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Linkz goes unique

New! Linkz now also offer serialised marks, also known as ‘a unique mark for every item’. As always, these marks can be visible, like (stylised) QR codes, or invisibly embedded via digital watermarks.

Serialisation of marks give each printed item a unique fingerprint. This unique mark can deliver content that is specifically designed for individual end-users, allowing for highly personalised marketing or direct peer-to-peer communication. For example, you can attach your own video message to a product label or shop-bought greeting card. The video can be uploaded and viewed via a single scan with a smartphone, no need to enter authentication codes or confirm private information like phone numbers.

Another application is brand protection. By including supply chain information in each unique mark you can check whether an item has been diverted from the market it was intented for. For example, for cosmetics, wine and spirits, pharmaceutical products.

With serialisation brands can offer highly personalised engagement, as well as track and trace individual items. People interact with the world around them via their smartphones. Make the interaction personal with serialised marks.

 

Linkz at Print18 in Chicago

 

 

 

 

 

 

Linkz will be at Print 18 in Chicago, from Sunday 30th of September to Tuesday 2nd of October, showing interactive print in action.

Visit us and our partner Rods and Cones on booth 847 and learn about Interactive Print, AR and VR. We have been recognised as a RedHot Technology!

Erica Aitken from Rods and Cones will present CONNECTED PRINT – REACH OUT AND TOUCH IT!
Monday, October 1, 12:00pm – 12:50pm at S102cd (Offered by APTech)

Accelerating consumer adoption of interactive packaging

running-498257_640In the intelligent packaging industry we are all too aware of the difficulties in getting consumers to pick up their mobiles and interact with products. We don’t understand it. All these marvellous technologies that are obviously super-cool, making that essential connection between the offline and online worlds. Why don’t people tap or scan every item they want to buy or use?

Technology is moving faster than consumer awareness. As always, those that develop the solutions lose sight of the fact people may not have a direct problem to solve. In our enthusiasm we keep adding possibilities in the hope to find the area where we can relieve a real pain.

To try to understand how we could accelerate consumer adoption of interactive packaging we need to ask ourselves what consumers want and what would motivate them to use interactive packaging.

At the AIPIA World Congress last November we discussed these questions, plus a couple more, during a stimulating workshop, “Consumer Interactions”. The participants put in a lot of effort, the discussions were passionate and the result was a collection of insights that form a great start for further investigations.

Highlights are:

  • Consumers want value from their interaction, which can take many forms: convenience, information, monetary, emotional.
  • Raising awareness of interactivity has to be done on-pack, but also needs to involve traditional marketing channels, as well as other parts of the supply chain.
  • There are a range of ways to motivate consumers to interact, but it has to involve minimal effort and a good, valuable experience (remember QR codes!).
  • Success is defined as the amount and quality of data we can collect from consumers and their interaction.

If you’d like to receive the full notes of the workshop, please email n.muller@linkz-im.com. We’d love to get your feedback and ideas for the next AIPIA World Congressworkshops.

Interactive Packaging – solutions without a problem?

Bald man with shampoo

(c) Smoke and Mirrors

 

There are lots of technologies to enable consumers to interact with packaging. So why don’t brands use it more widely? And would it be useful for you?

Early November I was at the Active and Intelligent Packaging Industry Association (AIPIA) World Congress in Amsterdam. On display were many amazing technologies to make packaging active and / or intelligent.

Active packaging tries to solve a clear problem: currently one third of all food produced is lost or wasted from farm to fork, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Intelligent packaging that tracks goods is also addressing a clear pain point, just ask any retailer where their goods actually are. Similarly authentication and anti-counterfeiting solutions, with the counterfeit goods market currently around $600 billion/yr, rising to nearly $1 trillion/yr by 2021. These solutions are largely used by retailers and brands themselves.

But when we get to the consumer end it is not so clear where the problem currently lies. Counterfeit formula milk or cosmetics masquerading as that of a trusted brand could be inferior and potentially harmful, and surely consumers would like to check authenticity. FMCG packaging that gives discounts, connects to fun games, useful or exclusive information, what is not to like? Content-wise you are only limited by your imagination because if it is digital you can link your packaging to it.

