Harnessing Disruptive Tech: AIPIA Summit Americas Recap

As connected and intelligent print gains momentum in the packaging industry, it’s time wide format PSPs takes note of the emerging technology.

“When you’re disruptive, you change something,” said Eef de Ferrante, executive director, Active and Intelligent Packaging Industry Association (AIPIA), to launch the inaugural Active and Intelligent Packaging Summit Americas 2018 conference. Co-hosted by AIPIA and BXP magazine (sister publication to Big Picture), the summit brought together consumer-facing goods brands, materials suppliers, and packaging technology specialists in Jersey City, New Jersey, June 4-5.

With a focus on disruptive packaging technologies for enhancing brand experience, the conference explored how active packaging (which uses advanced forms of barcodes that allow customers to engage with content controlled by the brand) and intelligent packaging (which uses sensors to send and receive information between the package and the consumer) can be utilized to elevate the entire value chain. Gone are the days of packaging serving as simply a wrapper or container for a product. Today, smart packaging, defined as packaging that provides some sort of communicative function, offers channel management, brand protection/anti-counterfeiting, Big Data analytics, consumer protection, reordering, consumer engagement, product shelf-life management, and enhanced functionality, said Preteek Lal, founder and CEO, Adept Packaging.

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One key insight from the conference? Smart and intelligent packaging can offer brands important data about their product and customers while simultaneously presenting consumers with more. “We need to be giving consumers something in return [when they support our brand]. We need to connect with them in a way that is helpful to that person,” said Caitriona Murphy, global brand manager for The Absolut Company, discussing the launch of connected Malibu Rum bottles. The brand first launched connected bottles in 2016 and has now released nearly half a million bottles with labels that consumers can scan to enter contests and explore recipes, playlists, games, and more. While rum drinkers receive fun added value, the brand collects valuable data that shapes future campaigns. Win-win.

It’s a Smartphone World, After All

“The phone has become a lens into the world across generations,” said Keith Curtin, VP business development, East Coast, Zappar. While millennials and Generation Z may be the ones stereotypically glued to their cellphones, Tod Szewczyk, VP, director emerging technology and innovation, Leo Burnett, shared data from “Pew Research Center Mobile Fact Sheet February 2018” that proves cellphone usage spans all generations. According to the report, a whopping 95 percent of Americans now own a cellphone of some kind, with 77 percent having a smartphone. While those 65 and older are least likely to own a smartphone (46 percent total), more than seven out of ten Americans ages 18 to 64 own a smartphone.

More than two billion smartphones around the world support digital interaction natively, with no app download required, said Niall Murphy, co-founder and CEO, Evrythng. And with the development of third party apps that can read everything from NFC and QR codes to “Snapcodes” and “Zapcodes,“ even more smartphones have the capability to connect with smart packaging. While there may have been a barrier of technology access a few years ago, today virtually anyone can interact with smart packaging.

Connect Through AR and VR

Ever since the sensational 2016 launch of the “Pokémon Go” AR app that enabled users to “catch Pokémon” in the real world through the lens of their mobile device, augmented and virtual reality has been at the forefront of digital technology. Walk a tradeshow floor and you can check out a wide-format printer via VR. Open Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook, and you can scroll through AR filters to add to your selfie. And, of course, scanning the label of a 19 Crimes wine bottle to have the character come to life is an impressive party trick.

ZapparA number of sessions presented creative ways packagers can use AR and VR to add value to products. Curtin showcased a number of Zappar case studies that integrated print and AR; a recent 7-Eleven campaign leveraged the brand’s existing loyalty app as a way to scan in-store POS displays to bring Deadpool to life on the screen, unlock content, and earn reward points. 

Talkin’ Things Business Development Manager Maciej Kiryllo wowed the audience with a live demonstration scanning a beer bottle, which awakened the skeleton on the label. Through AR, the skeleton told jokes and used the cellphone’s camera to vary responses based on facial recognition (analyzing if the user was smiling, frowning, etc.).

Experience Connected Print

Just as shoppers want retail displays to be more experience than display, consumers who engage with connected packaging want a seamless encounter. “Brands that create a frictionless experience will win in the end,” said Markus Wulff, founder/CEO of Analog and Tech. Consumers want connected print to be worth the time and effort it takes them to engage. 

In recent history, most of us experienced the rise and fall of the QR code – one minute, the codes were everywhere and monopolized the technology, but ultimately the clunkiness of the graphic led other companies to develop more visually appealing codes. However, if scannable elements are too engrained in the graphic, potential users might not even know a product is connected. The key elements of a successful connected package are attractive graphics, a clear call to action, and engaging online content.

But why stop at packaging? Why not reach all those smartphone users through wide-format print? 

By offering connected print to your shop’s customers, you can add a competitive edge for both yourself and your clients. Imagine scanning a concert poster that takes you to the ticketing website, or scanning a construction wrap around a building that gives you a tour of the new restaurant in your phone. The possibilities are endless. 

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Technology Takeaways

  • “If you offer something to the customer, they will download the app. Do something out of the box.” –Kiryllo
  • “The package can be a digital narrator for the brand.” –Larry Logan, chief evangelist, Digimarc
  • “We always question whether we’re leading with the brand first or the consumer first. When you’re going after the younger consumers, you have to be able to give them something they value to engage.” –Murphy
  •  “Every user experience is a marketing experience. The experience becomes the brand.” –Szewczyk
  • “It’s not about the packaging itself. It’s about the technology behind it.” –de Ferrante

For live updates from industry conferences and shows around the world, follow Editor-in-Chief Adrienne Palmer and Big Picture magazine on Twitter.