Malcolm Keif, professor, Graphic Communication Department, California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, presents his ideas on interactive packaging on Tues., Feb. 12, 2014, as part of our WestPack seminar series.
Packaging Digest asked him for some insight into his thinking.
Why are the issues you are presenting critical today?
Keif: Packaging professionals are looking for a way to connect with their customers using interactive packaging technologies for a couple of reasons.
First, they are looking to provide greater appeal for their brand at the point of sale. This could be in the form of scannable codes, NFC [near field communication] or printed displays. In the near term, simply having something new will appeal to some. But in the long term, the consumer will need to have some value or benefit from new packaging solutions. By creating interesting, innovative packaging, the CPG [consumer packaged goods company] hopes to attract consumer attention among a sea of competitors.
Second, the CPG wants to understand their customer better. By leveraging mobile technologies, it may be possible to gain critical insight into customer interests and behaviors.
Third, interactive packaging may add a level of security to address counterfeiting problems with high-value products.
In the end, interactive packaging is designed to engage the user and extend brand equity while providing the CPG new insight into consumer behavior.
What is changing?
Keif: Mobile technologies and the way society interacts with mobile technologies have changed drastically in the past decade. In most developed countries, consumers walk around with interactive (and tracking) devices that provide clues to behaviors and preferences for how they manage their time. Interactive packaging can take many forms, but the most sophisticated forms that leverage data mining are still a challenge to produce in a cost-effective manner.
How can professionals prepare or anticipate new needs?
Keif: The key is to explore what is possible now and what will be possible as technologies develop. What interactive applications would really provide value to the consumer or the CPG? How realistic is it to develop a cost-effective solution? Everything is on the table right now.
Conventional and printed solutions are all being explored. A lot of development work is taking place right now with new materials and new application methods for printed electronics.
Working professionals should stay abreast of those changes and keep an eye on how ubiquitous NFC becomes. When (and if) the iPhone adopts NFC, as has been rumored for years, and if NFC applications natively run in the background of mobile devices, consumers may widely adopt its use. That will prove interesting and may open up additional opportunities.