So why are brands not connecting their packaging en-masse to digital content? At the conference there were some interesting case studies of marketing campaigns using NFC-enabled spirit bottles, yogurt pots linked to games and packs of chocolates allowing you to win heart-stopping experiences, but no evidence that brands are falling over each other to make their packaging interactive for consumers.

Why not? Because there is no consumer demand for it yet.

There are two key reasons. Firstly, consumers are simply not aware that packaging can be interactive. Unless it has a very clear call-to-action consumers don’t expect there is more to packaging than meets the eye. Secondly, most importantly, the value consumers get from interacting is not sufficient. In the early days of QR codes in marketing they often linked to desktop sites, unreadable on a mobile phone. Often the company’s home page, as if that was the point of engaging with the pack! Augmented Reality (AR) pay-offs are definite improvements, as at first they always surprise, but there isn’t always a longer-term value for the consumer. Whilst this may not matter for the marketing campaign, it does matter for the consumer for whom the next purchasing decision is less swayed by another “wow” experience.

In the absence of consumers asking for interactive packaging brands cannot see a clear ROI. To be fair, marketing departments have had a lot of new technologies thrown at them over the past decade. They have to understand rapidly changing consumer buying behaviour, be able to engage with consumers 24/7 and be omni-present in new and old channels. Adding packaging as yet another consumer engagement channel with its own set of technologies may be a bit much.

But here is the crux of the matter. Packaging is a key consumer engagement channel, and quite a cheap one at that. It’s already out there, totally under the brand’s control. Once consumers have a pack in their hand, they are much more open to the brand’s messages, be they in-store or post-purchase. Digital interaction with packaging is much easier to measure than views of TV ads, impressions of Facebook ads, views of billboards. And it allows for a two-way conversation rather than a one-way monologue, as it is much easier for consumers to give feedback to a brand via an interactive pack than via traditional push advertising.

The key to getting consumers to interact with packaging is to offer them real value.

At the congress I ran an “idea hackathon” (or “workshop”) with a group of very knowledgable and enthusiastic participants. Together we arrived at a list of what kind of content could be of real value to consumers:

  • financial gain: discounts, loyalty schemes, prizes
  • convenience: connection to other (lifestyle) apps or services, how-to videos, instant re-purchase
  • security: product authentication, back story, information
  • (emotional) connections: social messaging, sharing, reviews
  • relevance to a person’s needs: personalisation, tailoring of services.

Let’s get back to the original question. Is interactive packaging a solution without a problem? No, it is not. Packaging is a key consumer engagement channel and brands that want to win customers have to use it strategically and offer real value.

What real value is depends on the market, the geography, the product, the brand itself. Therefore interactive packaging won’t be of strategic use to everybody! In our experience it is useful for your brand if you have

  • a story to tell (sustainability, heritage, origins)
  • a passionate audience (new parents, health, fitness, sport)
  • complex products (DIY, b2b, health)
  • multilingual markets
  • captive audiences (hospitality, airports)

So, do you know what you want your packaging to say? Do you want to test what works for you? Or just understand better what the options are? We can help you find out. After all, that is why we started Linkz.

Direct-to-consumer 2: why and how brands are making their packaging and print digitally connected

PART 2: HOW TO MANAGE CONNECTED PACKAGING AND PRINT

Part 1 of this 2-part article (“Why use connected packaging and print”) was published previously here.

What are the options for scanning?
  • QR codes

With the spreading of smartphones, QR codes became very popular in marketing and advertising about six years ago. But then it all seemed to come to a grinding halt, at least in the Western world. Why? One of the main reasons is that the experience people got when scanning a QR code was disappointing. The pay-offs were illegible (for example, a desktop site on a mobile screen), not relevant (for example, link to the company’s home page instead of detailed product information), out-of-date, hard-to-download (outdoor internet connection was poor in those days), etc. And marketers quickly decided that QR codes were ugly and that the public didn’t want them. Big caveat is that in Asia, especially in China, Korea and Japan, QR codes are still popular. This probably has to do with the fact that typing in a URL in their languages is a lot harder than when using the western alphabet. So QR codes are dead. Or are they?

