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Packaging Possibilities: How Will Shopping in the Metaverse Change Packaging Design?

Images courtesy of Canva Packaging-Design-in-the-Metaverse-ftd.jpg
Think of it. The virtual world opens up new scenarios for customized packaging experiences, virtual unboxing, and testing new designs.

One of the hottest holiday gifts last year was a virtual reality set for gaming. Globally, the VR gaming market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30% from 2020 to 2027, according to Grand View Research.

Whether a person’s initiation is through gaming or not, it’s clear that VR experiences are in demand. In 2021, more than 171 million people worldwide were VR users, with 78% of Americans familiar with the technology, says technology reviewer TechJury.

This familiarity is helping VR technology make inroads in ecommerce. It’s not too far of a jump to imagine that, instead of scrolling on a website, people might soon be shopping in a virtual store to pick out their purchases using VR headsets.

Just as ecommerce set new goals for packaging design, shopping in the metaverse will have an equally significant impact.

Packaging Digest noodled on this concept with Brent Lindberg, Head of Curiosity at packaging design firm Fuseneo. In our conversation, we jumped into the rabbit hole headfirst to unpack the challenges of designing for a new reality.

We didn’t just uncover more problems for you. Promise. In this podcast, Lindberg imagines inventive, mind-blowing solutions, too, that you can use today.

 

PACKAGING POSSIBILITIES - Season 2: Episode 7

If you have a topic you’d like to propose for a future PACKAGING POSSIBILITIES episode, please email Lisa Pierce at [email protected].

 

TRANSCRIPT IS AUTO GENERATED

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Hello, this is Lisa Pierce, executive editor of Packaging Digest, with another episode of Packaging Possibilities, a podcast that reveals what’s new and what’s next for packaging executives and engineers, designers and developers. In this episode, I’ll be talking with Brent Lindberg, Head of Curiosity at Fuseneo, which is not the typical packaging design agency. And our topic today is packaging design in the Metaverse.

Brent, hi! Thanks for talking with us today.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
My pleasure.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Before we get into the questions, tell us just a little bit about Fuseneo. How is it atypical and why?

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Lisa, when I was younger, I got an award for being weird. And at one point, I don’t know …

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Look where it’s taken …

Brent Lindberg (guest)
What’s that?

Lisa McTigue Pierce
And look where it’s taken you.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Yeah, yeah. I still get awards for being weird. But no, I just … I think this really incredible creativity with insane level of detail and commercialization is really what we’ve built our team on. Just finding quirky people that, as we say, swim like we do. And put them all together, with really cool backgrounds, and then put us in front of big brands, and all that comes together to build some really cool stuff.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK. I love your title: Head of Curiosity. I am in probably the best career that I could have because I get to ask so many people any question that I have and, for the most part, they usually answer it and that to me is just heaven. So tell me a little bit about your background.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Boy, I mean, the founding of Fuseneo … I started it like 15 years ago and it stemmed from a couple of strange opportunities that I had. One of them was getting hired at 17 to lead design for a company that paid for my college, and they happen to be in the packaging space. So I was doing blow-molding design for bottles, you know, for companies like Procter and Gamble and Clorox and Kraft and all these companies at 17 years old.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
How fun.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Yeah, it was an incredible opportunity, but it gave me this, like, just really passion for how the industry moves, how fast it moves, and dynamic it is, how complicated it is. When you have things that run at those speeds and have all those different touch points and all the ways that they move. And so I just fell in love with packaging and the industry as a whole. And then, 15 years ago had an opportunity to start a firm. And yeah, that was … that’s kind of been my background.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK. Great. So now let’s enter the Metaverse.

It’s going to take me a little bit …

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Do you have music to, like … to get us into there? Any, like, strange? No.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Oh, you know what? I’ll … maybe I could do that. I could do some dubbing. Yes.

[Metaverse music]

Brent, it’s going to take me just a little while to tee up this first question, so bear with me.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Do it.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
We’re seeing the intersection of two developing trends that could have a significant impact on packaging design.

