Connected Packaging with Jenny Stanley

The first episode of our 13th season examines connected packaging with Jenny Stanley of Appetite Creative. Jenny explains how smart packaging bridges the gap between physical and digital commerce, enabling CPG brands to engage with consumers in innovative ways. We discuss how connected packaging provides invaluable data to improve marketing strategies and supply chain processes. Plus, new creative possibilities for brands and smart packaging’s role in sustainability messaging.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS: 

Jenny Stanley: There are fantastic opportunities for connected packaging to really help brands talk about their sustainability goals, talk about what they’re doing. Consumers demand more information, and this is the best way to be able to communicate with them.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on marketing and advertising produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us for the first episode of our thirteenth season. In recent episodes, we’ve talked about the cookieless future of digital advertising and the shift away from third-party and second-party to first-party customer data. CPG brands and retailers seek to learn more about their customers’ shopping behaviors across online and brick-and-mortar stores, serving up information that’s both relevant and timely during the shopper journey. Connected packaging integrates digital technologies into conventional packaging systems to bridge the gap between physical and digital environments. Typically using features such as QR codes, RFID tags, or NFC chips, connected packaging and experiences enable customers to interact with product details in a number of imaginative ways on their smartphones or other devices. The collected data can yield fresh insights for brand marketing teams into consumers’ habits and preferences and allow manufacturers to monitor and improve supply chain processes. Connected, or smart packaging as it’s also sometimes called, is a rapidly growing industry, with the market expected to reach $63 billion annually by 2030. One agency that’s consistently delivering innovative solutions in the connected packaging space is Appetite Creative. With offices in the UK, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates, their award-winning team has worked with clients including Apple, Disney, Starbucks, Pepsi, Samsung, Chanel, BMW, Mercedes Benz, and Porsche, to name just a few. Appetite Creative’s founder and managing director is Jenny Stanley, who, prior to establishing the agency in 2015, held senior positions in digital media sales at companies including Microsoft, uTarget, MediaMind, and Adform. To discuss some of the ways that connected packaging can help collect first-party data while offering new creative possibilities for brands, Jenny is joining us today from her home base of Madrid, Spain. Jenny, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Jenny Stanley: Thank you. Thank you very much for having me. It’s great to be here. Thanks a lot, Adrian.

Adrian Tennant: As I mentioned in the introduction, prior to establishing Appetite Creative, you held senior positions at leading digital media firms. So, what were the roots of your interest in connected packaging, and what motivated you to set up Appetite Creative?

Jenny Stanley: Oh, so many answers to that. but yes, I was very much in digital media. on the creative side and always trying to push the boundaries to the innovation. How can we make this more exciting? I was at Microsoft when we launched the advertising, which was super boring banners, and my job was always trying to make it more exciting. So, when I started seeing that actually physical items that are in people’s homes, such as your carton of cereal, which, you know, probably depends on how fast you eat your cereals in your home between one, two, three weeks. That brand is present on that breakfast table every single morning. I thought there was a huge opportunity to be able to turn that packaging and product into a media channel. And, really, that’s where it came from.

Adrian Tennant: Well, today, as the Managing Director of Appetite Creative, you’ve grown your agency’s portfolio with a really impressive roster of clients. We’ll get into some of the details in a moment, but can you explain what Appetite Creative does and what problems you’re most often being sought to solve for clients today?

Jenny Stanley: Yeah, definitely. Appetite Creative is a technology company that is focused on connected experiences and connected packaging. And what does that mean? That really means that we are helping brands to connect with their consumers in real-time and in a way that they want to be connected with. And if you ask yourself, how many brands websites have I gone and visited this week? Or this month, or perhaps even this year, it’s definitely going to be, I would hazard a guess, less than five brands. So, if brands want to connect with you, how are they able to do so? And our job is to do that through packaging. And what do we solve for the brand? Well, we really help the brand to understand who’s actually buying their product because most FMCG brands, in particular, don’t know who buys their products. It’s sold through a retailer, and of course, the retailer doesn’t normally give or divulge that type of information. So we help them to understand who’s buying our product. Is it males? Is it females? Are they 18? Are they 50 years old? What do they think of our product? There’s a massive feedback opportunity here for brands to be able to ask people, “What did you think of that flavor?” And “Do you like the cherry flavor?” And “Did you know we’ve got pineapple?” And “What do you think? Would you like an avocado or a lychee-flavored milk next?” And actually, the ability to be able to harness that feedback and then push that into product innovation is there as well. So that’s just one element of connected packaging, but going back to what is it that we do in a nutshell, it’s connect the brand with its consumers and open that two-way channel for communication.

