In a World of Disconnect, Connected Packaging Brings Consumers Closer to What They Desire

by Theresa Christine Johnson on 08/22/2019 | 4 Minute Read

We live in a time when packaging that only protects its contents is now blasé. When packaging can be a consumer experience, an extension of the product, or an expression of brand values, then anything less fails to impress.

But it’s not just about “wow-ing” the consumer. There’s so much valuable information packaging can share, and with advanced data carriers and innovations in package design today, it can be done in more dynamic ways than ever before. This is where connected packaging comes into play.

Connected packaging is a term for packs that utilize codes and forms of communication which engage the customer in new ways. Take, for example, a set of batteries that lets you know how much charge it has left—this is a subcategory of connected packaging called “interactive packaging.” It uses specific materials that can communicate valuable information to the consumer, making it a more useful option.

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“Intelligent packaging” also falls within the connected packaging world. This kind of pack will send and receive information for dynamic interaction with sensors—think items that use near-field communication (NFC) or radio-frequency identification (RFID) like rOcean bottles.

And then there is “active packaging,” a type of pack that offers exclusive content, the ability to track-and-trace, or product information, often with symbols like QR codes or an advanced data carrier, such as Digimarc Barcode.

With so many opportunities for connected packaging to truly make a difference in the consumer experience, Digimarc and HP recently teamed up with Dieline Awards to announce the Connected Packaging Award. The winner, Arbora, is a prime example of active packaging.

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Editorial photograph

Arbora puts a unique twist on gifting flowers to loved ones. This concept allows people to have flowers and trees planted throughout National Forests and Grasslands, and customers can then find the exact location of where the tree gets planted through a GPS code they receive. The packaging comes printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paperboard and printed with soy-based inks.

“I got the idea when I saw the news broadcasting a forest fire in the Los Angeles area,” said Jisu Kim, a Graphic Design student at ArtCenter College of Design and the brains behind Arbora. “I was watching the news, saw so many trees getting destroyed, and I wondered how we could replace the trees.”

It was around this time that Jisu needed to pick a theme for a class project, and her passion for the environment sparked the idea for Arbora. After speaking with her Packaging 1 Professor, Daniel Hoy, she also decided to explore providing a method for consumers to track the tree location. 

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“I was researching forest restoration organization,” explained Jisu. “There are so many where people can donate money, and with that money, the organization plants trees. People sometimes donate money to plant trees in honor of someone they love or someone they lost, and I thought it might be cool if people knew where the tree is growing up.”

Because consumers undoubtedly get a lot more from having that GPS code than they do with a lot of written information, Jisu was able to keep the packaging simple. The joy comes from knowing where that tree grows, and it stands as a lasting memory of the purchase. 

“As a consumer, instead of just donating money and hoping it will be used for good, with this you get some kind of proof of your help,” she added. “Doing it makes the experience special.”

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Most importantly, it brings people to nature, the heart of the project, and what started Arbora in the first place.

Packaging can be harmful to the environment, and even the eco-friendly products we buy might end up in the landfill, and we won't think about it twice. With this kind of technology, though, the consumer can get right into nature (at least in their head and their heart), which means connected packaging can take the consumer experience to new places—and that is pretty extraordinary.

Today, consumers desire intimate experiences in a disconnected world and useful products that work seamlessly in an increasingly technology-driven environment. Connected packaging is the ideal vehicle for meeting this evolving consumer need.

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Learn more about Digimarc here!

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