How Mixed Reality Can Elevate Your Packaging Design

It’s no secret that the role of packaging has evolved from being strictly focused on practicality to now having a central role in a brand’s identity. These days, packaging serves as an effective marketing tool – especially with augmented and mixed reality innovations – and gives brands an opportunity to use their packaging to creating meaningful engagement with their customers.

While we all may have heard of ‘Augmented Reality,’ in many instances it is confused with the similar term ‘Mixed Reality.’ What is the difference and how can brands make the best use of these technologies to enhance user experience? This article will help clarify some of the confusion and provide a few examples of how brands can use Mixed Reality to elevate their packaging design.

What is Mixed Reality?

Mixed Reality is the term often used to talk about experiences that are a combination of real + virtual environments. It comprises of both Augmented Reality and Augmented Virtuality experiences.

Source: ScienceDirect

Augmented Reality is the layering of information, sound, text and/or images on  existing real environments with the help of smart interfaces such as our mobile phone screens. Ultimately, this helps enhance the quality of our experience in our immediate surroundings. Technology for AR has been around for a while and with movies like Minority Report demonstrating its advanced application, we can imagine it’s great potential.

Augmented Virtuality on the other hand is the layering of real world objects in the virtual environment. In this setting, real world objects can interact with the virtual component to give an almost realistic experience. While most Augmented Reality experiences happen via touch screens, Mixed Reality experiences can be augmented in our immediate environment with the help of eye glasses (for example Google Glass, Apple Glasses and HoloLens by Microsoft) diminishing the need for digital screens.

Here are a few strategies with some real-world use-cases of the technology that brands can use to connect with their consumers :

  • Introduce Limited Time Offers: In February 2020, PepsiCo featured limited-edition packaging as a promotion for the UEFA Champions League Tournament, through which football players appeared on Pepsi and Pepsi Black/MAX cans. The cans included QR codes that unlocked AR versions of Messi, Pogba, Salah and Sterling, who could compete in a game of keepie uppie, where participants try to juggle a soccer ball in the air for the longest amount of time. The activation also allowed users to share their scores via Instagram Stories. 
  • Create Captivating Storytelling: In 2019, Nestle used Augmented Reality to promote brand engagement. Nestle’s cereal division realized that they could use AR technology to serve a bigger brand mission of reducing their environmental footprint as well as overall costs by taking their rewards program digital with the help of an AR campaign on-pack across 30+ markets. Customers could simply scan the back of the pack to enjoy three different educational puzzles and mini activities to unlock video clips from the Lion King movie.
  • Cross-Promotional Opportunities: AR packaging offers brands the opportunity to extend existing real-estate of packaging to share more information through a layer of augmentation. With an aim to create an intriguing brand experience for a sustainability initiative, this AR packaging concept designed by the team at Zapper and SIG, while minimalist and simple to naked-eye, gets animated in the virtual landscape offered by smart phones. Once scanned, a cheerfully animated character describes the benefits of water, eco-credentials of the brand, as well as cross- promotions for related offerings.
  • Increase Impulse Purchase Moments: Adidas’ ComplexCon AR Experience introduced an event specific app, which was designed to sell its featured products. Consumers could engage in interactive experiences with the brand by walking around the exhibit and scanning AR signage. It offered everything from educating its users about sneakers to providing pick-up details, giving loyal consumers the opportunity to explore the exhibition while enjoying their purchase experience.

In summary, new advancements in the mixed-reality tech hold immense potential by making it possible for the brands to re-invent the role of packaging and enhance the experience of unpacking the product.