They chat about:
- How connected packaging has evolved over the years
- Using AR to add another touchpoint in the customer journey
- Whether a camera strategy is scaleable and thoughts about the future of connected packaging
Caspar Thykier: Well, I'm delighted to be joined for this session by Mark Hewitt, someone who we’ve worked with for a number of years. Why don't you start by maybe telling us a little bit about your background and how you've got into the wonderful world of XR?
Mark Hewitt: Yeah, sure. Thanks Caspar. Well, my background is actually quite diverse.
I got into predominantly connected packaging about eight, nine years ago. And the background I have is predominantly data, digital, working within agencies, working within marketing teams within predominantly CPGs. And I guess in AR, XR, VR, I've come across them over those last eight years from a connected pack perspective.
And for me, it's been fascinating because the creativity required to hold attention, when you have seconds with products in hand, that is the thing. If you are marketing, if you're a brand owner, that's the thing to think about. And I think this discussion around XR, AR, VR is critical to understanding how one retains memorability and importantly differentiation.
Caspar Thykier: Absolutely. And I think you have been looking at this specifically in the realm of CPGs for a number of years and frankly, it was quite ahead of its time for a while. What are the lessons that you've observed in AR? I mean, you talked about that piece of storytelling, but what are the other things that you've seen that have either been ‘aha’ moments or moments in time that have opened up the opportunity in the market?
Mark Hewitt: Yeah, exactly. You're going to smile Caspar, because you know, there've been a few moments in the last few years. The first thing is, when you get to the world of AR, particularly within the world of packaging and products, it's always about scale.
Every big CPG has a ‘set it and scale it’ mentality. And when you get into the world of AR, that becomes a very costly exercise. So I think the things that have changed over the years are understanding how you go on a learning journey and how AR fits into that learning journey. The other big thing is, as you will know, the world of QR and QR codes and Web AR has massively, massively transformed the ability for people to access AR not via apps, which I know for CPGs in particular has been a big deal.
And then the other thing that often makes me smile, and I know it does you Caspar as well, is it's context. You know, the context and understanding of when people are going to scan something. When that scan is, first of all, something that's going to be valuable for people to scan, so they'll actually do it. And secondly, the promise that we have set up is actually delivered when they scan.
I think that over the years, many brands have not quite got that right. But I think the last few years, we’re starting to see many brands across quite a few categories, actually, not just in the world of CPG, but in terms of beauty, in terms of food and drink, in terms of hygiene, have all started to look at an understanding of why somebody would scan, and what's the value to them. And I think AR has got a really big role to play in this area.
Caspar Thykier: And you talk about that scale piece. You know, how easy is it for the big corporates and brands and organizations that you've been working with? How is it for them to do that? Just in terms of the way they're set up for taking on a camera capability?
Mark Hewitt: I've seen in the past, the word of AR sat in innovation teams and those innovation teams have then done MVPs or test projects, and they are costly and set up in silos. They're actually quite expensive as one-offs - not because of the technology, but more of just the infrastructure to buy them within.
Brands are set up. And I think that, in the next few years, we'll start to see brands looking at this, not within innovation teams, but as actual live relevant opportunities, particularly because we're in a world of contact listeners.
And obviously COVID has brought all of that. I think more and more brands will be looking at the mobile ability for people to scan and get value. And I think brands then need to start thinking about, do they already know how they can get the benefit of the assets over time? Almost as a platform rather than a creative place.
I think that's the thing that starts to make this a very cost-efficient and high-performing area for brands. And I think the other thing in this is measurement.
This is an area, particularly when you're talking about packaging, that is part of a customer journey. It's not really measured in ways that other media is. And I think the media agencies have got something here to contribute, to come to the party and start looking and understanding these moments in time when one has the product, and one is looking to differentiate one’s sales within that situation.
So I think then the scalability of this and the performance of this starts to really add up for brands, which I think in the past it hasn’t done.
Caspar Thykier: And I think that's what's been so interesting about having your insights from your past experience in the world of XR of really interrogating the data and the measurement of it.
And what are the sorts of metrics that you're seeing, that come out of these kinds of engagements, that excite you about the potential?
Mark Hewitt: Well, there are four main ones. One is obviously the scan rate, which tells us what's the value exchange that makes this exciting and relevant in someone's life, easier, simpler. What's the reason to scan?
So that's the first thing. The second thing is the times once they get to these landing platforms. How long do people spend on what they explore? What do they engage with? And as I say, this is where AR, XR really has an opportunity to provide major value compared to the media.
Then I think there's return rates, which will also give an understanding of ‘is this something people remember and want to come back to’? And then the fourth thing in this is to link it with sales. Super difficult actually in big organizations that are complex and fragmented. But those four elements are the four elements that really start to deliver an understanding of the value that these types of activities can give - not just binary sales and not just binary scans, but really the engagement opportunity, which starts to link to things like brand power, and starts to link to things like subscription and loyalty, all those sorts of things.
Caspar Thykier: Yeah, it definitely feels like an exciting time now. And we almost have got to a critical mass or have enough businesses really taking this seriously. Are there any things specifically that you’re excited about in this next period? You know, we're almost there, but do you get excited about this next two, three years?
Mark Hewitt: Well, yeah, I do. Because one, you and I and a few others in this ecosystem have been doing this for many years. So we’ve been sort of repeating the same value and sales pitch. But the truth of the matter is that COVID has massively accelerated people's ability and understanding of why they would scan.
I think that the media value of mobile rather than just digital has become now a driving growth opportunity. And I think what excites me most is that if we can find ways to commercially scale this within businesses, then I think we'll really start to see lots of different variations on how this can be used from purely pragmatic, informational-led type activities through to inspirational brand storytelling.
And really this untapped area within the consumer journey when you are using the product is something that I think will become, at scale, something of real media value as well as consumer value. Because I think people want to know what's in the products that they're buying.
And just to add, sustainability and purpose as one of the key use cases is just a driving force for this as well. That's not going to go away. People understand how they can get involved. With initiatives, understanding where the ingredients come from, understanding, is this a brand that has a philosophy that links with mine about being kinder to the planet?
All of these things are going to influence purchase, and they're going to influence repurchase as well.
Caspar Thykier: Fantastic. Unbelievably, 10 minutes is already up. I could talk about this with you for hours. I know we have in the past. But all I can say is it's so brilliant having people with your expertise and experience come into this space.
Mark Hewitt: Total pleasure. Good to speak to your Caspar as always.