with consumers by delivering promotions, sharing product provenance information, entertaining, building loyalty programs, and more,” said Pedro Goncalves, vice president of marketing, US and Canada for food packaging provider Tetra Pak.
The advantages of connected packaging go far beyond the consumers; brand-to-consumer engagement via a smartphone allows companies to build a relationship as well as gather valuable data.
“[B]rands benefit by receiving the user’s information to better understand location data or QR code interaction details, such as frequency of use and areas of interest, all in real-time,” Goncalves added. “Sales are boosted by leveraging this information in marketing campaigns that can then yield more successful results.”
“Limitations on the amount of information a barcode could store led to the development of QR codes,” said Goncalves. “Now widely recognized by consumers, QR codes and the connected package platform can solve various consumer needs in the CPG space.”
QR codes have become a popular method for businesses across the food and beverage industry to design custom solutions to their needs, such as touchless payment options for food retailers and digital menus for foodservice operators.
“Wide acceptance, along with a heightened digital connectedness, lead to quick adoption by retailers, brands, organizations and institutions looking to relay key information in new and exciting ways,” Goncalves added.
CPG brands have most notably used QR codes on packaging to capture the attention of shoppers with innovative marketing campaigns. Campbell Soup used them on a series of cans that directed users to specialized content such as recipes and a playlist of newly released music for home cooks to listen to while making meals. Ferrara’s Keebler brand debuted QR-enabled packaging that connects to an augmented reality experience featuring the brand’s mascot elves giving information about Keebler cookies as well as the Make-A-Wish Foundation through a partnership with the nonprofit.
Consumers heightened desire for contactless experiences due to sanitary and safety concerns at the height of the pandemic meant QR codes became even more prevalent, according to Goncalves.
“With consumer e-commerce and QR code engagement boosted by the pandemic, connected packaging is emerging as a key pillar for consumer engagement and first-party data generation,” agreed Jos Harrison, global head of brand experience and design for Reckitt, in an interview with Forbes.
That increase in popularity has prompted Tetra Pak to design a digital printing system – set to launch in mid-2022 – for brands looking to implement connected packaging. Goncalves touts the machine’s flexibility, making it ideal for limited-time campaigns and custom designs for smaller volumes of products.
While connected packaging is excellent for brand marketing purposes, on-pack QR codes are also very effective for easily distributing product information to consumers.
To give customers more information about ingredient sourcing, the Triscuit brand from Mondelez added on-pack QR codes with the tagline “Follow the Wheat” showing where the product’s wheat crop was grown, when the crackers were baked and more ingredient transparency information.
SmartLabel — created by the Consumer Brands Association and the Food Industry Association’s Trading Partner Alliance — is a QR code-enabled food label that consumers can scan to access information such as nutrition attributes, allergens, third-party certifications and more. Several major CPG brands are participants in the initiative, such as Coca-Cola, Kellogg, Hershey, Colgate-Palmolive and Procter & Gamble.
“The connected package has an inherent ability to differentiate a brand as an innovator and leads to increased consumer loyalty and favorability,” said Goncalves.
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