Such internet activity is now just a matter of tapping a screen and collecting the information you require, as and when you need it. Indeed this trend is supported by the rapid decline in PC use and the replacement of the laptop by a tablet or iPad.
This trend has been driven by the morphing of the ubiquitous cell-phone from a mobile personal telephone into a powerful computing device that offers numerous applications that previously came unbundled as isolated tools in their own right.
Now we can take pictures and create and edit movies on our smartphone as well as run our daily calendar, collect our email and run our finances. These applications amongst a host of other useful tools are also interchangeable with our tablets.
In fact, our whole daily (and nightly) activity can be scheduled on these devices as we watch live TV, play games, pay our bills and surf the web for shopping or instructions about how best to create our next meal.
Of course, brand owners know that connecting with their prospects and customers through this technology is much preferred to the older traditional methods of marketing such as direct mail and telephone cold call canvassing. As consumers we all seem to prefer the app-based interaction between ourselves and those brand owners we choose to partner with, rather than having to field unwanted solicitations from unwelcome or unknown companies wishing to sell us things we do not need or have no interest in at the present time.
This process has led to the recognition by brand owners of the value of marketing campaigns through social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
With over one billion Facebook users and 500 million Twitter account holders, social media provides brands with clear channels of communication, leading directly to the customer.
By using these applications, alongside maybe their own specially created smart phone compatible web browsers and other interconnection tools such as barcodes and now NFC tags, such technically savvy brand owners are attempting to infiltrate our social networks and become part of our daily activities through the use of ‘like’ and ‘friend’ tabs for us to activate on their web pages.
The most common point of connection for consumers with a brand is the branded pack or label they see on the product they are about to purchase in store or about to use or consume at home.
For want of a better terminology we will call this the ‘connected package’. The illustrations (Figure 9.1 and 9.2) provide a direct insight into how this process works and shows a Jack Daniels application (December 2015) that links authenticity checks for the consumer with an orchestrated response, confirming how to check and verify provenance through the security features present on the label and also provide an invitation to become a friend.
Figure 9.1 - Consumer engagement and authentication is enabled through the use of QR codes and a smartphone app. Note the visual overt security feature in the form of a holographic embedded thread on this label
Figure 9.2 - Shows the response to an enquiry regarding provenance through the use of a QR code and web generated communication that also invites a ‘friending experience’
PACKAGING AND LABELING THAT IS RESPONSIVE TO CONSUMER BEHAVIOR, RETAIL EXPERIENCES AND CULTURAL PHENOMENA – MOBILE ACTION CODES
Packaging and labeling has the potential to create much greater value for brand owners, retailers and consumers. The ‘connected package’ can deliver more value to each participant in the process by becoming part of the digital stream of information, communication and of course the transaction.
The connected package or label becomes more useful and as a result, it weaves itself seamlessly into the lives of consumers and the logistics of distributors and retailers, delivering greater value to all in the process.
In order to bond with the consumer and so that it may deliver extra value to the brand owner and the retailer, the connected package needs a quick and easy to use link that can connect each partner in the process, and this link may be a bar code or an NFC tag as we can see from the illustration (Figure 9.3).
Figure 9.3 - Mobile marketing provides a number of extra benefits to the process of adding QR codes that invite consumer response
This link could also be an embedded invisible digital watermark placed within the print carried by the label or pack and extracted using an app on a smartphone.
Indeed, digital technology in the form of codes in visible, invisible or RFID/NFC format, act as ‘triggers’ that automatically set off a recognition process if they are activated by a live app when we touch part of the screen on our smartphone or tablet.
These triggers link us then to some form of interactive content that allows us to engage in some way with both the brand owner and the product.
This engagement may be just a simple ‘like’ action through the brand’s Facebook page which was acquired through scanning a QR code, or it may be more complex such as delivering an authentication message and a ‘thank you for your purchase’ response from the brand owner who may be able to learn more about your location when you scanned the code and compare this data with the knowledge of where the purchase took place and whether the product was inside or outside the recognized distribution channel.
