It was a hot topic during BMPA's Goa Conclave in July. Ashwini Deshpande of Elephant Design spoke about the future of packaging and product design during InkWeek.
Highlighting the changing nature of packaging and the future of FMCG, she said, "The paradigm shift in packaging a few years ago was due to modern retail and eCommerce, today, that shift can be seen due to virtual and augmented reality. That packaging's first moment of truth can now be seen on a tiny screen placed in the customer's hand. The future of FMCG may or may not be dependent on packaging and one needs to be cautious about it."
With eCommerce on the rise, virtual platforms and events have become the new normal in the post-Covid era. Augmented reality has changed the packaging game by introducing consumers to experience the different possibilities and giving them more information about the product and connecting to the brand.
From QR codes on product packaging to a virtual journey of a product through a series of book-style pop ups, brands can now track consumer behaviour and enable innovation, creativity and interactions for consumers.
Brands like Unilever, Coca-Cola, Samsung among many others have also begun to explore the immersive virtual reality space, Metaverse. The digital world facilitated by the use of virtual reality and augmented reality headsets connects the physical product with the virtual world.
With the ongoing advancements and prototypes, one can ask what is in store for brands in the retail, marketing and packaging space? What will packaging and design look like in the Metaverse?
McKinsey’s latest report titled, Value Creation in the Metaverse, estimates the market impact of the metaverse to be between USD 2 trillion and USD 2.6 trillion on eCommerce and USD144–206 billion on the advertising market by 2030. Experts say that shopping in the metaverse will have a significant impact on brands and consumers.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Metaverse has described this technological leap as the next iteration of the internet and the closest thing to teleportation. "The defining quality of the metaverse will be a feeling of presence, like you are right there. One will be able to work, learn, play, shop or create," said the Facebook founder.
Coca-Cola presented its first-ever Coca-Cola flavor born in the Metaverse in April 2022. The new flavour, Zero Sugar Byte aimed to transcend the digital and physical world while its packaging graphics featuring pixels formed the brand's logo.
Speaking on the company's first anniversary in the Metaverse, Pratik Thakar, head of global creative strategy at Coca-Cola said, “We hope to strengthen and expand our community by building connections through a variety of physical and virtual Coca-Cola experiences.”
Emily O’Brien, programme director at Unilever’s in-house Web3 Collective said, “The new virtual landscape must be more equitable than the internet and the physical world. It must be more representative, inclusive and sustainable."
Here are three brands of Unilever's who stepped into Metaverse this year:
Magnum’s museum in the metaverse
In June 2022, Magnum invited delegates at the MET AMS metaverse festival in Amsterdam to visit a virtual exhibition. The participants got the chance to order an ice-cream from a vending machine in the metaverse and got a glimpse of how ice creams might be ordered in the future.
In April 2022, Rexona extended its campaign into the virtual world. The deodorant brand partnered with Metaverse's platform Decentraland to host a Degree Metathon. The first-ever adaptive wearables, wheelchairs and running blades were introduced to offer greater representation for people with disabilities.
Learning while gaming
Unilever’s forayed into the virtual world of Roblox, the gaming world through Sunsilk City, a space where girls could engage with a real-life role model, design creative hairstyles for their avatars and learn about Sunsilk’s range of training programmes.
O’Brien concluded, "We’re currently on the cusp of a seismic shift: the biggest change to the digital landscape, and culture, since the dawn of social media in the early 2000s."
Samsung's 837X debuted in Decentraland, a blockchain-powered metaverse with an aim to create, connect and collect. The digital world features NFT prizes, product drops, events and live performances for users.
While platforms like these provide a good opportunity for brands to market and connect with users, it becomes critical to provide a genuine utility to consumers - and packaging converters.