One of them is the growth of ecommerce shopping and how it’s been changing packaging design in a couple of ways. One is that you’re creating packages now for the … that need to survive the small-parcel delivery method. Rather than pallet loads, which is the vast majority still of the distribution for products in the United States today.

And the second way that this ecommerce trend has been changing packaging, packaging design, is that companies are now designing their packaging graphics to appeal to shoppers who are seeing this package on a screen rather than on a shelf. So that’s one of the two developing trends that I see as an intersection.

The second one, while it’s still going to be off into the future, is the idea that people are going to be living more in the metaverse. That’s really taking hold. So whether it’s using virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality — however you want to call it, whichever term you want to use, and I know they’re slightly different, all three of those are slightly different. And whether you using that for work or for recreation — the digital “reality” is no longer science fiction. One of the hottest holiday gifts this last Christmas was virtual reality set for gaming. Pretty much for gaming.

So it’s not too far of a jump to imagine that instead of scrolling on a website, people might soon be shopping in a virtual store to pick out their purchases. So, knowing all of this now, these two trends converging, Brent, how do you think that’s going to change the design of packages, both structurally as well as graphically, moving forward?

Brent Lindberg (guest)
There is a lot of facets to that answer, Lisa.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yes.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Actually, we just did a video of unboxing an Oculus. And man, it … It’s going to have impacts for sure in some areas. But I think you have to delineate what element of that is digital and what is physical. Is it something that’s … we’re going to call it “digi-phys” — where it’s moving from digital into physical, is it something where you’re just shopping digitally and procuring a physical item? Or is it something that is completely digital and you’re shopping it in a digital space and you’re keeping it in a digital space, right?

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Ah. OK. Are you referring to NFTs maybe?

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Uhm. We can certainly talk about NFTs.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Uh, but you know, I think when you have this digital storefront, whether that is an augmented reality, which is, you know, where things are … just for people who maybe aren’t as familiar with the different terms. Augmented reality where you are … still you see the environment around you, but maybe it’s modified. Think of the Pokémon game. That was a great augmented reality example where you had little characters appearing in places that … you see the, you know, the dumpster and then you see the Pokémon character jump up from behind dumpster.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yep.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
And then you have virtual reality, which is completely, you know in your own world, which is Oculus right? You’re blocked out of vision from everything else.

And so whether you’re in virtual reality or augmented reality, the experience is very different and at some level, the packaging doesn’t ultimately have to match the physical item that’s going … getting shipped to you. You can have digital on-shelf packaging and then your physical presence, packaging that shows up and they may actually differ in some cases.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Why would they differ?

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Well, because your on-shelf packaging may not need to have regulatory, whereas maybe the one that shows up with the item does. The on-shelf packaging maybe doesn’t have to be as protective. Maybe it can have windows and you see the product or a desert of things, whereas the one that comes to your doorstep is going to need to have more of that. So you may actually be able to have different packaging.

And then you might have environments that you actually may get to a situation, here in the future, where retailers require a digital version of your packaging to appear in their digital stores, and it’s got to be accurate to exactly what the consumer receives. So you have, you know … what I think you’re going to see are different requirements. You may have a completely embedded retailer that can control and, you know, in some cases maybe go packaging-less for certain items on the shelf. And then that’ll have to have a package packaging get shift. So there’s just a lot of facets that this whole digital or physical world can take.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK, before we leave this topic, though, I do want to talk about it because I know that for a lot of ecommerce shopping, the brands or the retailers, etailers have decided that they want to show the product and that showing the product in a package isn’t necessary. You know, the consumer knows that they’re going to get this product in a package unless they do the Frustration Free … unless they’re buying from Amazon and doing Frustration-Free Packaging, they’re going to get the product in a package. But do they have to?

I know that you and Fuseneo have done quite a bit of work with ecommerce packaging designs and one of the ones that I think is just genius is your reversible boxes, where it ships in its own container. And then if you’ve bought it as a gift and, you know, it ships in its own container, but it’s still very generic as a brown box or, you know, whatever box. And then if you want to gift it to somebody, if you bought it to gift it to somebody else, you open the box, you unfold it, you fold it up inside out, and it’s a beautiful gift package, which I think is just genius. But let’s just explore this a little bit more. When do you think or why do you think or do you think … when would somebody want to show the package in the Metaverse versus when they just want to show the product?

