Tag, you’re it

7 December 2018



Whether using NFC tags, augmented reality or mixed media to engage with consumers, there have been many innovations in the smart packaging market released in 2018. We take a look at some of the latest examples from GlobalData’s pack track.


This has been a busy year for adaptation of NFC technology into premium spirits and wines, with Thinfilm celebrating two successful adaptations in 2018, in Sweden and Spain.

Swedish whisky brand Mackmyra Whisky, an award-winning distiller of single-malt whisky based in Valbo, central Sweden, uses NFC to connect directly with consumers via smartphones, raise awareness of its Private Cask programme and launch social media campaigns that promote its most popular products. The initial deployment made use of NFC tags to build digital provenance information into Mackmyra’s Private Cask offering, which allows consumers to create and bottle their own unique whisky. Each individual bottle originating from the Private Cask links back to detailed information about that specific cask – all through the touch of a smartphone. Following this, a second campaign promotes a consumer-submitted drink recipe competition featuring the distillery’s flagship MACK whisky and its premium Lab+Distillery gin. Consumers who submit unique recipes and share through social platforms will have a chance to win prizes.

The tags integrate with the suppliers’ cloud platform CNECT, through which Mackmyra’s marketing team would be able to view real-time customer engagement activity, analyse campaign performance and uncover actionable insights to drive business success.

“As Sweden’s first maker of singlemalt whisky, Mackmyra is deeply rooted in exploration and innovation,” says Magnus Dandanell, founder and CEO of Mackmyra. “We’re now taking a similar approach with technology, using this NFC solution to connect directly with our consumer base. It’s an ideal match that allows us to strengthen and extend the relationships we have with our loyal customers while also moving our business forward.”

From whisky to wine, where one of Spain’s oldest and most renowned wine and sherry producers, Barbadillo, wanted to gain market share and create brand awareness. As a pilot scheme, the company decided to promote sales of its high-volume white wine, Castillo de San Diego, in the peak of the summer-holiday season. The challenge was how to stand out in a highly competitive wine market. At the start of the project there were four stated goals: to grab consumer attention, foster the next generation of consumers, engage consumers with relevant promotion, and ultimately to drive sales.

Mobile engagement was quickly decided on, as in a national population of 46 million people there are 32 million smartphone users, making them by far the largest block of accessible potential consumers. Barbadillo knew it was critical to engage mobile-first consumers, including millennials, to get them engaged with the brand and keep the digital conversation going.

The solution was to use NFC tags (SpeedTap by Thinfilm) to create digital touchpoints that could be easily applied to their bottles at scale. Consumers are able to interact instantly with products and the brand by tapping the product tag with their smartphones, without the need for an app. The tap launches the brand’s customised landing page, video or other digital asset on their smartphone.

“We wanted to attract new consumers to our brand and make them interact with Barbadillo. We wanted to do it in a relevant way so that we could build an enduring one-to-one dialogue with our consumers. The information we gained will help seed future marketing campaigns. Using ‘connected’ NFC bottles helped us discover that the ideal moment to activate, engage and convert new consumers occurs when they are holding a Barbadillo bottle in their hands. We have increased subscription sign-ups and greatly increased our contact with highly engaged digital consumers,” concluded Álvaro Alés, director of marketing and communications for Barbadillo.

Variable mixed-media successes

Augmented reality (AR), which blends the real and the virtual worlds together, has emerged as one of the most exciting technologies in the intelligent packaging space for several food and drink brands. However, despite the initial novelty of AR packaging, it is unlikely that many brands will incorporate it into their products. That’s according to GlobalData, which gathered information on consumers’ interest in AR for a 2016 survey.

For example, Yili Weikezi, a milk drink in China, in early 2018 introduced a unique take on packaging in the milk industry. Through a partnership with popular singer Han Lu, the packaging incorporated a digital voiceprint that consumers could scan with a smartphone to play audio messages, creating a more immersive experience.

The technology allows brands to deliver an immersive experience to consumers through a potentially low investment. The majority of the cost revolves around the initial app development and graphic designs. It does not entail additional materials, avoids any major package or production redesigns, and can be incorporated into any existing products.

However, consumers will lose interest in AR packaging relatively quickly, particularly if it is readily available all of the time. It would need to be continually refreshed – and even then, the novelty would be likely to wear off. Similarly, if a lot of brands have AR packaging, the benefit of being able to stand out from the competition is reduced.