Figure 9.4 - Mobile marketing as a business strategy is illustrated in Figure 9.5
Engagement may also involve loyalty programs and, of course, before and after sale feedback with discounts being communicated on future purchases and links to other connected products that may attract the customer’s attention.
It will be seen from the illustration the importance of gaining initial awareness for the brand owner. This informs the consumer that more information exists that can be acquired and assist with the purchasing decision, maybe swaying the buyer in favor of choosing one brand over another.
Engagement through the label and packaging at this point is critical, and since real estate on these mediums is always at a premium, a ‘trigger’ that is highly visible and simply activated such as a QR code or logo informing that an NFC tag is present or an Augmented Reality experience is available to share, needs to be present (more about Augmented Reality later).
After initial engagement the consideration process should hopefully lead to conversion or sale and at this point it should be possible to build further brand loyalty and repeat sales if the consumer enjoys the experience and feels that the relationship is permanent (e.g. engagement leads to marriage).
Those readers qualified in the subject of marketing and customer relationship management which is a core function of marketing will be familiar with the ‘marketing mix’.
Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably. It involves four core distinct disciplines; Product, Pricing, Place and Promotion.
Figure 9.5 - Mobile marketing analysis explored in detail – authentication is a natural progression of this process
To remain competitive brand owners need to ensure that they place the right product in the right place at the right time and ensure that it is correctly promoted to enable them to maximise their return on investment. This investment will include R&D, product development, manufacturing costs, raw materials, administration, distribution and promotion.
A primary objective here is to show how the disciplines of good product security can be coordinated with those of labeling and packaging design, as well as exemplary product marking practice.
Mobile marketing, combined with effective authentication tools and interactive labeling and packaging can help immeasurably in delivering a cost effective marketing mix for the brand owner.
So much so, that those practicing this wider discipline, together with a structured and strategic approach to security, can ensure that any risks or vulnerabilities are satisfactorily addressed.
With the introduction of the ubiquitous smart phone, alongside the ability of these devices to run mini-programs or apps, together with a high definition screen and a camera, there has been a plethora of apps that offer an interactive experience to the engaged consumer.
Although action codes such as QR codes and embedded NFC tags are able to offer quick connectivity with products and deliver pertinent information quickly and efficiently, other methods of providing interactivity also exist.
Augmented Reality applications and associated electro-conductive enabled labels, tags and packaging are able to acquire a trigger and link to interactive web based content without the need for a visible printed code or even an NFC connection.
INTRODUCING INTERACTIVITY AND AUTHENTICATION FROM AUGMENTED REALITY AND TOUCH-CODE APPLICATIONS
Augmented Reality (AR) is a diluted version of virtual reality. As we know, virtual reality requires the user to wear a helmet so that they can experience the virtual world that is computer animated and delivers the illusion of reality as they interact and become engaged with a computer program.
With augmented reality the user experiences a new world through the screen of a smartphone or tablet computer with the assistance of the camera and a suite of overlays that are superimposed on the camera’s real-time view of the world.
The process of augmented reality can also be delivered through a webcam set up on a PC but the popularity of hand held tablets and smartphones has superseded this technology.
There are a number of apps available through both Android and iOS platforms that deliver an AR experience which can include sound, graphics, GPS data and video, superimposed over the real world view captured by the camera. However each app is specific to its own triggers and consumers need to download a number of these applications if they are to interact with products using a variety of AR configurations.
From a labeling and packaging viewpoint, AR content can be superimposed on real world images such as the packaging itself. With AR no visual trigger is needed since the app ‘recognizes’ the product through a series of specific graphical points, or even logos that are unique to the brand’s packaging or labeling on that product.
In the illustration (Figure 9.6) when the tomato ketchup bottle is ‘scanned’ using an AR app the label is recognized and instantly comes to life in an animated delivery of a recipe booklet that can be flipped open and viewed page by page through tapping the ‘open’ button.
Consumers can connect via Facebook with the brand owner’s account or enter a competition by selecting the option highlighted by the tomato picture in the bottom left hand corner of Figure 9.6.
