Trailblazers in smart packaging

With the speed of packaging innovation gathering pace, we take a look at the next big thing in smart packaging, and explore what it means for 21st century brands and their consumers.

16 August, 2017
It’s a truth widely acknowledged that in today’s fast-paced world, digital reigns supreme. In the world of packaging, this is certainly the case. Today, a quick scan of a soft drink or packet of chips in the supermarket aisle can provide consumers with a brand’s product information as well as current promotions, and even enable full-blown conversations between brand and consumer.

In recognition of the huge potential of smart packaging, Amcor, in partnership with Kezzler, launched MaXQ, an end-to-end digital packaging system designed to take advantage of a captive digital audience, and drive consumer engagement and loyalty in the process.

MaXQ allows brands to personalise the experience by creating dynamic codes that can be used for consumer engagement, anti-counterfeiting, and track and trace. The possibilities – in terms of consumer experience, brand marketing and brand safety – are endless.

In a recent interview, published by Plastics in Packaging, Amcor’s Vice President of Marketing for Amcor Flexibles EMEA, Luca Zerbini, spoke about how the digital revolution has led to exciting developments for packaging and the future of customer experience.

Standing out from the crowd

“When you scan the code for solutions that are currently on the market, they will take you to a video or a website that is the same for every single pack,” he explains. “The difference here is that the experience can be individualised to do all sorts of things. You don’t need to know what a code will be required to do before it is applied; you can decide later how it will be used.”

One advantage of this is the opportunity for brands to tailor offers to products that are already displayed in stores. A brand owner, for example, might want to respond to a competitor’s promotion in a local region: using a mass serialisation product like MaXQ, they can activate on-pack codes in specific locations and launch a new marketing campaign in the same region as their competitor. They can also build expand gifting opportunities and create new ways to actively interact with consumers and create engaging communities. The technology allows savvy brands to jump on trends, news stories and sports fixtures with timely promotions – moment marketing at its finest.

Unleashing the power of the cloud

But why has such a revolution in packaging taken so long to get off the ground? “In the past, we have been hindered by the ability to narrate millions of codes,” says Zerbini. “The amount of data that was previously required to sit physically within the code is now sitting in the cloud, to be used whenever it is needed.

“From the printer perspective, the ability to print millions of packages that are really unique wasn't possible until now, but printing technology has moved on. We now have a greatly improved quality of print together with the ability to change the print between each label. Every pack can be different, and we can now do this to scale without lowering the efficiency of the manufacturing lines.”

Taking advantage of efficiency gains

MaXQ’s technology also means that the labelling is no longer time-sensitive. Packaging and labels can be manufactured and stored as they are now, but have a longer shelf-life because codes are not activated until the time of filling. This has many advantages, which include counterfeit prevention, tax and duty verification, and food safety. With the latter, mass serialisation allows consumers – identified through MaXQ’s integration with store loyalty cards – to be messaged immediately in the event of a product recall.

Of course, there’s much more to mass serialisation than meets the eye, and Zerbini believes that we’re only just beginning to realise its full potential. “As packaging continues to move on, mass serialisation has the flexibility to move with it, offering opportunities that we cannot yet even imagine. Brands and Retailers alike are pushing adoption, with initiatives like Smart Labels in the US and end to end value chain initiatives globally, as highlighted by the Consumer Goods Forums. Amcor will be launching with the first global customer this year and we have many more discussions on-going.

Explore Amcor’s MaXQ page to learn more about how the digital revolution has impacted the consumer journey. Become part of the experience.

To find out more about the trends and developments of note for today’s digital natives – including insight from The Big Picture’s Liza Murphy on hot packaging trends for Gen Z – take a look at our Big Ideas series, which ran over the course of Interpack 2017. There, topics like design to value (DTV), the perils of over-engineering and designing for a circular economy were put under the microscope and discussed by a host of packaging and design experts from around the world.

Luca Zerbini
Vice President Marketing, R&D and Sustainability