In addition, the effects of AR are not easily measured and can be subjective. According to the survey, 41% of global consumers said they are rarely or never influenced by “digitally advanced/smart” aspects of food products.

Ryan Choi, a consumer analyst at GlobalData, says, “If consumers don’t want to engage this way, it might not be worth the hassle for brands as the costs could outweigh the benefits.

“AR packaging works well for shortterm promotional campaigns either for one brand or in partnership with others. Nevertheless, AR packaging offers brands a marketing tool, allowing for a highly innovative and immersive experience – and this will define the success of AR packaging campaigns during the short term they are used.”

Juicing with blockchain

Consumers buying orange juice at Dutch retailer Albert Heijn can follow the route of their product through blockchain thanks to a partnership between AH and Refresco. The partners have clarified the production chain of the store’s ownbrand sustainable orange juice with blockchain technology.

Refresco supplies the juice, which comes from Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC). Through a QR code on the packaging, customers can see which route the juice travelled to reach the shelf. This complete traceability offers transparency for consumers.

Marit van Egmond, commercial director at Albert Heijn, says, “Every day we provide millions of customers with food and drinks. That is a big responsibility, in which we want to make an active contribution to the themes that play around us. Transparency in the chain is becoming increasingly important. We know all the steps that our products in the chain go through to ensure that they are produced with respect for people, animals and the environment. We want to show these steps to our customers.”

With 11,000 suppliers for its ownbrand products, the company says that some production processes can be made relatively easy to understand; for example, with fruit and vegetables from the Netherlands. For other products it is more difficult, because they have a longer chain or consist of several ingredients. Using blockchain shows customers how, and by whom, these products are made. Customers can use a QR code on the packaging to follow the entire route that their orange juice travels before reaching their shopping cart, starting at the orange groves of LDC in Brazil where the fruit is harvested. The blockchain contains information about the oranges themselves, such as the picking period and degree of sweetness. Customers can view the details in the chain, and even pay a compliment to the growers with the ‘Like2Farmer’ functionality.

Maarten Kusters, managing director of Refresco Benelux, added, “This is a unique way to bring the grower, processor, bottler, retailer and consumer together and to make the entire process transparent. Refresco is committed to a sustainable fruit-juice sector. Last year we founded the Sustainable Juice Covenant, together with several other industry parties. Our goal is to process 100%-sustainable juice in our fruit-juice products by 2030.”

From blockchain to virtual reality (VR). In September 2017, Red Bull India decided to increase the experiential value of its six-packs with a VR headset in a limited edition pack. Packaging was constructed with a printed carrier-board, DuoDozen-type multipack carton with glued ends and perforated tear-opening feature around four panels that allows the pack to be separated into two parts, one of which converts into a headset to hold the VR glasses included in the pack. It has a large extension panel from the glue lap that is glued into position to form a pocket that contains the VR glasses.

Virtually there

These glasses were constructed from a single piece of carrier-board that was creased, folded and glued to form a double-thickness framework with circular apertures to locate plastic lenses, and diecut shaping to fit over the nose. Two elastic bands around the glasses kept the frame flat in order to slide into a square carrier-board wallet, which is printed with Red Bull branding and pictogram-style instructions for constructing the headset. The same instructions are duplicated on a sheet of paper inside the wallet.

Supplied by Westrock, the carton was modified to contain the VR glasses and could also be formed into a headset to hold the glasses and smartphone.

This was a limited edition pack produced for the Indian festive season. Consumers were encouraged to visit a special brand website and wear the VR glasses to experience the “world of festivals come to life”.

The instructions to construct the headset were as follows: separate the carton into two parts by tearing along the perforations, as indicated by a line of red arrows. Remove the wallet containing the VR glasses and push in location tabs on the headset to form slit-type apertures. Position the glasses inside the headset, aligning the location tabs with the corresponding slits. Open the flap in the side of the headset and slide in your smartphone (once connected to the celebration.redbull.in website) so that the camera lens appears in the aperture in the front of the headset. Navigate your way around the screen to experience the wonders of Indian festivals.

In India, packaging is often reused or repurposed, therefore the ability to convert the multipack into a fun gadget that allows interaction and greater engagement with a brand website is likely to have strong appeal. Tying the promotion in with the Indian festive period opens opportunities for sharing the experience with friends and family, and could enhance the enjoyment of festive occasions.

Get on board: Yili Weikezi’s campaign offered audio content from singer Han Lu via QR code.
Red Bull has experimented with VR in India.


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