Figure 9.6 - This Heinz ketchup bottle delivers an AR experience when an app is switched on and the smartphone or tablet is directed towards the bottle label
One important restriction on most AR applications is that unless these interactive images are stored within the app itself, they must be acquired through a server operating via the phone carrier signal or through Wi-Fi connection.
There are literally hundreds of brands utilizing this technology (amongst them Mondelez, Heinz and Unilever) which is particularly effective when delivered in store as part of the highly competitive purchasing decision. A number of well-known toy brands and auto-motive manufacturers in particular have successfully used this engagement process to increase their chances of winning business against those of their competitors.
Consumers are made aware that an AR experience is available through the use of a graphic on the packaging or product label alerting to the fact that an app is required to provide additional video or audio content.
Figure 9.7 - The orange ‘b’ logo in the bottom left hand corner of the illustration notifies that a ‘Blippar’ AR experience is available
Figure 9.8 - The illustration above shows the various ‘triggers’ required to deliver action in the form of video, music and other interactions aimed at engaging with the consumer
A further benefit of AR is that it does not expire after the initial viewing and can be modified to deliver a number of alterative experiences that offer different attractive content such as competitions, games and directions well after the initial purchase.
At this juncture readers may well be asking what AR has to do with product security.
Since AR requires highly accurate printing to enable it to operate, such technology is highly sensitive to the quality of the printed image being viewed. Every individual AR image must be enrolled and of course the ‘experience’ programed before it can be promoted.
Some AR providers use a version of digital watermarking to act as a ‘trigger’ when a product is scanned. This trigger can also have authentication keys built in to the image that verify its provenance and if printed digitally these covert images can be used to identify each unique product.
Combined with a location and the individual fingerprint within the phone or tablet, a brand owner has the ability to detect further critical marketing intelligence from such AR activity. This intelligence can provide further useful information such as in and out of channel information and exact geographical data about where the AR activity was activated.
Figure 9.9 - Schematic of a capacitive touch screen
These actions however must respect privacy concerns and the sensitivity of such data collection operations being possible are still being questioned on ethical grounds.
PRINTED ELECTRONICS AND CONSUMER ENGAGEMENT
In order to remain competitive with all the other forms of interactive media that exist, print has to continually reinvent itself and the move towards printed electronics is a further illustration of this important trend.
Since both smartphones and tablets use touch sensitive screens it is possible to leverage these capacitive devices as a trigger that will link specially printed labels and packaging to the digital space where an interactive event is stored and delivered through Wi-Fi or 3G/4G telecommunications channels.
The capacitive touch screen on your smartphone or tablet is able to distinguish and sense specific touch location, based on the electrical impulses in a human body, typically the fingertip.
The touchscreen consists of a complex mat of connections that can be activated by the touch of a fingertip on any specific point within the display on the screen. Of course the screen display needs to be programmed to overlay these electronic triggers.
Specially formulated electro-conductive inks can be made that imitate the electrical impulses present in the human fingerprint.
These inks can then be printed in specific patterns onto a label or pack so that they trigger the software in an app to recognize and respond to a pre-programed pattern present in the printed pieces.
Of course any printed code such as this would interfere with the other graphics present on the label or pack. However, because it’s an electro-conductive ink, this can be placed on the back of the printed piece or underneath a suitably printed opaque top layer.
The subsequent code is activated by opening the app and then laying the interactive piece of print on the screen surface of the tablet or smartphone.
Figure 9.10 - Overlaying this hang tag on a capacitive screen delivers a consumer engagement experience through the application of a specially formulated electro-conductive ink
Once this is completed and the app has recognized and verified the presence of the touch code, the print piece can be removed or repositioned for further interactivity to take place. This may involve playing a game by touching various sides of the pack to the screen in a certain order, or it may be used to deliver a message confirming authenticity.
Other versions of consumer engagement are also possible, such as the delivery of a recipe for a meal that includes instructions on how best to serve a brand of food or wine in accordance with the most appropriate cooking methods or trimmings.
Using electro-conductive inks in this way also provides the brand with a method of audibly connecting with sight impaired or dyslectic users since this method of interaction can be configured to deliver audio files that give instructions such as when and how often to take medication.