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Yeah. There are a lot of products out there that are not highly differentiated from brand to brand. And you know you’ve got $500 white T-shirts, right? That are completely indistinguishable from a Hanes T-shirt that comes in a 3-pack for $8.00.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yep.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
And so the packaging, the brand, there’s an element that goes behind that that has to sell that as premium, as more distinct. And why would I buy this $500 shirt versus buying a 3-pack for $8.00? And yes, maybe the material is better, maybe it’s softer or maybe it does something else. But the shirt, just a picture of this shirt or a digital representation of the shirt doesn’t give you that. You have to do some communicating in there. And so how you do that communicating, whether it’s a package as we think of a package or it’s a package in the way that the shirt, the item is presented. Maybe you walk up to the shirt and a Halo appears around it and items come up and it’s the way that the information is presented, the way that you’re doing … that’s packaging, right? Packaging is about … one of the main elements of packaging is communication.

And we call it presentation. And so there’s even different ways that that can appear, but when you, especially when you have items that consumers don’t really know the difference from A to B, you’ve got to do more as a brand to communicate your product versus the product on shelf next to yours.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK, that is a great answer. I hadn’t thought of it until you started speaking. And then all of a sudden, it’s like, of course! That makes total sense, total total sense. And I would imagine that there are other times where perhaps if this is going to be a gift that you’re buying for somebody else — as I mentioned in another example — that you do need it to be in some kind of package and knowing what that package is going to look like is going to help you decide whether to buy that product over something else as a gift.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Yeah, I mean, if it’s just, if it’s gonna show up in a, you know, just a bubble-wrap bag up with some tape around it or is it going to show up in a nice presentation box. You know, that giftability element is certainly an important piece. You want to see what it is that you’re buying because that’s what you’re going to be giving, right. Wedding gifts and all those things. You want to know exactly what you’re going to hand to somebody.

But there’s an element of even like just assurance of protection or assurance of sterility. Think about baby products and pacifiers. Is this thing sealed in a package or are they just, you know, zip-tied to the outside of a card. That’s a bad example, but the, that idea that you want some assurance of this thing is sterile. It’s clean. It’s got these things … that comes from seeing the packaging on shelf. And so there’s a lot of these different little examples, like gifting, that we could that we could allude to, where you will want to see more of a physical representation of the actual package on shelf.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK, excellent. Perfect. And that’s a great segue into my next question. So packaging designers for brick-and-mortar retail shelves have long worked with planograms and these are where you can design your shelf set for a physical store. And I don’t think that … I don’t know if anybody is using such a thing for ecommerce, for designing packages for online shopping, ecommerce, but I don’t think they need to. I mean it just doesn’t make sense. You’re not seeing it in the same environment that way. So, right? I mean, there’s no reason to use a planogram for ecommerce, correct?

Brent Lindberg (guest)
I would say yes and no. I think, you know, when you have stores that are very traditional, I think where you’ll see this pretty quickly is grocers and mass-market stores, where they, their representation of a digital store is going to be very similar to the representation of a physical store. It’ll follow some of the same ideas that, you know, it’ll be like walking down the shelves of Walmart or Target or something like that. And the location and placement of things and how much time you spend in this store, in which direction you turn. And like it’s actually going to be a — we’ll get to the data piece of this in a second — but I think they’ll see, they’ll have very digital ... you’ll have a lot of stores that have very digital versions that are, that mimic their retail stores very closely, that the data elements of that are just astounding to think about, you know. Right now we do eye tracking and shopper tracking, walking through a store and looking stuff. In this case, you’ll actually know from the data of the software where the person turns. Every shopper that walks in your store, you’ll know where they spent time. You’ll know what path they walked. You’ll know, not just a selection of shoppers, it’s the data elements are crazy. So I think you’ll still see a number of traditional retail.

And then you’ll have stores that are going to be much more experiential and, you know.

You think about the data that’s already there in your browser and your cache that this thing can pull from and it can aggregate only the items that can fit you on only these things that are in stock and only … like it can start to build custom experiences and serve things up to you as you walk in the store and displays can change based on your own preferences. Just like the ads do in your browser today.

