We’ve seen how technology can bring packaging to the next level for some time now. Coors Light Cold Activated Bottles, for example, have been revealing their blue mountains when cold enough since 2007. That technology brought the brand a good amount of attention—and growth. In fact, since then the brand has seen rising sales, overtaking Budweiser as America’s second largest beer brand last year.
But just a few years from now such technology will look kind of quaint when compared with the potential revolution in packaging interactivity about to occur. A can promotion during the holidays, for instance, could use Christmas decorations that suddenly light up. Or sweepstakes or other contests could reveal themselves only after the liquid in the container is consumed.
Each of these capabilities is either currently being rolled out onto the market, or will be in the coming months, according to the Colorado Springs-based Chromatic Technologies, Inc. (CTI), a custom, special-effects inks and coatings manufacturer which provided the technology for the successful Coors Light Cold Activated packaging. Explains Patrick Edson, Chief Marketing Officer for CTI, and a former senior executive at Coors, “Our focus today is improving lives through chemistry that alerts, protects and surprises. And that really changes the way we look at beverages and what we can do in terms of activating social media, what we can do to drive promotional behavior, what we can do that can become a sustaining part of a brand’s business.”
The examples mentioned above would utilize what CTI calls Reveal Inks technology. The technology is made possible through the use of two inks at work at the same time. After consumption, one ink turns off, no longer blocking the other ink and allowing it to reveal its message. “Just think about everything that can now be done in beverages, where the brand can now control when the information or a message is released to the consumer,” Edson says. “That’s a really big breakthrough just in terms of how people think about what they deliver on package.” CTI sees such Reveal Inks capability potentially running the gamut from sports trivia to revealing QR Codes.
The Christmas decoration example uses sunlight-activated inks that also open up a range of additional possibilities for promotions. “We actually call it the ‘wow’ cans,” says Edson. “It’s gotten a huge response from consumers. The instant theater it creates with a consumer is really dramatic. Any beverage that wants to target an outdoor usage occasion for its consumers now has a great way to encourage consumers to use their product outdoors and gives them a reason to interact with it and communicate something to them.” And, the company is working on “hybrid inks,” which do one thing based on temperature and another when they are taken outside into the sunlight.
Another recent example of a brand using CTI’s inks for an interactive promotion was Coke’s Fanta in Australia. Specially marked bottles of Fanta revealed an invitation to customers through temperature changes on the label wherein consumers were invited to join in an interactive campaign offering valuable prizes. The labels contained thermochromic ink which revealed a challenge to consumers to perform a “Funstigator” task such as “High-five someone wearing orange,” “Pretend you’re a ninja” or “Do the robot.” The core activity of the summer campaign was a Fanta Funstigator gaming application available on the Fanta Australia Facebook page and as a smartphone app from the Apple App Store or Google Play. Users could take on Funstigator challenges as well as send them to their mates, scan characters from packs, all the while earning points and competing for a range of prizes.
However, these cutting edge inks are just one of the interactive technologies for beverage packaging available today. Another company, Instant Win Innovations, offers cans that can talk, shake or emit flashing lights. One of the company’s newest offerings is the LED Photo Can. When the winning can is opened a light activated flashing LED module backlights an image, message or logo inside the can to signify it is a winner. Marketers can also add a sound module to play music, or have a sports or pop star congratulate the winner.
Instant Win also recently debuted the Talking Cap for plastic and aluminum bottles. Just like its Talking Can device, the patented undetectable Talking Cap activates when the winning bottle is opened. Twist the cap off and a bright LED light flashes in the bottle opening while a custom audio message plays for 10-40 seconds. Designed to hide in the bottle underneath the cap, the food-grade safe Talking Cap device can be easily removed so the beverage can be consumed while the winner celebrates his or her good fortune in real time with the beverage in hand.
And lastly, packaging graphics have improved dramatically, allowing imagery to be so photorealistic it seems to jump off the cans. Ball Corp., for example, now offers Eyeris technology, which enables photo-quality can graphics with very fine detail. And, the company’s Dynamark Variable Printing Technology, unveiled earlier this year, allows for up to 24 design variations with alternating icons, images and/or messages in a single production run. Ball says Dynamark addresses the megatrend of individualization; allows the creation and execution of unique promotions; enables late-stage differentiation, e.g. for latest updates from a brand’s online community (Facebook, Twitter), and also furthers mass customization in can production at a reasonable cost.