Cadbury QR code

Cadbury “scan for joy” campaign, running since 2011

Anybody who has been to a trade show knows that these places are littered with QR codes. Cadbury has been running their “scan for joy” campaign for years now. And KitKat started a YouTube campaign promoting QR codes on the front of their packaging in spring 2016. Many more complex products (DIY, building trade) carry QR codes to help users. The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) in the US is working on their SmartLabel initiative, planning to add QR codes to packaging, which will deliver standardised expanded information about the product in hand.

 

  • barcodes (EAN, UPC and other “1D” codes)

These are already present on most retail products. Amazon, Ocado, John Lewis, the NHS Sugar Smart app, they all use the barcodes to deliver extra information to consumers. Retail brands use it to give price and stock information, specialist apps like Sugar Smart give focused information. Dedicated QR & barcode scanning apps use databases to give standardised non-branded information about many retail products, though most are currently restricted to US products.

 

NHS Sugar smart app

NHS Sugar Smart app

 

  • digitally watermarked images (Digimarc barcodes)

Not a name that easily trips off the tongue, but digital watermarks have been around for about 20 years. Developed by Digimarc in the US and currently promoted as a quicker way to pass products over the till, invisible digital watermarks are a great way to connect packaging without compromising the aesthetics of a brand.

 

  • image recognition

Apps like Blippar and Aurasma analyse the media to literally recognise a particular image and deliver an augmented reality experience on the smartphone. It is “probabilistic”, as opposed to the “deterministic” technology that underlies Digimarc barcodes. But it also means it can deliver a pay-off of the same brand icon irrespective of where it is – on a label, a magazine ad, a bill board.

 

  • physical triggers

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), NFC (Near Field Communication), Bluetooth beacons are all technologies for wireless communications. They require physical triggers in or on the product, which can be identified by a reader and connected to a pay-off (“what you see when you scan the trigger”). They each have their own advantages and applications.

Ideally you would use a single platform that can recognise many or all of these triggers. For example, the scan.me app is able to scan both barcodes and QR codes. Linkz is a platform that can use all the triggers listed above.

 

What do you get in return?

Direct-to-customer communication, that is all very nice – lots of ways to engage with your audience via printed materials, lots of extra value you could offer them. But what do youthe brand, get? This depends on the technology platform used, but most of them offer that all-important insight one way or another: understanding your customers’ behaviour and preferences. Some scanning options, like ordinary QR codes, will offer limited insights as by and large you can only measure what traffic you get to the pay-off (usually a website).

Other options, like Linkz, will give you detailed analytics of what was scanned, where and when and by which unique handset. As an example – a small, upcoming novelty drinks company used Linkz to activate its packaging. On the can it had a small call-to-action inviting people to scan and participate in a competition. This was a great way to encourage scanning and resulted in useful insights into the times and days their customers bought their product. They didn’t need to stand outside shops to interview customers, they could see it clearly in the data.

Linking your physical product or collateral to digital pay offs also means you can connect your social media campaigns with your products. You can measure which areas or stores are best at running certain campaigns, or what kind of triggers work best in what situation.

Linkz analytics dashboard

Linkz analytics options

How do you manage all this?

With so many different things to scan and with so many possible pay offs it is even more important to manage this channel closely and efficiently. It has to be quick and easy to update campaigns. If needed, you want pay offs to be changeable by the hour, like when you are running a social media campaign to encourage people to buy your product. All technologies mentioned above come with management platforms, some more developed than others. The best way is to choose platforms that allow you to test what works for your customers and that lets you compare campaigns that use different triggers. Now is the time to get involved with consumer scanning and learn how to operate in this field.

 

What to do?

You can see why connected packaging and print is taking off: being present along the whole customer journey requires usage of all media channels. Consumers increasingly want to control engagement with brands[1]. Brands need easy implementation and control over what the consumer sees related to their products. Start connecting your packaging and print now.

[1] note the increase in use of adblocking software. It is becoming the norm to interact with customers when they want to.

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