So I think you’ll have companies that get very just, they kind of stay in line with where they are today and you’re gonna have companies that really leverage data and they go hard down the super experiential. And you know they can make it a game, shopping their store, where you want to stay there for hours and play this game while you are, you know, subliminally serve, subliminally served up items that you want to buy. Like the endless ... The options are endless. It’s pretty mind boggling when you think about where all this is will go.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
And it’s actually quite exciting to hear you talk about it and it’s getting me excited to think about the future because I can see you've … your weirdness is already going the full tilt with this, Brent, I know.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
So true story. I wound up in the field of industrial design, because in like 7th grade I saw some video and I’m not gonna date myself, but this was a while ago. It when virtual reality was actually really, really primitive, like you had these big gloves and you kind of reached up and you could open some, you know, it looks like it was made in Minecraft, some cabinet in your kitchen; you could, like, design this kitchen in virtually. So I saw this video about virtual reality in the future of it. And I was like, that’s what I want to do. And so I head down a path towards design because of virtual reality.

And I wound up like being able to merge digital and physical, which is what, you know we do, but that’s actually how I wound up in this field was because of virtual reality.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Wow. That’s amazing. I’m hitting your sweet spot I think in talking about this.

So planograms might still be used but I would imagine it’ll be a slightly different tool for designing packaging, or maybe even testing packaging design …

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Yeah.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
… for this optimum digital display in virtual or augmented reality. So …

Brent Lindberg (guest)
I mean, think about a brand. Sorry to interrupt. But think about a brand being able to launch a change in their digital stores before they actually implement the change in their physical stores.

And being able to test at X store or with X number of consumers or for three hours a day, we’re going to try this and to be able to see what the hit rates are to be able to see what those dwell rates are, what with somebody looking at it — You could get all that data right now. It’s very specialized and I think stores will make this data available, probably for sale more than anything else. They’ll start to monetize this element. But like that’s something that is so valuable right now to know the impact of a change of packaging. And so, you know, it … as these stores come up, they’re going to leverage that and that becomes a very valuable item, is understanding the impact of those changes ’cause … It’s like a brand could totally create that launch, run it for three hours a day only, see what happens in those three hours a day and if it goes well, launch a physical change.

Packaging-Design-for-the-Metaverse-Brent-Lindbergh-quote-2-web.jpg

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Sure. Makes total sense and I can see how that data is going to be just absolute gold, both to the retailer, but definitely, definitely to the brand owner and their competition. So talk about the whole idea of this data and before we get there, many years ago, the folks at Clemson University had done their store, C U Store, I believe. Capital C capital U store, I believe is what it was called. [CUshop] And it was a virtual reality experience. And I know that what they were doing is not really using it as a virtual shopping experience even though it was, but they were doing that to get the data on packaging design. And you mentioned earlier about the eye-tracking studies, but this was, as you had said, you know, an Oculus where you’re in a virtual reality environment.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
An environment.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
But I remember to being struck when, ’cause I had an opportunity to go and do that, and that was, like, so totally cool at the time.

But I remember thinking that, in addition to all that data, they were so smart because they had a check form where they kind of try to get qualitative data on top of all the quantitative data and the qualitative is, you know, a questionnaire. Tell us why … it’s … and that all important “Why?” question. Getting the answer to that. So how would that all work?

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Well, I mean so that this whole eye-tracking thing, whether that’s in the digital world or even sending consumers into stores with eye-tracking glasses on, right. You’re creating heat maps and you’re trying to find out how long people looked and where did their eyes go first and how much time did they spend reading something or what were they … were they drawn to something because it sticks out.