It is a more practical method of communication for the visually impaired as it does not require the careful manipulation of a piece of print and the coordination of the smart phone or tablet camera.
FURTHER TRENDS IN PRINTED ELECTRONICS
With the ever decreasing costs associated with printed electronic circuits, transistors and printed polymer photovoltaics (printed thin film batteries) providing power sources in formats that resemble a traditional self-adhesive label, there has been a surge of interest in attention grabbing labels and packaging that provides eye catching printed flashing OLEDS’s (organic light emitting diodes).
Figure 9.11 - A printed electro-luminescent display seen on a Scotch whisky bottle
Also electro-luminescent inks and connected image changing displays from companies such as E.Ink - who have taken the monotone display used on the Kindle and modified this so that it can be incorporated into packaging - are now coming to market (Figure 9.12).
Whilst these features were never designed to be anti-counterfeit devices in their own right, they provide a robust defense against copy attacks because they are technically challenging and require a high degree of investment in the plant needed to manufacture them in economical quantities.
Figure 9.12 - shows a variable printed electronic display
Figure 9.13 - The various attributes of coding technologies explored
Traditional printed packaging and label formats based on paper, plastics, metal and printing ink are reaching a point where they can develop no further.
Space on product packaging is limited and increasing pressures to include more information in order to provide safety advice and nutritional facts and figures alongside instruction and all-important branding and marketing regalia combine to form an impossible challenge to packaging design and functionality.
This ‘perfect storm’ driven by the need for ever more information, along with increased legislation, especially in the pharmaceutical arena that demands ‘total visibility’ of the product right through the supply chain, is driving the necessity for visual communication methodology that is not space intrusive.
Technology can provide answers to these demands through the clever amalgamation of miniaturization, printed interactive displays and intrinsic communication methods that provide an intelligent link through the world wide web.
This link, together with ubiquitous hand held devices such as smartphones and tablet computers that offer simultaneous interaction and authentication assurances, is fast becoming a favored method of fighting counterfeiting and other product related crime.
Indeed, the very assets that the counterfeiter relies upon to assist in crime - the internet for marketing fake products; and computers, scanners and printers for the production of bogus packaging and labeling - are being turned against the criminal.
SMART INTERNET TOOLS THAT CAN TRACK DOWN FAKE PRODUCTS ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB
All of today’s brand owners that have identified counterfeiting as an important diverter of revenue from their bottom line performance, recognize that it is not only essential to protect their assets that are distributed through traditional routes such as retail stores, but also they need to safeguard their brands on the internet.
Recent statistics reveal that one in six products purchased online is a counterfeit. Since there is a high degree of anonymity present when sellers promote fake products through online markets such as eBay and Alibaba, such platforms are popular ways and means of reaching new customers with a minimum of risk.
Setting up fake websites that mimic those of legitimate brand owners is also a popular tactic since any number of misleading domain names can be used in order to direct possible purchasers to a bogus website that acts as if it belongs to a genuine brand.
The trick for brand owners is to react to these threats via social networking in order to educate customers and alert them to the dangers of purchasing fake product.
For instance UGG® created a Facebook page that features videos and photos that help consumers identify counterfeit product and alert them to popular scams. In addition, the brand also answers questions from customers and offers support with identifying sites as counterfeit or genuine.
Brand owners often deploy special software that enables them to search the internet for brand logos or instances of text references to their brand names and other intellectual property they may own, such as marketing sign offs they may use to describe their products.
A popular sign off such as the McDonald’s ‘I’m loving it’ can easily be recognised using the right search tools.
These automated search tools once activated with a reference to a brand logo or sign off, can provide robotic searches of the internet and analyse every reference made on the web to each specific targeted phrase or logo.
Through actively controlling and monitoring internet content in this way it is possible to quickly identify and take down offending websites and prosecute persistent offenders.
Many of the leading providers of security labeling and packaging solutions that are designed to detect and deter counterfeiting, employ such internet monitoring tools as part of their service to their clients.
The need to provide a holistic service that delivers ‘a one stop shop’ approach to brand protection is an important part of any marketing strategy for businesses operating in this space.