Ren-Flex augmented reality heralds new era of consumer/packaging interaction

Modern packaging is far more than a protective travel suit that ensures the product reaches market in the condition in which it left the plant. Now it walks every type of talk, offering a world of interesting, helpful information at the fingertips and a gateway to entertainment and excitement – all just waiting to be unlocked at the scan of a smartphone or iPad. It’s augmented reality and the Ren-Form group (including Ren-Flex) is at the forefront of its introduction to South Africa.

 

Augmented reality (AR) has been called ‘the real world – only better’ and it promises the closest encounters of the interactive kind.

Says Erika Hearnshaw, Ren-Form digital marketing manager: ‘Consumers demand more … more info, more appeal, more va va voom. The mobile app, Blippar, delivers. It speaks for the brand owner and the product, literally telling consumers ... “play with me, drive me, test me and interact with me for recipes, games, competitions and service offerings”.

‘Consumers want a memorable shopping experience and brand interaction that answers the “hey, listen to what I want” call. They almost become one with their chosen brand.’

Yes, shopping is a totally different basket of fish these days, ‘The possibilities for interactive packaging and Blippar are limited only by the imaginations of brand owners and their creative teams,’ says Erika, whose AR energy is contagious. ‘It’s taking packaging to an ultra-innovative new level.’

Blippar, with whom Ren-Form has secured a partnership, combines markerless image recognition and AR to transform everyday products into content-rich, consumer-centric interactive experiences.

‘The Blipper app brings the static physical world to life,’ says Erika. ‘It recognises an image without a barcode or other mark and triggers a pre-programmed response. Blipps can dial a number, launch a weblink, play a video, open an interactive game, enter the consumer into a competition, pull up images, provide GPS-enabled directions, download a PDF file, enable a virtual product trial and much more.’

On the opposite page, Ren-Flex demonstrates the new AR-enriched Epic Blossom tub and Woolworths Hey Brew Macchiato Caffe Latte cup. ‘We want consumers and brand owners to experience Blippar and see why we’re so excited about the possibilities it presents,’ Erika explains. ‘We chose these well-known brands to lead the way to great Blippar AR designs.’

The potential for AR is great news for printers. ‘The decline in traditional printed material in the electronic age has challenged printers to develop into other areas,’ Erika continues. ‘Packaging is an obvious choice, but what can be done with data collected from the AR Blippar app opens up a world of opportunities for printers and marketers alike.’

Worldwide, packaging is growing in sophistication to previously unimaginable heights and South Africa is barely scratching the surface.

‘AR and similar value-adds are extremely exciting for all parties,’ Erika adds, ‘For printers, they dispel the myth that print is a technology of the past. It is, in fact, evolving and allowing us to reinvent revenue streams. We’re now able to draw more customers into print, allowing brand owners to differentiate their products and deliver one-on-one messages.

‘Consumers will marvel at the ability to give feedback, feel, touch and use all their senses to interact with the product at the click of a mobile or tablet button. And they will feel that the brand is listening and taking them seriously. We believe it’s the obvious way to enhance any printed matter or label, and at a fraction of the cost of other advertising options.’

In the background of Ren-Form’s entry into this market is the successful work done in in-mould labelling at the Ren-Flex operation using a 12-colour Drent Vision UV offset press with variable data capabilities.

Says Ren-Form chief operating officer Albé Naudé: ‘The clarity and precision of the offset process enhance augmented reality programming capabilities and ease of product scanning.’

As with most ground-breaking developments, there’s debate as to whether it’s a short-lived gimmick or the future of packaging design. Ren-Form is certainly not sitting on the fence.

‘I can’t wait for South Africans to really get to grips with the technology and enjoy the world of possibilities it opens,’ says Erika.

She’s in good company. As Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has said: ‘We’re making a long-term bet that immersive, virtual and augmented reality will become a part of people’s daily life.’

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