There’s … you’re gathering data, like one consumer at a time and these glasses are good and the software is good. But now you’re talking about, like a consumer has to walk up to something, and I have to turn the camera to focus on something. They have to zoom in. They have to actually click on something to, like, pick it up and read it like, you know exactly what they’re looking at. You know exactly where they’re turning. And you know, this data for every consumer that’s walking in the store. You don’t know it for one consumer that you’ve, you know, that you’ve drawn out of a lineup because they are a 37-year-old female with this demographic, like. You now know that data for everybody that walks in your store and you know a lot more about them because of their online traceability. But the uh, that … Like what Clemson’s doing in the, you know, and been doing for awhile, and other companies … And there’s software packages that you can buy to do to do these things. It is a valuable tool and it helps you evaluate change. It helps you understand what it is that people are drawn to, you know. You know where people spend their time and what they do and how they walk around the store and stuff like that. But it’s limited to how much you can gather and I think that’s its biggest drawback is the environment that you’re in.

I was at a cool experience several years ago where a large company had a complete test store. And it was like a grocery store, full out grocery store, stocked shelves and everything, and they sent …

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK, I’m assuming with their competitors as well, or other products, not just theirs.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Oh yeah, full out. Full shopping store, like you. It was. It just looked like a strip mall and you walked into the doors and there were cash registers and a full grocery store behind you. And there … they invited people to come in and say, hey, buy your weekly groceries.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
You know, just go buy the stuff that you’d normally buy, do your shopping trip. And so while we were watching for certain pieces of data in a very specific part of the store on a very specific thing, they didn’t interrupt their behavior and they just didn’t tell why they were there and that level of, you know, we call it like blind research, uh, as we do on our side at Fuseneo. Like, we’re not asking people to over analyze something. We’re just sending people about their daily behaviors, and this was this close to the real thing is you could get. When you put somebody in a … on a store shelf and you just do, you say, hey, digitally just go look for something, pick this thing up. What do you, which one do you, would you buy? You're putting people in an unnatural situation and you’re getting data that is unnatural. They’re in an environment they’re not used to. They feel like they have to, you know, maybe get the right answer and this whole idea of just sending people into a digital store, say by your weekly groceries. Like they’re going to behave, they’re going to spend as much time in the store they normally would, maybe more, maybe less. But it’s, you know, if they spend an hour shopping, they might still spend an hour walking around digital store. And so you’re creating as close to a natural experience as you can. And that data to me is way, way more valuable than this, you know, this quantitative or even qualitative one-off data where you’ve picked a certain consumer and ask them to shop a shelf.

So I think the quality of data is where this can change pretty drastically.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK. And then there’s the whole analysis of the data that is pretty exciting too, when you think about that. And that there’s not a whole lot of infrastructure in the packaging industry right now for that type of skill. So if anybody starts one of those companies, I hope it’s a public company and I can buy some stock in it because I want to get in on the ground floor.

OK, so, Brent, what are some of the … we’ve talked about a lot of the benefits of packaging, shopping for packaging … or shopping for products in packaging at in a virtual environment. What are some of the challenges for the packaging designers in designing for the future Metaverse? Then in … once we identify the challenges that I’m also going to ask you for just a couple of solutions if you don’t mind. You know, just throw him out there.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Give me some answers here.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yep, yep.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
And I think we should spend probably a couple minutes talking about these more really out there things like NFTs and the stuff like that. But the … when you’re talking about, you know, designing packaging for a digital world, you still have all of the constraints of a physical world, right. The product still has to ship there. If we’re talking about designing for digital world in where the packaging on shelf is has to be representative of what is coming out. So let’s say you’re walking through Walmart. Likely the packaging needs to be pretty representative of what’s going to ship out of a Walmart or be on a Walmart shelf. They would … they would keep them pretty analogous.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
And that is a great point, Brent, because I think one of the biggest mistakes that newbies make when they come into the packaging industry is they don’t … when they’re designing packages, they have all these grand ideas. But if the package cannot run on a high-speed packaging line, it does not matter how beautiful or useful or functional the package is, it’s just not going to make it. So good, very good point.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
I’ve seen a lot of of rough design over the years. But the, I think you have to … it still has to work and so if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work in digital right? Like if it doesn’t actually work still in the physical world. But the challenges are really about display and presentation and scale and the tendency to want to put everything on-pack or do everything and what needs to be there and what’s important or how do we still stick out, color usage, all that stuff.

