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Smart packaging is still in its early stages and hasn’t yet seen wide roll-out to the world at large. But the technology provides some intriguing benefits that could nudge it into that wider marketing arena.

Before we dive into that, let’s define our term. Smart packaging employs an interactive element so consumers can learn more, engage with a brand, and more. The interactivity can come from NFC (near field communications), radio-frequency identification (RFID), augmented reality (AR), or other digital elements.

One example was a campaign by Malibu Rum in the UK. Bottles had NFC technology that, when consumers tapped their smartphones on the bottles, delivered branded content and contest entries.

Here are a few more examples that show the potential of smart packaging:

1. Westrock’s Interactive Packaging

Packaging producer WestRock partnered with Digimarc to imprint packaging with Digimarc’s invisible barcode technology. These invisible barcodes were printed across the whole surface of the package, so consumers could give it a quick scan to access interactive features.

When scanned, the smart package could list benefits of the product to the consumer. It also could deliver personalized digital content, special offers, and more. On the business side, the smart packaging could provide real-time customer service, along with real-time data analytics to enhance and improve marketing efforts.

2. Martens Beer’s AR Labels

In 2015, Belgian brewery Martens Beer came up with a creative promotion for a new flavor of its beer. In partnership with a popular Belgian television show, the company printed AR-enhanced images of the show’s characters on the bottles. When scanned with a smartphone (with the brewery’s app installed), the character on each bottle would speak to the consumer.

The campaign added a novelty touch to the new beer flavor, and helped increase consumer engagement with the brand.

3. Smart Uses for NFC

The novelty aspect of Martens Beer’s AR campaign may grow thin if consumers are flooded with smart packaging that focuses on the “cool” factor, rather than function. But the good news is, with a little refocusing smart packages can provide real-world benefits to consumers and brands alike.

One example is the potential for pharmaceutical labels to include NFC technology to help patients better understand the instructions for taking their medication. These labels could also communicate potential side effects, and tell the consumer when to see a doctor.

Another example that should make brands take notice: NFC could be used to help cut down on counterfeit goods. A consumer could scan the NFC label on a product with their phone, which would tell them the product is authentic.

NFC tags could provide other benefits to consumers, too – such as clothes labels that connect users to a Pinterest gallery showing real customers wearing the clothes. Or, the tag could provide customer service functions like contact information for product feedback.

While smart packaging hasn’t reached mainstream status yet, its potential for consumer engagement and communication makes it an attractive addition to a marketing toolbox. As technology develops, we’ll likely see even more innovative uses for smart packaging that provide huge benefits for consumers and brands alike.