Augmented Reality Brings Packaging to LifeBrands find creative ways to connect with consumers in another realm

The Pokémon Go craze has mostly come and gone, and Snapchat still baffles much of the population. But brands can look at both apps as a sign that the time has come to start capitalizing on augmented reality (AR) to connect with consumers through packaging in new and exciting ways What was once a box or a can with limited real estate for passive information is now a launchpad for enhanced interactive experiences and omnichannel sales.

Augmented reality versus virtual reality

The uninitiated might be tempted to use the terms augmented reality and virtual reality (VR) interchangeably, but they're not synonymous. VR is the digital creation of an entire environment, while AR places a digital overlay atop the consumer's existing environment. That's why AR holds so much potential for brands: The package is no longer a container. It's a conduit to deeper interaction with consumers—often occurring right at a point of purchase, at a time when they're considering making a buying decision.

How AR and packaging work together

Consumers download apps such as Blippar, Zappar or ROAR to their smartphones or tablets. When they encounter "smart packages," they point their device at the package, unlocking interactive experiences.

How brands are experimenting with AR

While not yet widespread, brands both big and small have experimented with this technology:

  • Vital Farms, a producer of pasture-raised eggs, partnered with ROAR to include AR in its latest egg carton design. When consumers scan the top of the egg carton—which features an appealing chalkboard rendition of hens in a pasture—they see a diagram of a pasture environment with multimedia content delivering further information about the product. The AR experience also links the customer to coupons.1

  • For Christmas 2016, McDonald's UK turned its tray mats into an AR Advent calendar, offering consumers the chance to play different games each day and win prizes, including Amazon gift vouchers.2

  • Coca-Cola Canada used AR to connect customers with specially curated Spotify playlists during summer 2016. The campaign was so successful it made a return appearance in 2017.3 In Germany, Coca-Cola's sales team has used AR to help retailers choose display units for their stores.4

  • During summer 2017, Desperados—a tequila-flavored beer made by Heineken—used AR to engage with French Millennials by connecting bottle labels to display work from popular street artist Matthieu Dagorn.5

  • In early December 2017, Lego launched the Lego AR-Studio app for iOS devices, an app that expands the possibilities for playing with some of the company's most popular building sets. When users point their iPhone 6S or later iOS device at select playsets, the app generates virtual fire-breathing dragons and water-spewing fire trucks within the scene. Best of all, users can either take a screenshot or record a video of the action. So far, the app is free and doesn't feature in-app purchases, but there is certainly potential for monetization and revenue growth. (One of Lego's early ventures into AR was its "Digital Box," which allowed customers to scan packaging at in-store kiosks to see 3D renderings of completed playsets.)6

The role of mobile

Naysayers might point out that AR is only useful for consumers with smartphones. True—and that's exactly why it has so much potential. In the U.S., most consumers owned personal computers before they owned smartphones (or before smartphones were even invented). But in the developing world, that's not the case. Many of the world's citizens are mobile-first, or even mobile-only. Statista predicts that 36% of the world's population is projected to use smartphones by 2018—up from 10 percent in 2011.7 Marketing is increasingly global, but regions still have their own unique variables. AR allows brands to easily change content, provide information in different languages, and meet regulations that vary by country.

As smartphone use increases and technology improves, look for more and more brands to connect with consumers through AR. The passive can now be interactive, increasing the relevance of packaging to the consumer experience.

Want to discuss ways to raise the bar for your brand's communications? Talk to an RRD expert.

Share and Connect

  1. Packaging Digest. Augmented Reality App Complements Egg Carton Redesign (2017)
  2. Packaging & Converting Intelligence. Let's Get Engaged (2017)
  3. IPG Media Lab. Canadian Coke Uses AR to Add Spotify Music to Bottles (2018)
  4. Augment. Here's How Packaging Manufacturers are Using Augmented Reality (2016)
  1. Labels & Labeling. Desperados Introduces Augmented Reality Edition in France (2017)
  2. Forbes. New LEGO augmented reality app is the best open-world LEGO video game (2017)
  3. Statista. Number of Smartphone Users Worldwide from 2014 to 2020 (2018)