I’m gonna back up one level from, you know, getting down this metaverse hole and, today, like shopping on Amazon, right, versus shopping in the store. You’re seeing pictures of the product, you’re seeing pictures of the packaging, and maybe even seeing some lifestyle shots in there as well, in these little thumbnails that you have. But those products have to fit in a square thumbnail. What about something long like a roll of Reynolds Wrap?

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Uh-huh.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
That’s really long and short, and so by the time you put it in the thumbnail, you know, what text was a decent size … if my thumbnail is rectangular, was fine. But now, you know, I’m completely constricted because my width is only so much. And I have all this white space above and below it. Like, certain dimensions of product actually don’t even … create challenges in this whole digital shopping environment. So that’s very much today. That’s not even the future. We already struggle with, you know, creating these in every brand is going to do it. Every company is going to do it, especially as they go more digital, they create alright, you’re X. It’s what they gotta be.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Brent, I’m sorry. You glitched for just a minute there. Say that last sentence again.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
So every company is going to create … there’s requirements about thumbnail size and things like that. And so that’s still going to carry into this metaverse, right? Like, if you have a digital storefront, it likely is going to have a certain amount of space that’s allocated to it. You’re likely going to have a certain shelf height. You’re likely still going to have some of these same constraints that you have today. Now, you could probably stack two things on top of each other that wouldn’t normally stand on top of each other, but you still have a lot of those same types of requirements when you’re talking more literal translations of digital store shelves.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK. And again, the idea is that the consumer is going to recognize what they thought they bought online when it physically arrives as well. So good. OK. So that’s one of the challenges, the physical limitations that are still going to be there, even though we’re in a digital universe. Anything else?

Brent Lindberg (guest)
No, and I think those restrictions lift once you once you get into this more experiential you know if you you’re talking about an owned and operated retailer like a Nike store, right, where you don’t necessarily need garments of each size on the rack, where you don’t need to have all of these shoe boxes out on display because I’ve got to have this in eight sizes in like your … the position of packaging, which is already different in those owned and operated stores, right. That position of packaging changes already there, but even more so when you step into the digital world, when you’re just creating more experiential retail shopping experiences now. Once you’ve shopped the items, you probably may want to still see what, how it’s getting packed and how it’s coming, but it you may not actually shop it like that initially.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK, very interesting. Again, there was something that I hadn’t thought of myself, but I could definitely see how that would really enhance the whole experience, both for the brand, as well as for the consumer. And earlier when you were talking about being able to customize the experience for the consumer, that also is very exciting. OK.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
And it’s just that that last little note before we move on. You know, if you think about some of these roles that packaging that, this how helping to communicate the value of an item, right, if something is premium that doesn’t go away. Am I buying a very expensive, finely crafted glass cup or am I buying a mass-market, very inexpensive glass cup? They may look very similar, but this element of premiumness, even surprised, right? Like that this element of surprise needs to still come apart. And you bought something. And this, the ability to kind of digitally unbox it and see, that can truly add to the experience. So rather than just looking at the package on shelf, if you can actually even open it in store — which you can’t do today, you can’t just go through this store and open everything

Lisa McTigue Pierce
You’re right.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Like in the store you can actually open this thing and feel how beautiful it is and see how premium and the surprise elements and say, like, “This is exactly what I want to give to this, you know, this wedding that I’m going to” and stuff that you can’t do today.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yeah, that’s very interesting. And I can see it working even upstream just a little bit, too, where the packaging designers themselves are using virtual reality to test the functionality of maybe a new package, a new component to a package, whether it be a dispenser or, you know, whatever. So way cool. OK, I think what I want to do is just end on 100% digital level. So earlier we both threw out the NFT term and that is ...

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Three-letter swearword.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yeah, non-frangible tokens …

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Fungible.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Fungible! You know what? I do that every single time. Thank you so much.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Yeah. No worries.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Because, yeah, they are fungible, non-fungible. OK.

So let’s say that this is a digital product, does it even …

Brent Lindberg (guest)
We’re down the rabbit hole now.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
… down the rabbit hole! Let’s just dive right in, you know, headfirst.

Before we go there, let’s take a short break for a special message.

