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Opinion: Labels as Communication & Experience Platforms

PackTech Ventures - Newsletter #3 – January 2023

When we talk to buyers of labels & tags at Consumer Goods companies, we realize that these items are mistakenly treated as commodities. However, thanks to the new vision of Brand Managers and Innovation teams on how to add value from these same items, we are faced with a new understanding of labels & tags as platforms for communication and experience with the consumer. Some examples reinforce this view:

(1) Use of thermochromy on beer bottle labels by Molson Coors (USA):

For many years, the Molson Coors brewery has been exploring the application of thermochromic inks in its printed labels to create a consumption experience for its customers. Each summer in the northern hemisphere, the brewery develops artwork in a limited series that, when the beer is at the ideal temperature for consumption (below 4oC), it reveals an element previously non-existent in its art. In the 2022 season, the uncooled artwork showed a pair of glasses and the traditional mountain (but without snow) that makes up the brand's logo. When cooling the beer, snow appears on the peak of the mountain, and behind the lens of the glasses, different words are revealed: “Cheers” (“Health”), “Fresh” (“Fresco”), and “Cool” (“Cool”) ). This mechanism generates a moment of relaxation and fun in the consumption of the item, and the development of new experiences each year helps to retain beer fans.

(2) Arts that tell stories through Augmented Reality for 19 Crimes Wines (Australia):

A breeding ground for good wines, new Australian wineries are always looking for ways to differentiate themselves from those already established – and communication is a key factor in doing so. The winery 19 Crimes brings the story of the formation of Australia as a nation, from the point of view of those who were – fair or unfairly – degraded by the English government to the country, and, from this exile movement, helped to build a new nation. The name "19 Crimes" refers to a list of 19 crimes that, if someone committed in English lands, would be enough to be sent to Australia to serve time.

Each label shows the real photo of a prisoner/convict, in sepia (which conveys the weight of history through the play of colors). However, the magic happens in the interaction between the label and the brand's mobile application: when activating the cell phone camera through the application and framing the printed photo, a video is superimposed on the image, and the prisoner/convict comes to life and begins to tell its story. There are videos available on YouTube that show this experience. Due to this mechanism involving the label and Augmented Reality, the wine brand got popular, won awards, and became one of the best-selling wines in UK retail. To announce its expansion into the American market, it partnered with rapper Snoop Dogg, with a special edition wine, where the rapper interacts with the consumer through the label and the application.

(3) QR Code labels are being requested to simplify communication in the fashion universe:

In a letter to the American Congress, filed on June 9, 2022, the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) requests the replacement of fabric labels with digital versions, allowing consumers have more access to information – from fabric composition to tracking the production chain. The Association made this request based on a few facts: (a) the amount of information is increasing, going beyond just communicating eg. fabric composition and washing recommendations; (b) most consumers cut long labels because they are uncomfortable when in contact with the skin; (c) the information printed on the fabric (eg, with serigraphy) is lost/erased with each wash.

As a solution to this scenario, the Association foresees the adoption of QR Codes as facilitators in communicating a growing amount of information to consumers since its reading directs the customer to the web environment. However, how to print the QR Code on an article of clothing or footwear has yet to be defined. Here are the options considered: print directly onto the fabric (which can fall into the situation of item (c) mentioned above), embroider a label with the code and sew onto the item (which impacts production time and costs), or – the option technically preferred – printing labels (tags) that are attached to clothing like standard price tags. According to the camera and cell phone industries, the quality of the QR Code printing is of fundamental importance, and this printing should be done in a flat area to favor the capture of the image by the cameras and thus speed up the direction to the address web.

These examples make clear the importance of seeking value delivery to get out of commoditization. Labels and tags must be understood as communication platforms in the physical world and a bridge to experience in the digital world. It's no longer about price: it's about value creation.

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