Digital branding: Gimmick or game-changer?

26 July, 2017

James Harmer of Touch packaging innovation explores the potential benefits for brands via technology-led packaging and smartphones.

Like most brands these days, drinks brands exist in a hyper-competitive world of constant promotion and communication, one where media fragmentation has made it increasingly difficult to cut through the noise and get a brand message heard, let alone acted upon.

But consider this. No matter what journey the consumer takes to discover your brand on a retail shelf, all roads lead to what P&G call the ‘first moment of truth’ – picking up your bottle and buying your brand. The second moment of truth occurs at home when the bottle is in use, which of course impacts on the loyalty to the brand and the intention to buy it again next time.

Up until recently, once the bottle or can was with the consumer that was the end of its connection with its producers. But now we have the technology to turn any drinks container we wish into digitised, identifiable, data-generators that go way beyond entertaining the consumer.

The question is, are we truly making the most of this?

Three years ago Medea Vodka took digital and meshed it with personalisation. The result was a bottle that enables their consumers to create digital, illuminated messages.

Personalisation too was the focus for Diageo’s ‘smart’ Johnnie Walker Blue Label bottle. All it requires is a smart phone to detect if the bottle has been opened or not, and then send relevant, personalised messages to consumers who read the bottle's sensor tags with their smart phones.

When Grolsch took to exploring virtual worlds they unveiled a beer bottle that contained next-generation Bluetooth beacon technology that allowed consumers to access free movies via the digitally enhanced bottles. When a consumer opens a bottle the beacon in the cap connects to the shoppers’ previously registered smartphone and enables them to access a movie of their choice by tapping the bottle with their device.

But isn’t all of this a little clunky and dare we say it, gimmicky? Once the novelty wears off, and that will happen quite rapidly, consumers are left wondering what all the fuss was about. They may have briefly been engaged, the experience may even have been somewhat immersive, but it is not a lasting emotion and it doesn’t do much for loyalty.

Digital could do so much more. So the big question is are we truly looking in depth at each touchpoint to ensure a bottle’s entire journey from concept to recycling is optimised? And are marketers set up to make the most of the wealth of data brands can potentially gather? The short answer is, no, not yet.

In which case, what do we need to do to optimise the digital tools we can tap into?


The impact of digitalisation is so powerful that most marketers and brand designers are only just grasping the need for a more holistic approach.

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