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Lisa Pierce here. Executive Editor of Packaging Digest. Have you heard?? SouthPack is back! After a break of seven years, the 2022 event will take place this year June 14-16 at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, NC. Owned and organized by Informa Markets Engineering, the parent company of Packaging Digest, SouthPack will be one of six co-located shows at the all-new IM Engineering South advanced design and manufacturing expo. Sign up today at imengineeringsouth.com. That’s I M ENGINEERING SOUTH dot com.

Now, let’s get back to our Packaging Possibilities podcast.

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Lisa McTigue Pierce

Brent and I are down the rabbit hole, talking about non-fungible tokens, NFTs.

So do you even need packaging? If you’ve got a digital product. And I know for the NFTs, a lot of it is, you know, digital artwork. There is one company who has come up with a limited-edition physical package as an NFT and I’m still trying to wrap my head around all of that. We haven’t written about it yet, so we’re still doing the research, but tell us a little bit more about your vision for these digital products and whether they need digital packaging.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Yeah, Lisa, you may not want to listen to me. There are plenty of times in my life I’ve been very wrong. And if you would have asked me, you know, several years ago if people would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a picture, a small thumbnail of a monkey smoking a cigar, I would tell you, heck, no. A digital, you know, just JPEG. So I’m wrong, very wrong here. Somebody just paid $24 million for 100 pictures of monkeys.

Alright, so just with that in mind, I’ll tell you what I think and then just know that I’m probably wrong.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
But the I think there is still an element of value and surprise, and it doesn’t, you know, it doesn’t have to be a box or something physical in that way, that you unwrap. But the presentation of the items that you store digitally, and buy digitally, I think it has some value and it’s non-traditional packaging design. And it’s digital design, which means you can do anything, right? I can Photoshop me in outer space. And so you can literally do anything with it. It doesn’t have to be commercial, it does, it can … It can be this lotus flower that just goes crazy and opens up and does elaborate things, which is really cool on one hand. But I think there’s an element of, I buy this thing that at the end of the day may just be a 3D model of Batman that all I can do is spin around and look at. And my brother-in-law bought one a couple weeks ago. He was trying to tell me how awesome it was. I wasn’t convinced.

I was like, “What do you do with it?” “I just look at it.” OK. Cool. I would say, “Do you own it? Is it like on your computer?” “No, no, it’s not. I have to have this other software program.” I was, like, “Right. OK, cool.” So you bought something you don’t even own. Awesome.

But I digress. But there’s an element of storing it, right? Like you bought a signed baseball and it’s going to come in this little glass case and it’s going to sit up there. And maybe if you bought that physical baseball, it would come in something that was premium. It opened up and it laid out, and it had a certificate of authenticity and things like that. There’s this presentation element that I think us as consumers are drawn to. You bought something really nice. Somebody just hands you that item. It’s like, “Here you go. Here’s your purse.” Like. “Oh, OK.” Like it’s … there’s this element of surprise. I mean, we all love opening gifts, right? I got something today that I didn’t know I was supposed to get. Somebody sent me a gift and it was beautiful. Like I’m going to shoot a video on it later tonight. It’s spoiler alert. It was incredibly disappointing.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Oh.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
But it was a beautiful presentation and I was like, I was getting really excited as we were getting into this thing and I … that same thing. You’ve just spent $200,000 to buy a picture of a monkey. If somebody like, sends you an email, “Here’s your picture of the monkey, Dude.” It’s a little anti-climactic.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Exactly.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
You know, to receive it in something where you physically like digitally open this thing and it has presented there nicely with this, like, I think there’s value in that. I think some of those same attributes that apply to physical packaging today will still apply to digital items even if they are NFTs, and even if I’m very wrong.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
I agree 100% and, Brent, I have to say this has been an absolutely delightful conversation and I think that you are right more than you know in all of these ideas that you’ve shared with us today. So thank you.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Don’t tell my wife.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Well, she married you. She must know already. So thank you very much for your time, Brent, and I really appreciate you letting me pick your brain on this topic.

Brent Lindberg (guest)
Absolutely, it’s fun.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Packaging design in the Metaverse. It’s coming. It’s coming!

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