Open up the world of innovative creativity

Innovative pack design and packaging that features technology such as augmented reality is helping brands grab shoppers’ attention, create engagement and gather valuable data. 

Marketers are looking at technologies and social media to make packaging more engaging at the point of sale, and trying to create ’conversations’ by using innovative design to get people talking about their products.

In August, Asda announced that it will include tweets on some of its own-label packaging, using the hastag #chosenbyyou. By asking customers to comment about the products on Facebook and Twitter, the chain hopes to make its packaging more emotionally engaging.

Heinz is also experimenting with design, using augmented reality technology to turn its ketchup label into a 3D interactive recipe book. Consumers with the Blippar app can point their device at the label to access the content. Through use of the app, Heinz has been able to track people ‘blipping’ its recipe book in places as far flung as Hawaii and New Guinea.

Heinz marketing manager Ian McCarthy says the brand has been using Blippar to “inject a burst of energy into the brand, allowing consumers to be part of an interactive and engaging experience.”

Ambarish Mitra, chief executive at Blippar, adds that the point of using this technology is to “create a world where the physical and digital worlds co-exist. You can take any object in the real world and add content to create engagement. It’s a way in which the end product can talk to the end user and helps to give a product an identity.” 

The engagement is also measurable, says Mitra. Data can be used to understand who is engaging with the product, where they are and the time the technology was used.

Although this could be seen as a marketing gimmick, the statistics show that once a user has blipped a Heinz Ketchup bottle, they look at the recipe book just over three times, indicating that they have been using it to create meals. By tracking how the app is used, Heinz can see that more than 46,000 people have looked at the recipe book at 6pm. For a kitchen cupboard staple, this is an interesting way to generate extra engagement beyond on-pack promotions.

Labels have to communicate why a product is on the shelf. People judge a product in seconds so you need to be able to tell customers what’s in it for them

A positive consequence of the technology is cutting out the use of materials. Instead of Heinz printing a recipe book, it can be viewed on mobile devices. Indeed, sustainability is still very much on the agenda for the packaging industry despite the squeeze on budgets. At beauty brand Neal’s Yard Remedies (NYR) packaging technologist Paul Day had to create premium packaging while sticking to the brand’s green principles for its new product Frankincense Intense, an organic anti-ageing cream with environmental credentials – it uses vegetable stem cell technology.

Standing out in the beauty sector alone is challenging. Day, who spoke at this week’s Packaging Innovations show, says: “We needed to do something different from our standard range but also ensure that we kept to our philosophy of the product being the ‘hero’. We try not to over-package so that the product shines.” The new packaging sticks to NYR’s recycling principles but has an aluminium silver lid and silver writing to help customers differentiate it from other products and create a healthy curiosity around the new launch.

Creating curiosity is helping Oday Abbosh, inventor of Ora kitchen towels, to sell his brand in Tesco. Abbosh, founder and chief executive of Better all Round, has a limited exclusive deal with the retailer and is rolling out his brand across the UK in what is considered to be a low-interest category.

Although Ora’s stackable round sheets are designed to be easier to use than the conventional square kitchen towel, the design has the added benefit of creating interest at the point of sale.

As well as its unusual shape and packaging, the product boasts eco-credentials since all of its packaging is recyclable and the company claims it has 20 per cent less packaging than standard kitchen towels and uses 30 per cent fewer lorries to transport the brand.

The shape and packaging has been its best marketing tool, according to research carried out by the company behind Ora. Abbosh explains: “The product shape allows curiosity – that’s the feedback we get from customers – it’s something different and it gets called a cone.”

However, shoppers are creatures of habit and Abbosh says the packaging has to communicate why customers should buy it in a “nanosecond” (see Big Three Challenges).

New brands have to work hard to get the attention of customers and that’s a challenge that faces Johnny Harris, founder of loose leaf tea brand T-tox, who has ambitions to move from selling online to in-store.

Heinz Ketchup has used augmented reality to create 3D recipe books, while ora kitchen towel’s cone-shaped design attracts curiousity from shoppers

When Harris began looking at how to package his product for the supermarket shelves, he was faced with a number of challenges: a small budget, the need to stand out among the big brands and creating packaging that defines how the brand is perceived by customers and buyers.

