A New ‘Reality’

The term ‘thinking outside the box’ has been overused so dramatically in past few years, the original intention of the phrase has become a bit lost of late. But it seems there’s never been a time in the history of the packaging industry that this old chestnut has held more weight.

The idea that a box is a box and a carton is a carton is simply no longer true. Technology, as it has done for nearly every facet of our lives, has opened up opportunities for innovative brand managers and packaging professionals like never before.

Packaging has always been used as a means to communicate with consumers. It sheds light on what’s important to the CPG companies, as well as promotes the key benefits of the product.

But with new technologies, such as Augmented Reality (AR), a consumer packaged goods company’s ability to not only inform but to connect with customers is reaching astonishing levels.Through the use of ubiquitous cell phones, in the case of AR, packaging now becomes something designers could only dream of in the past: interactive.

Sometimes the technology is used for silliness (last Christmas, Guinness allowed customers to dress up bottles of beer in Santa hats and ribbons, replete with falling snow through a phone app) or for much more serious matters (Budweiser is now employing AR technology to allow customers to decide which states should receive scholarships that assist veterans and their families).

The point being, there are literally millions of ways in which creative packaging designers, in coordination with equally creative brand managers, can form lasting connections with customers, all through the use of packaging.

A recent article by Steve Osborne, the founder and MD of Osborne Pike, a branding and packaging design agency, and Alex Pell, one-time editor of  Stuff Magazine shines a powerful light on this new phenomenon.

“The world is getting smarter — and so is packaging,” the article begins. “Exciting technologies, such as Augmented Reality (AR) or Near-Field Communication (NFC), today enable even a humble carton 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.”

Clearly, never has the idea of ‘thinking outside the box’ held so much meaning as it does today.


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