10 great uses of packaging as AR gateways

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There is something exciting about the possibilities that new technologies present for packaging design. Packaging is no longer just a fixed physical product. It can now be a gateway for new experiences, new ways to tell brand stories, to connect with and educate customers. In particular, augmented reality (AR) is adding new dimensions to packaging that simply weren’t possible before. Here are 10 great ways brands are using packaging as a gateway to an augmented reality experience.

  1. Pizza Hut

Earlier this year Pizza Hut partnered with classic arcade game PAC-MAN to launch a limited-edition experience. During the promotional period, the brand’s pizza boxes had an image of the famous PAC-MAN maze printed on the top. Customers could scan a QR code on the side with their smartphone to use augmented reality to turn the box into a playable version of the PAC-MAN game. Customers were encouraged to share their high scores online for the chance to win prizes.

  1. Amazon

Last year Amazon launched its augmented reality app, Amazon AR Player, with a packaging tie-in. For a limited time, Amazon orders were shipped in boxes printed with a pumpkin shape on the side. Customers could draw the face of their choice onto the pumpkin and then use the Amazon AR Player app to scan a QR code and bring their design to life in augmented reality. They then had the choice to change the colour of the pumpkin and to enhance it with digital accessories. Users could also use the selfie mode in their smartphone camera to place their pumpkin design over their face for a photo.

  1. Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola is one of a number of major brands that have experimented with augmented reality enabled packaging. One example is its Faces of the City campaign in China. The company worked with illustrator Noma Bar to create 23 different can designs that aimed to reflect the different personalities of 23 key cities in China. Customers could scan the cans using search engine Baidu’s app to trigger an augmented reality experience that brought each can’s design to life. Scanning the cans also triggered additional experiences including trivia games, personality tests and maps.

  1. Jones Soda

Craft soda company Jones Soda has always taken a customer-centric approach to its packaging design by using real-life photos from its loyal customers on its labels. In celebration of the brand’s 25th anniversary, it has upgraded these labels to trigger an augmented reality experience when scanned by the new Jones Soda smartphone app. The limited-edition labels feature 15 up-and-coming athletes and artists including a tattoo artist, street muralist, skateboarder, BMX rider and jewellery designer. By scanning them with the partner app, customers can watch a short video of the creator in action. Jones is planning to continue the augmented reality approach in the future with its customers invited to submit videos for consideration for the next batch of labels in March 2022.

  1. Almond Breeze

Almond Breeze, the almond milk range from Blue Diamond, has launched a new augmented reality experience that can be accessed through its packaging. The brand wanted a way to provide customers with more transparency about its supply chain and where its ingredients come from. Rather than try to communicate this within the limited space of the packaging itself, Almond Breeze has added QR codes to its packaging. When scanned by a smartphone, these codes activate augmented reality experiences that see the brand’s diamond logo become a portal for animated scenes that show customers key aspects of the production process.

  1. Reese’s Puffs

Reese’s Puffs, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups inspired cereal, used augmented reality to push the boundaries of what packaging can do. Customers were able to use the limited-edition range of cereal boxes to create music by placing cereal on different parts of the box and then scanning it with a website-based augmented reality app. Three different boxes created three different musical effects which could be layered to create more complex tracks. Customers could also use the app to create Reese’s-inspired music videos to go with their compositions.

  1. JUST

JUST, the sustainable water brand, is another company turning to augmented reality to communicate its sustainability credentials. While the brand already does a good job at explaining how its product is different through the bottle design and on-pack information, there isn’t enough room to go into detail about everything that makes JUST different. As such, the company’s bottles now feature a QR code that triggers a series of different augmented reality experiences that educate customers in an engaging and immersive way.

  1. 19 Crimes

19 Crimes is an Australian wine company built around an unusual premise. Its name is inspired by a list of 19 historical crimes that British convicts could have been deported to Australia for committing. Each wine in its range features a real-life person from history who committed one of these crimes on the label. What’s more, 19 Crimes uses the Living Wine Label app to bring its labels to life through augmented reality. By scanning the bottle label with the app, customers can see the convict’s picture come to life and hear them tell the story of what happened to them.

  1. Knog

Outdoor and sporting goods company Knog has embraced augmented reality as a way to make its packaging more sustainable. Previously its product boxes featured a plastic window so that customers could see the contents. Knog has now removed this in favour of an opaque cardboard box. While there is still an image of the product printed on the side, Knog felt that customers may need more information in order to make the correct purchase. As such, each product box comes printed with a QR code that customers can scan with their smartphone to access an augmented reality 3D model of the product. They can look at the model from all sorts of different angles in order to gauge if it suits their needs.

  1. Blackwell Fine Jamaican Rum

It is not uncommon for products and packaging to tie-in with new film, TV, music and other entertainment launches. With its recent James Bond collaboration, Blackwell Fine Jamaican Rum has demonstrated how augmented reality can enhance these partnerships in new ways. Its limited-edition Bond themed bottles featured a QR code that unlocked an augmented reality experience with Blackwell’s co-founder and chief executive Chris Blackwell. Customers could enjoy cocktail recipes, music and stories delivered in augmented reality. It’s an authentic collaboration as Chris Blackwell owns GoldenEye, the villa where Ian Fleming wrote the James Bond novels.


By Cate Trotter, Head of Trends at retail futures consultancy Insider Trends.