Harris says: “There is a big transition from online to shop shelves. Packaging is not as essential when your brand is online only. When people go to the website and click to buy then they’ve already brought into the brand. It’s about getting messages out on Twitter and Facebook prior to purchase.” (See case study).

According to industry experts, 75 per cent of decisions are made at the point of purchase, which poses opportunities and challenges. It means that for a brand like T-tox, there’s a chance to create curiosity around the brand on the shelf without spending lots of money on supportive marketing campaigns but it does put on the pressure to get it right.

Holiday and retail brand Natural Retreats is working on the launch of its new packaging, spending time on it to ensure that it makes the right impression. In 2011, it opened a deli and coffee shop co-operative called the Storehouse Deli in John O’Groats, Scotland and Virginia in the US, because rural locations did not have many grocery options.

[Augmented reality] creates a world where the physical and digital worlds co-exist. You can take an object and add content to create engagement

The packaging of its groceries has to reflect its brand values and it is working with agency Ever After to make sure it has an impact. Matt Spence, chief executive at Natural Retreats says: “We have spent a long time ensuring that the packaging fits our brand values, to the extent that we haven’t launched them yet. 

“Our packaging is going to follow suit as it’s very important to us to not only have something that looks great but is fitting to our brand philosophy and promise to the environment.”

Creating curiosity from packaging is something that all brands have to aim for. Whether it is a start-up looking to get stocked in supermarkets or an established brand trying to create conversations about their products, brands can use packaging to dramatic effect.

The Big Three Challenges

1. Sustainable materials

Paul Day, packaging technologist at Neal’s Yard Remedies says: “Over the past 10 years, the development of sustainable materials has accelerated but there is still a premium on environmental technologies. Every week there are more products that are available, such as those that don’t use petrochemicals but there is still lots of work to be done. As the cost comes down this will drive volumes.”

Matt Spence, chief executive of Natural Retreats, says: “In all our brand communications we only print on FSA 100 per cent recycled paper and use organic ink. Our packaging is going to follow suit as it’s very important to us to not only have something that looks great but is fitting to our brand philosophy and promise to the environment.”

2. Standing out when you’re a start up

Johnny Harris, founder of T-Tox loose leaf tea brand, says: “When you’re in a supermarket like Whole Foods or Waitrose you need to try to compete with the big boys. You can do lots of things like building trust and provide good customer service but looks do count.

Tea is a category that might only be reviewed [by retailers] once every six months so you have to make sure the packaging looks right and stacks well. The first challenge is to get stocked and then you have to make sure that you make an impact quickly because people judge in a matter of seconds. You have to be able to tell customers what’s in it for them.

3. Using technology to start conversations

Ambarish Mitra, chief executive at augmented reality app provider Blippar says: “You need to keep the end users in mind and make sure you’re bringing value to your customers. We always advise brands never to use augmented reality for the sake of it. Using augmented reality technology helps to give a product real identity.”

Case Study

Moving away from clear packaging to an innovative leaf-shaped tin design will help T-tox stand out on the supermarket shelves

T-Tox – the challenges of packaging a new product

Johnny Harris, founder of T-Tox is investigating packaging options to ensure his loose leaf tea brand is seen on the shelf in supermarkets and department stores. At the moment, the product is sold in clear bags via his website but Harris says he is looking to change the packaging from bags to a unique leaf-shaped tin so that it catches the eye of shoppers in store.

But it’s not just the customers he needs to impress. Getting supermarket buyers to stock the brand is the first hurdle he needs to overcome. “Looks do count when it comes to convincing buyers to stock your product,” Harris says, and you also have to make sure that the product “stacks well” too.

But the unique design of the tin means that the packaging is expensive because “you have to pay for the cast”, Harris explains. “It’s the age-old problem in that the less [packaging] you buy, the more it costs.”

The entrepreneur, who has a background as a personal trainer and sports therapist, is looking for investment in order to roll out the packaging that he thinks will sell his product in a bricks and mortar environment.

Standing out on the shelf is much more challenging than selling via a website because there’s less space to tell customers why they should buy your product. T-Tox already has to overcome the fact that the majority of the UK population drink bagged tea so Harris is looking at how he can promote the health benefits of his tea that makes an impact at the point of purchase.

Harris explains: “The label has to communicate why it’s there. You have to stand out really quickly. People judge a product in a matter of seconds so you need to be able to tell customers what’s in it for them.”

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3711 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here