Lisa McTigue Pierce, Executive Editor

February 20, 2018

4 Min Read
Packaging design opportunities abound in the 4th Dimension

Digital technologies like artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT) and virtual reality are transforming companies and their relationships with consumers. Applying these and other technologies to the business of packaging offers myriad opportunities for process efficiencies, as well as for consumer engagement.

In his keynote at the upcoming TransPack Forum 2018 (Mar. 20-23, San Diego, CA) organized by the Intl. Safe Transit Assn., Brian Wagner, director of Ameripen (American Institute for Packaging & the Environment) and co-founder and principal of global management and packaging consultancy PTIS LLC, introduces us to the fourth dimension in packaging design.

With more than three decades of experience in packaging, Wagner helps you bring foresight-driven insights to the table. He gives us a preview of what he’ll talk about and why packaging developers and designers need to embrace the opportunities this new era is bringing.

What is the 4th Dimension and how is it changing package design?

Wagner: The 2nd Dimension of package design refers to graphics and the 3rd Dimension to structural design. Designers tend to be good at one or the other, not both. All too seldom are package designs created holistically, syncing both with the entire consumer or user brand experience.

Now, to complicate the process further, the 4th Dimension of package design brings the element of digital transformation, and Internet of Things (IoT) or Internet of Packaging (IoP) where the physical and digital worlds collide. Where:

• Package and consumer relationships are mapped together.

• Connected packages become brand-owned digital media.

• We are designing for the end-to-end lifecycle in real time.

What is the biggest challenge for packaging designers as we move further into this newer dimension?

Wagner: The biggest challenge I see is that individual functional leads do not see the connected value IoP brings—when value equals real and perceived benefits / investment. Rather they look only at a single element.

IoT is not new—the whole digital transformation began in the 90s—but many still struggle to understand where to get started. We will realize the power when we appreciate that a sensor or chip on or in a package can be much more than a novel AR/VR game. It can enhance the brand relationship with the consumer and retailer, and data and analytics can deliver supply chain efficiencies and effectiveness.  Once we realize all this then will we embrace the 4th Dimension of package design.

Further, it is a challenge to bring together right-brain and left-brain individuals to co-create, leveraging their strengths in creativity and logic. When we do that, it’s an amazing thing. According to a 2017 Forbes article:

78% of IoT providers predict their greatest source of monetization will be from value-added services and maintenance. IoT platforms and technologies [are] ideally positioned to revolutionize business models today, with the study finding sales of value-added services and maintenance having the greatest potential for revenue gains.”

When it comes to accomplishing higher levels of IoT adoption across enterprises, 34% say quantifying business benefits is essential. Being able to evangelize and improve the understanding of IoT benefits (24%), improving security (17%) and attaining greater integration with everyday items (11%) are also foundational to accomplishing higher levels of adoption. Data use and insight will increase as IoT providers recruit more developers, engineers and software architects with big data and analytics expertise.”

Who should packaging designers collaborate with the most to find success in the 4th Dimension and why them?

Wagner: Collaboration and resourcing are crucial to success and progress. Traditional designers must collaborate with programmers, analysts and logical thinkers. Some of the leaders in the space are small, entrepreneurial companies, skilled in programming—and often hard for larger companies to even find. Nearly all companies in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) have at least one, and often more, digital agencies they are working with. Most of them are focused on social media, and reaching consumers in the digital world—less so at delivering solutions on the physical product and package side.

Check out all the statistics in that Forbes article.


What is the most promising opportunity that the 4th Dimension offers and why?

Wagner: I believe the most promising opportunity will come as “someone” quantifies the value of the 4th Dimension of design as integral to their particular brand—when the sensor on/in pack is more than a novelty, or more than just a supply chain data-tool.

Today, many leading brands are implementing one-off package designs and in-store displays, leveraging the technology. When we look back at the toothpaste category for instance, and Colgate Total incorporating an expensive foil emblem to take over the #1 spot in the category—they could not cost-reduce the pack and remove the foil enhancement. It became a crucial part of its brand—now we walk down that aisle and foil holograms are used across the entire category. They communicate freshness, shine and cleaning. The same can and will happen in the Internet of Packaging, the 4th Dimension of design.


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About the Author(s)

Lisa McTigue Pierce

Executive Editor, Packaging Digest

Lisa McTigue Pierce is Executive Editor of Packaging Digest. She’s been a packaging media journalist since 1982 and tracks emerging trends, new technologies, and best practices across a spectrum of markets for the publication’s global community. Reach her at [email protected] or 630-272-1774.

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