How augmented reality impacts brand packaging design

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In this age of information, it’s no wonder that even our packaging is telling us valuable things about what’s inside. “Active” or “intelligent” packaging provides information on practically everything, from the state of its contents to when patients must take medication, or for pure entertainment.

As the world is getting smarter, so is packaging. Exciting technologies, such as Augmented Reality (AR) enable even a humble box to entertain or inform the consumer in ways that are both magical and pragmatic.

Not only can the artwork itself appear to come alive but the nature of this new engagement creates a sense of interaction far more immediate and profound than traditional on-pack promotions could ever be.

Although Augmented Reality sounds like a term from the future, it is not a new term. More and more companies make use of this revolutionary, digital technology. Augmented Reality is a technology that connects reality with the virtual world. It is a mix of the reality with a virtual edition or enrichment. In practice, it means that digital content is added to your range of vision.

It’s about creating content that is genuinely engaging and which consumers naturally share because it is so good. Content that invites people to have a conversation, to interact, or even co-create new ideas. This is what transforms consumers into fans or, better still, a community.

Experts enjoy debating which magic ingredients make up the secret sauce of shareable content. The packaging can provide a bigger multimedia canvas to showcase this creativity. It can provide the same interaction or ability to recognise consumers that a web-browser does.

AR Packaging design can do these things right now. You just need to know how to blend the digital and physical worlds together.

A bigger question than how to go about this is: what extra content should the packaging provide? This is a tricky one but, as with every other new channel created in the digital gold-rush, brands need to think hard about which ideas add genuine value for the consumer, and what is frivolous, intrusive, or plain irrelevant. It’s not enough to jump on a bandwagon because rivals are also doing so.

More than anything, an interactive-packaging experience must relate to the rest of a brand’s values and be produced with the same care as that of any other marketing material. Great things can be achieved quickly and with modest budgets but it’s far better to do nothing than to put out something that hardly works merely to say that you have done so.

To get this right and add real value, we need to understand the specific needs and contexts that consumers have when interacting with packaging already and then build on all this thinking.

The technologies that constitute interactive packaging are fairly new and all have pros and cons. Before we get into the specifics, it’s important to understand what these actually represent.

Interactive packaging can connect consumers in deeper and richer ways to the brand and other consumers. It is a huge opportunity to foster genuine engagement with consumers rather than, say, build a huge number of Likes on a Facebook page nobody ever reads. It must, however, be part of a unified story with a clear role for the consumer as a participant not a punter.

While augmented reality may not be a widely known concept locally, forward thinking brands have shown that they are not afraid to take the leap into the virtual.

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