Subtle design changes can massively improve accessibility Making on-pack communication more accessible doesn’t necessary require massive changes to existing packaging designs. Simple and subtle changes can make a huge impact if done correctly. One example comes from consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble. In January 2019, it tested the use of new tactile markings on some bottles in its Herbal Essences haircare range to help visually impaired people tell the difference between shampoo and conditioner. This is a genuine issue for many visually impaired consumers given that most brands use the same bottle shape for their shampoo and conditioner products. Knowing which is which isn’t only a factor at the point of purchase, but also when using the products day-to-day. While Braille is an option for brands, Procter & Gamble chose not to use it in this case as the reading system of raised dots is not widely understood among the visually impaired. The US’s National Federation of the Blind has reported that Braille is only used by 10% of the 1.3 million legally blind people in the country. Procter & Gamble’s solution is a very simple system of four vertical raised lines on the shampoo bottle and eight raised dots on the conditioner bottle. Although the system makes a big difference for visually impaired users, it doesn’t notably change the packaging experience for other consumers. The success of the pilot has seen the new tactile markings rolled out to all products under the Herbal Essences banner. But it’s also a shining example of how small changes to packaging can make a big difference to how brands communicate with consumers.
Technology is making on-pack communication more accessible Technology is also helping bridge the on-pack communication gap, particularly when it comes to accessibility. Spanish technology firm NaviLens developed a new four colour barcode that visually impaired people can scan with their smartphone camera to access important information. The system was first introduced on public transport in parts of Spain and the New York Metro. However, it is now making its way to product packaging for the first time. Cereal giant Kellogg’s is bringing NaviLens barcodes to all of its cereal products in the UK following a successful trial earlier this year. While barcode scanning technology for smartphones does exist, it isn’t always easy to use and often relies on the barcode being in focus and a certain distance from the camera which is a challenge for the visually impaired. Braille also isn’t the most practical option for on-pack communication. Putting aside the low usage rates, there isn’t room on product packaging to print all product information in Braille. The NaviLens technology is far easier to use as it doesn’t require consumers to know exactly where the code is on the box – unlike a normal barcode. It can read the code from three metres away and even when it is unfocused. Once the code has been recognised, a visually impaired user can access information about everything from allergens and ingredients to recycling using their on device reading tools or choose to have it read out loud to them. Again, this is a simple addition to product packaging that can be easily incorporated into every existing packaging design but makes a huge difference to how brands communicate with consumers.