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How big brands are making their packaging interactive

7 min read

Marketing Strategy

The term “guerrilla marketing” is something you probably associate with outlandish stunts, like dropping a 600-pound ice block in front of a conference a competitor is hosting just to make a point, or painting a sewer to look like a coffee cup just to sneak your coffee brand into a customer’s subconscious awareness. Guerrilla marketing is great (or, um, evil) not only because it catches customers when they have their guard down, but because it also creates a much more physical connection to them in a way no TV ad can possibly do.

But you don’t need to go guerrilla in order to create this powerful connection. In fact, something very similar happens with excellent product packaging design, especially when that design incorporates an interactive social aspect that taps into a larger social media strategy to create campaigns that are tangible and interactive at every level. It’s something the world’s biggest and most powerful companies have known for years — but you don’t need a large packaging design or social media budget to create such powerful campaigns. Let’s take a closer look at a few big brands that get this marriage right and see how we can adapt them for a small business budget.

Coca-Cola’s #ShareACoke campaign

To say that the Coke bottle is an iconic design is an understatement. In fact, the design is so recognizable, the brand doesn’t even need to have their name on it — it can have its customers’ names instead. Just take a look at the #ShareACoke campaign, which replaces the company logo with any one of the 250 most popular first names in the country. This on its own is great from a marketing perspective, as it creates an instantaneous personal connection for customers, who then feel important and highly motivated to share photos and updates about their personalized bottle. You can also design your own bottle online and download or share the results both on social media and on the site’s gallery.

However, the campaign doesn’t stop there. At the Share a Coke microsite, customers with less common name can search for a nearby store that has a bottle in stock with their name on it. And as the name of the campaign implies, there also rewards social sharing a Coke with a friend at their My Coke Rewards site. The first 500 contestants to share a selfie with a Coke on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtags #ShareACoke and #SelfieSweeps are automatically given access to big music events, while the top 10 posts of the day receive a free month of Spotify Premium. Anyone with a Facebook feed and friends who like Coke will know firsthand how motivated consumers are to share photos of themselves with their personalized product!

What can I take away from this?

Big brands like Coca-Cola often struggle make a personal connection with their customers. If you’re a smaller business, you already have a leg up in that department, and an integrated product packaging and social media campaign can help get you there. While you probably can’t customize all of your packaging, you canrun a hashtag campaign on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that invites your followers to vote on their favorite packaging ideas. The sweepstake selfie idea is also an excellent one, as it works as a form of social proofing, i.e. “my friends are all using this product, so I guess I will too.”

Whatever you do, the key here is to leverage the power of social media to make the shopping experience personal on every level.

2. Dole’s Peel the Love campaign

When it comes to packaging a banana for consumers, the only real space the produce company Dole has to work with is a tiny sticker. But that hasn’t stopped the company from getting creative with its highly successful Peel the Love campaign. While the top of the sticker comes with a one-word suggestion for using or consuming the banana, a simple QR code provides access to a wealth of recipe ideas online so that customers will always know what to do with their bunches. In this way, a QR code isn’t just about creating an interactive and meaningful experience; it’s a clever way to do all of this in very little space.

Dole took this campaign up another notch with its Peel the Love Food Truck tour, which offered more recipes, product samples and fun banana games for kids at its many stops around the country. By bringing bananas so vividly to the people, Dole created a meaningful and memorable experience that will surely stick with customers whenever they visit the produce aisle.

What can I take away from this?

In a sense, QR codes are a much more fun form of direct marketing — one that can take you directly into the shopping aisle. However, in order to be effective, a customer’s scan needs to be rewarded with content that is helpful and relevant to their shopping experience. When designing the content that your QR code will unlock, think deeply about what your customers are searching for, whether it’s how to use your product, creative uses for it, or simply a great way to connect with the brand.

3. Pepsi and Kraft’s augmented-reality campaigns

Ever wondered what a QR code would look like if it started taking steroids? Then take a look at Blippar, an app used by several of the world’s biggest companies to create what the app calls “augmented reality.” With the app installed, all customers have to do is hold their phone over a product and then the app will reveal a number of interactive features right over the app itself.

For Pepsi’s promotion of its 2015 Super Bowl sponsorship, “blipping” a can meant automatic entry into a tickets sweepstake, links to a microsite, and a feature that allowed customers to edit themselves into a picture of their favorite NFL player and share the photo on social media. To ensure its customer base would know how to engage with this new app, Pepsi made their entire can into an instruction manual, taking users through each step.

Kraft also made savvy use of the app with its Philadelphia cream cheese sold in British grocery chains. When customers scanned a tub, recipes popped up right there in the store. This proved both inspiring to customers and convenient, as it meant they could easily pick up any added necessary ingredients.

It also meant the company didn’t have to try to squeeze anything else onto the packaging, allowing them to maintain brand unity while still providing an interactive content experience.

What can I take away from this?

Augmented reality apps are a fantastic way to reach consumers right when they’re making their purchasing decisions — and if they’re helpful and fun, you’re sure to earn customer loyalty as you go. While initial app development may be costly, it also helps you avoid a physical package redesign for a single campaign, and it has the added benefit of being alterable at any time. However, whenever you employ new technology, always account for the fact that you may need to do a little education first.

Social media and product packaging may seem like unlikely bedfellows, but an effective marriage of the two will ensure your brand penetrates every level of the consumer experience. If you’re just getting started with packaging design, we highly recommend taking a browse through this guide to get you going. And of course, make sure you let us know on Facebook or Twitter about all of your success!

Britt Klontz is a digital content strategist at Distilled, an online marketing company. Say “hi” and give her a shout @Britt_Klontz, she’s always up for having a conversation about digital marketing tactics and social networking in general.

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