Packaging's Place in a Digital World
Trust in mainstream media sources is at an all time low, according to a recent study released by Tetra Pak, and people are increasingly opting to seek out information from online sources, such as blogs, forums and social media. In this world of mass-connectivity, what does this mean for brands looking to attract these consumers? The Tetra Pak study, titled “Insights & Opportunities: The Connected Consumer,” shows how companies can navigate the shifting media landscape as a means of reaching consumers, pointing to the continued importance of packaging in the digital age.
According to the report, today’s “trust crisis” has made it necessary for brands to communicate with consumers on an emotional level with an emphasis on honesty and authenticity. Accordingly, brands can leverage digital media’s prevalence as a source of information in order to reach active consumers who can effectively become brand advocates. These “Super Leaders,” as the study calls them, are well-connected and vocal online commentators who play a major role in trendsetting. Consumers now look to these people for opinions they can trust, and therefore, the study explains that brands would do well to connect with “Super Leaders” through social media and other online resources.
How does packaging fit into this equation? As Dennis Jönsson, president and CEO of Tetra Pak Group states in the study, “In so many ways, the product itself now needs to become a vehicle for direct communication, which means packaging has a key role to play.”
The package should serve as a touchstone for consumer activity and engagement. Though e-commerce is growing, the study claims that the vast majority of purchases are still made in-store, which means that packaging remains a crucial means of reaching the consumer. In the digital age however, brands would be well-advised to design packages that are capable of interacting with consumers personally, as well as bridging the gap between the physical and online worlds.
According to the study, digital printing has made this possible, as brands are now able to print customized digital codes onto every package they produce. These codes can then be scanned by smartphones, allowing consumers to control and share their experience with a particular product or brand. QR codes are a common example. Another avenue for consumer engagement that the study details is augmented reality, through which smartphones can project digital information and images onto the outside world. AR technology has been used with great success in mobile gaming, most notably with Pokémon Go. Applied to packaging, such technology could allow a package, and the brand it represents, to interact with the consumer in engaging and creative ways.
Digital codes and augmented reality can also provide the consumer with information regarding the source of a particular product, such as the farm where a food product has come from, the study reveals. The report also shows that this exchange of information can go both ways, allowing brands to collect data in order to understand their consumer base. The study reveals that though only 7% of packaging today is digitally printed, this number is expected to grow as more brands begin to realize the capability of packaging to reach consumer advocates who will engage with marketing campaigns both physically and online.
In a digital world, packaging still has an important role to play as a conduit between brand and consumer. Because of the rise of digital printing, packaging has the potential to become the leading platform for “Super Leaders” to act as brand advocates who will reach online consumers looking for a voice they can trust. Packaging is no longer just a visual branding tool — it is an effective means of reaching consumers in an omni-channel world.