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QR codes and the Future of Connected Packaging Design

by Nick Vaus on 01/04/2022 | 4 Minute Read

As society grows accustomed to scanning QR codes for track and trace systems in the western world and on consumer products or WeChat in Asia, connected packaging could be the next big thing.  

Invented in the early 90s for manufacturing purposes, QR codes became more accessible thanks to iOS 11 scanner camera integration. Today, you can spot them on out-of-home adverts, e-payment options, museums, and galleries. 

With most consumers being fully on board with QR codes, there is a golden opportunity for brands to embrace and integrate this technology into their packaging designs. Could this be the end of a never-ending list of ingredients on the back of the pack? Or a way to engage consumers with your latest campaign? Is this the future of DTC packaging that reduces printing costs? While there are potentially many benefits to QR codes, brands first need to decide the purpose of having them and whether they will appeal to the target audience. 

To avoid making a QR code look like a postage stamp on a beautifully designed product, here are some tips so you can begin integrating it into your on-pack designs.

Aesthetic Integration

The first challenge is encouraging consumers to immerse themselves into your brand world beyond the physical. Integrating the QR code within the brand identity and color palette ensures consistency and coherence with the existing brand world. It could get built on and into the graphic language of the pixelated cues as the surrounding visuals draw a consumer's attention to the new addition on the pack. 

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Ensure Scanability

With the ability to experiment with different shapes, sizes, and even the transparency of QR code design, this can be an ideal way for brands to extend their image to create unique visual touchpoints. But the consumer will need to recognize it for what it is. Balancing creativity with the code’s scanability is how you will entice the consumer or face losing their interest entirely.

Inclusive Design

At the moment, most products don't even have Braille on their packaging for consumers that are blind or have low vision, and there is no legal requirement for brands to include it. While Braille on its own can only convey limited information, there is an enormous opportunity to engage with folks that have difficulty reading on-pack jargon. Accessible codes akin to the everyday QR code could help those with vision impairment access and identify products more easily. It also enables brands to forge meaningful relationships with this demographic while becoming more inclusive. 

Direct to the Right Place

Remember, you are taking the consumer to a brand world on their smartphone. Keep things simple and consistent. When a cross-department team is involved, they all want different aspects of the brand highlighted. Typically, brand leaders prefer a focus on the vision and mission. But the product development team might want to spotlight new formulations while the communications team wants to show off their latest advert. And then there's also the head of sustainability who wants to push for recycling and traceability facts. Let the battle commence! 

As a brand designer, you need to step back and ask yourself, "what’s the real reason we’re transporting the consumer to somewhere new? And what does that offer?" 

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Provide an Incentive

Your QR code might be designed beautifully, but that doesn't mean someone will automatically scan it. You need to add the what or why to incentivize them. Language cues like find discounts here or learn more about the benefits behind can be leveraged as tools of persuasion to interact with the technology, ensuring consumers will revisit.

Think Dynamic

Using a dynamic QR code allows brands to change the content and destination easily without the need to distribute a global rollout of new packaging each time. However, you'll still need to consider that consumers will want to access and download previous, relevant information as the place beyond the QR code evolves. 

If you decide to invest in connected packaging through QR codes, you need to make your customers aware of their existence and how to use them. That is where social media can help. Short educational videos, for example, can demonstrate how connected packaging works, how to scan a product, or start the digital experience. 

QR codes offer brands an invaluable channel to directly communicate with their customers and inform them about incoming products or sales. But the crucial takeaway is that as a designer or a brand marketer, you need to be 100% sure why you want to integrate a QR code and the information you will be giving your audience. Only then will you reap all the benefits. 

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