Food packaging is evolving beyond simply a delivery vehicle where functional information like product branding and ingredients take up the majority of packaging space. In today's digital world, there is a growing opportunity for companies to convey brand messages and engage with consumers in ways that traditional media can't touch.
Whether it's produce, non-perishables or dietary supplements, food brands are taking advantage of the opportunity to use social media and digital technology to connect with consumers. Here are three methods of utilizing digital technology that if implemented correctly can have positive impacts on consumer engagement.
QR Codes - A Trend in Food and Beverage Packaging
We've seen them most recently with Peapods Chicago State and Lake Virtual Grocery Store and consumer interest in Digital coupons. Now quick-response (QR) codes are showing up on food and produce packaging.
Consumers with QR reader-enabled smartphones are able to scan the code in store and be taken to a website or social media page where companies can display a mix of content, such as videos showcasing a product's traceability, cooking recipes or contests.
In early 2012, San Pellegrino launched a campaign that placed QR codes on their bottles of water. When scanned, people were taken on a virtual journey to discover the beauty and history of Bergamo, Italy, where the water originates. Heineken was the first beer brand to use QR codes on their packaging and utilized them to provide a unique way to download a new app - The Heineken Music Challenge. In both these cases, and many others, the appeal is educational and entertaining, providing customers with useful information, but doing it in a way that is fun and interesting.
Before simply placing QR codes or website addresses on food packaging, ensure you have developed a plan, just like any other marketing strategy. Survey supermarket managers to learn the most common questions shoppers ask, then use this information to determine what messaging to place on your packaging.
Engaging the Digital Consumer - Gain Valuable Customer Insights
Asking customers for feedback on a product or a product's packaging via social media is a great way to connect consumers to your brand. Mountain Dew, for example, used Facebook to ask consumers to submit new package designs with the top winners receiving an Apple Macbook Pro and a chance to work with the Mountain Dew brand team to finalize the designs. Even Heinz uses QR Codes to promote their product launches, in particular their "plant bottle" at QSR restaurants. Sure, these are large brands with large marketing budgets, but even if you're a small organization there are always opportunities to use social media in order to connect with consumers and grow your brand.
It may sound like old news, but it's amazing how many companies still do not display their Facebook and Twitter profiles on their packaging. Telling a consumer you want them to interact with your brand, and making it easy for them to do so, is the first step in creating a successful social media strategy.
Grocery Shopping Apps
Consumers are using mobile apps for everything from checking produce origins and pesticide levels to conducting price comparison, all while never even leaving the store.
Top grocery shopping apps, like the Kraft with their iPhone Assistant, linking the app to thousands of recipes are drivers in creating mobile apps that help consumers make health conscience decisions about the food they buy. They are also understanding consumer shopper behavior and developing ways to deliver targeted offers based on how, when and where they shop.
For example, take Gaia Herb's Meet Your Herb mobile app. Customers simply enter a "herb ID" number found on the back of any Gaia Herb product and all traceable aspects of the herb are displayed for the user right on their mobile phone. The app has been highly successful, improving the brand's connection with the growing number of health conscience consumers.
So What Can Food Brands Learn
Supermarkets are envisioning ways to engage the digital grocery consumer so you need to start implementing a digital marketing plan for your brand. All of these examples illustrate non-intrusive ways to interact with consumers via digital technology, since in each case the customer is searching out this information on their own accord - merely being enticed by the promise of educational or entertaining content.
QR codes, social media icons, and other digital media on food packaging should be thought of as forms of personal media; when someone scans your code or goes to your Facebook page, they should feel like the information presented is tailored to them individually.
The mobile phone and the technology that comes along with it have provided an opportunity for retailers, manufacturers and distributors to connect with consumers on a personal level. Do this properly and you may just see your brand identity and consumer engagement skyrocket.
Author bio: Jason Carroll is a freelance writer and researcher who writes for eFood-ERP - a food and beverage software solution provider. When not writing he enjoys spending time in the beautiful outdoors.