When it comes to sales promotion, packaging is able to engage consumers in ways other marketing media can't touch: It has a unique ability to build bridges between the physical product and virtual experiences using on-pack, high-tech tools. Add some visually arresting package graphics to the technological bells and whistles, and promotional success is virtually (so to speak) assured.
Companies with products ranging from chips to lettuce are getting on board, combining new digital and mobile technologies with head-turning graphics to deliver the promotional goods.
Tic Tac shakes things up
The Tic Tac mints box is an essential component in the brand's interactive Shake it Up campaign, which launched in February. The campaign, which spans print, TV, outdoor advertising, social media and packaging, encourages the target market (18- to 35-year-olds) to shake up their lives.
Central to the campaign is the free Tic Tac Viewr mobile application, which enables smartphone-toting consumers to engage in "augmented reality experiences." For example, they can point their smartphone at a Tic Tac box to play the Tic Tac Tibby game; the box becomes the background for a 3D game in which the player tosses mints into a character's mouth.
In choosing to make the box part of the promotion, Tic Tac walked a fine line. "Packaging for us is so critical. It goes well beyond functional, because it is such a big part of our equity," says Noah Szporn, category marketing director for Tic Tac (www.tictacusa.com), a part of Ferrero U.S.A., Somerset, N.J.
So instead of changing the physical package, the brand used a mobile application. "Our target is 18 to 35, so we were trying to leverage a medium that's relevant for that target — finding a way to shake up the packaging through the mobile experience," Szporn explains.
He adds that the beauty of using augmented reality "is that you're able to create an experience with the packaging without actually having to change the packaging itself. It's a way to do it in a digital, experiential way without having to change the core equity of [the] product."
The brand owner has also used advertising media, including print ads and a billboard in New York's Times Square, to deliver augmented reality experiences as part of the Tic Tac Shake It Up campaign.
According to Szporn, the campaign will continue for the next two to five years as the key communication platform for the brand.
On-pack QR code
Even in the produce department, packaging is taking a high-tech turn to promote sales. When Tanimura & Antle Inc. (www.taproduce.com), Salinas, Calif., recently redesigned the packaging for its Field Fresh Wrapped Leaf Lettuce products, it incorporated a quick-response (QR) code on the back of the bag.
Consumers with a QR reader-enabled smartphone can scan the code in the store to link to a series of short videos showing how Tanimura & Antle packages its products in the field as soon as they are harvested. A bilingual version of the packaging is in development.
In addition to the QR code, the lettuce package design uses bold color coding to differentiate the leafy varieties: blue for romaine, orange for endive, purple for escarole, red for red leaf and green for green leaf.
Addressing the increasingly competitive retail environment for produce, the company "added the vibrant colors to [the packaging] so it really pops off the shelf with the consumer," says Diana McClean, director of marketing at Tanimura & Antle. "As there are more players in the field, there's going to be more competition for how we can differentiate our product from the next leafy green. We need to make sure our product is visible on the shelf."
After the consumer notices the colorful package and picks it up, the QR code creates an interactive experience in real time. "We could send them to a website, and of course we do, but the QR code is a new tool at our disposal," McClean says. Smartphone shoppers with QR-code readers can scan the code on the bag and "be served that video right there while they're standing in the store."
Tanimura & Antle uses its packaging for conventional limited-time promotions, as well. This summer, for instance, the company is promoting its Summer Fun Sweepstakes with colorful graphics on rigid plastic packs of Artisan Lettuce varieties. Although the packs don't include a QR code, they do provide the address of the Artisan Lettuce web site (www.artisanlettuce.com) and the corporate web site plus the Facebook logo.
Dew cans flash the bat signal
PepsiCo (www.pepsico.com), Purchase, N.Y., is leveraging both digital technology and an advanced package-printing technique in its "Dark Knight" promotion for Mountain Dew. The promotion leverages "The Dark Knight Rises," a Batman movie scheduled to open on July 20.
At the promotional website (DEWGothamCity.com), Mountain Dew fans can access exclusive content, including sneak peeks of the film. While there, they also can enter product codes found on 20-oz. and 2-liter Mountain Dew bottles, multipacks and fountain cups to earn points redeemable for "Dark Knight" products and to enter a sweepstakes.
In addition, PepsiCo created an eye-grabbing, limited-time package for 16-oz. cans of Mountain Dew. The bat signal is printed on the cans with thermochromic ink; the bat shape changes from silver to "Dew green" when the cans are chilled.
"One thing that Mountain Dew and ‘The Dark Knight' franchise have in common is passionate fans," says Zach Harris, senior marketing manager, Mountain Dew. "And our partnership with ‘The Dark Knight Rises' is all about bringing those fans experiences that only Dew and the Dark Knight together can deliver.
"One very tangible example of that is the way we are bringing the iconic Batman imagery to life by using thermochromic technology on special 16-oz. cans of Mountain Dew," he continues. "We think the interactive experience of having the can transform as it chills will drive excitement for the promotion and for the film. It's also something that fans can take home and share with friends."
The promotion includes a limited-time flavor called Mountain Dew Dark Berry, point-of-purchase and traditional media advertising and what Harris calls "retailtainment displays."
Decoding the mystery flavor
The Doritos brand has staged several clever, limited-time promotions both in the U.S. and abroad in recent years, using packaging as an integral component.
In the United Kingdom, PepsiCo UK used packaging for Doritos iD3, a mystery flavor, to draw consumers into an ambitious multimedia promotion. The Doritos brand is owned by Plano, Texas-based Frito-Lay North America (www.fritolay.com), a PepsiCo business unit.
The "Doritos iD3 Mystery Flavour Promotion" package was a black bag printed with text and graphics evoking the iD3 adventure theme. To participate in the promotion's self-directed online adventure game, consumers needed a secret code printed on the inside of the bag's back seam.
By entering their 10-digit code at the promotional mini-site, consumers could engage in three episodes of the iD3 adventure, identifying the mystery flavor along the way. The names of those who correctly identified the mystery flavor (which turned out to be Chicken Balti) were entered in a drawing for £20,000. In addition, 310 prizes were awarded during the course of the promotion; these included mobile phones and Xbox 360 consoles.
Although the limited-time, black-and-red Doritos iD3 bag was designed specifically for the promotion, it also provided strong brand support. "You can still be brand building," even with promotional packaging, says Simon Thorneycroft, founder and chief creative officer of the firm that designed the Doritos iD3 package, Perspective:Branding (www.perspectivebranding.com), Emeryville, Calif.
At the same time, "there's no point in doing polite promotional packaging," Thorneycroft adds. "If you're going to say something, then say it, and make it arresting and make it stand out."