Creating desire and positive brand sentiment is the ultimate goal for consumer affinity. That desire – particularly in the luxury market – is fostered by creating experiences that go beyond explaining the basic functional benefits of your drink, and taps into deeply rooted social and emotional customer needs.

A recent study that focused on packaging and the retail industry, highlighted that more than 60% of respondents placed experience as the single best factor in determining their decision to purchase. So how can premium drinks brands create a unique, emotion-driven brand experience through their bottles?

Thanks to advances in technology, QR codes and NFC (near field communication) chips offer one potential avenue.

Quick refresh on QR codes

QR (Quick Response) codes are similar to barcodes; they’re machine readable and store information that can now be accessed ‘natively’ using most modern smartphones. They came to the fore following the pandemic when ‘quick response’ barcodes enabled hospitality establishments to continue while maintaining the necessary social distance, and therefore helping their accessibility to mass audiences. But what do they offer premium drinks brands?

Our clients across wineries and distilleries use QR for authentication, traceability, information about flavour and heritage, and more recently sharing ESG credentials and data.

QR barcodes efficiently connect customers with product authentication information which can be challenging to add to labels with limited space. With authenticity and traceability of premium brands an ongoing concern for many, particularly with their hefty price tags, QR codes conveniently provide a whole heap of product information to satisfy consumers that their product is the real deal.

Hearing from global agencies at Paris Packaging week 2023, they are also enabling brands  to gather behavioural data and consumer interest, while also offering an elevated, digital experience via an augmented reality e.g. through gamification, storytelling or loyalty schemes.

Go one step further, and add markers to these QR codes, and you can map out anchor-based or location-specific augmented reality experiences if that offers added value to your user.

The downfall? It’s a matter of taste. QR codes have to be 2cm x 2cm (minimum) so some may feel it is intrusive to the luxurious, premium appeal of a bottle design. That’s where NFCs could offer a solution.

The rise of NFC’s

Near Field Communication devices (NFC’s) are now beating QR’s according to Strategy Analytics, and they’re big players in the world of artificial intelligence. One of the main differences between the two is how they’re accessed.

QR codes require the use of a camera, but an NFT allows you to simply tap a mobile device on a product and gain access to an exciting virtual experience – so less need for good lighting, or scanning it at the right angle to potentially act as barriers. The appeal of a ‘quick tap’ option is proving to be a winner.

Unlike QR codes that can’t be altered once the code has been created, NFC’s can be altered as frequently as desired so they offer more longevity. This vast benefit means that manufacturers can control what their consumer sees next. That can be a dedicated social page, a website, the story of the brand, or even promoting a special edition or bespoke design and product. For consumer interaction, they’re great tools for driving people to enter a competition or encouraging them to send pictures to the brands social channels.

Alcohol brand, Malibu recently launched a smart bottle to boost customer loyalty. They used NFC’s to unlock five digital experiences through a mobile browser and allowed consumers to engage in user-generated content by uploading photos to social media for a chance of winning a holiday in Barbados.

With a mere tap of a mobile phone to gain access to content, each bottle becomes a unique, digital touchpoint for consumers across the world. And given that an NFC tag can be programmed with any URL, it means that you can be as imaginative and creative as you like!

QR codes and NFC’s unite

In the bidding wars of QR codes and NFC’s, it doesn’t really come down to which one is better. Due to the rise in untrustworthy websites and fake products, consumers of premium brands require the authenticity that QR codes can provide, and they’re still great tools for leading consumers to a microsite or a brands social media account.

But overall, NFC’s do offer complete freedom of design as they can be completely hidden in a high-quality, premium grade embellishment like our n.hance embellishment technology.  You can maximise your ads and boost your brand or company more productively. With younger adults tending to be a target audience for premium brands, NFC’s are also considered more luxury than old -fashioned QR codes, particularly due to the ease of use.

Ultimately it’s about having a strong understanding of your existing and emerging customer personas – and understanding how your brand does (and could) make them feel. Knowing that, then allows solutions like n.hance to be perfect additions to your creative toolkit.

Don’t forget you can always get in touch to request a sample pack from us to help inspire your thinking. Until then…


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