Adrian Tennant: Appetite Creative recently published a handy e-book that contains practical examples of connected packaging. Jenny, could you give us an overview of some of the categories you and your team have worked in and maybe one example that listeners might not immediately think would lend itself to a smart packaging treatment?

Jenny Stanley: Yes, most definitely I can. There are just so many use cases for connected packaging. So, I’m going to try and cover some of the main ones. There’s the marketing and I think I’ve touched on that a little bit already in some of the examples that I’ve given. Marketing, being able to launch a competition, wanting to collect the names and email addresses and preferences from your consumers, but there’s a lot more to connected packaging as well. And so, there’s a lot of fakes of products that are in-market at the moment. I think most industry verticals suffer from that, even food, but of course, there’s the electronics and the luxury and all those different industry verticals as well. And so, actually with secure or authenticated QR codes, you have the possibility to be able to ensure that the product that you purchase is actually the genuine product. So that is another really great use of connected packaging. The other is, actually, to open up the market to people who, perhaps, are sometimes sidelined. So, for example, people who have impaired vision. The ability to scan a QR code and perhaps hear the ingredients in that particular product is really, really basic, but a great way to ensure that you’re involving all your audience groups. It might also just be the ability to be able to, and this is good for me, just to be able to scan it and magnify it because a lot of those small prints on those packaging is, is really hard to read. I don’t wear glasses, but when I look at some of those ingredient lists, I feel I need some sort of magnifier. And again, scanning that QR code, I don’t need the audio, but just being able to magnify that and zoom in a little bit is really, really useful for me. So that’s another way. Loyalty programs. So ways to be able to reward people for purchases that they’ve made. Very easily done through QR codes. No need to have an e-com, no need to upload receipts. Really, really easy way to be able to do that. So again, being able to bring, marketing opportunities there as well. And then, we haven’t talked about legislation. And there’s a whole big, opening there in terms of where connected packaging really helps in terms of legislation, in terms of being able to give you the ingredients and everything else that you might want to know about that in your own native language. even if you’re not the English speaker or the language speaker that you purchased that product in, the ability to be able to actually see that information in another language.

Adrian Tennant: Wow, that’s a lot of use cases. A follow-up to that, what are some of your favorite, most imaginative use cases that you feel best illustrate connected packaging’s potential for brand building or loyalty?

Jenny Stanley: So, so, so many examples. So when people say your favorite, I’m like, “Ooh, what’s my favorite today?” So there are so many examples. One of my favorites, just because it was super fun, is using augmented reality and being able to turn yourself into different characters. And this is something we actually did for a juice company. And they had their own characters, and it’s for kids, and it was a back-to-school campaign. So the idea is you scan the QR code, you see some introductory about the brands, and then there are the different characters, and you could just slide through the different filters that obviously appeared on your face and, very much like Snapchat, they augmented reality. So it’s not static, it’s a moving image that moves when you open your mouth and you blink your eyes, all that kind of stuff. And it just was crazy because you could see that people were re-scanning that 8 to 10 times. So, you know, they obviously loved it and were then sharing it with their friends, or showing their mum, their dad, their sisters, whoever. And so it was just really fun. A really great way to be able to engage. On the other side, I’ve seen some fantastic connected packaging examples that are not around entertainment as such, but much more focused on sustainability. And that’s another use case that I’ve not talked about yet, but, you know, the ability to be able to pass on your sustainability credentials or talk about the packaging that might be more sustainable or have something to talk about in terms of that sustainability. And this particular one actually was about planting trees. So instead of a loyalty program where you get some monetary reward back for yourself, then actually you were able to plant a tree. So every 10 products that were purchased, you would scan the QR code, and you would get an electronic stamp on your loyalty card, so to speak, but then actually, a tree was planted. And it was really a great campaign because it was doing something great for the world. And, of course, it did something great for the brand as well. And I can see a huge move towards this. I wouldn’t say sustainability is a trend. It’s much more than that, but I can see a huge move to that. We’ve got a recent, Juicy Caribs, in Guadalupe actually, and really interestingly, they wanted to align with one of their charities, a children’s charity. So again, the consumer scans the QR code. They learn about the juice brand. They learn about the flavors. They collect all the information from the consumer, but also we had a game that we created for them. And every time you play the game, there is a donation made to that children’s charity as well. So some really nice examples there. One is super fun, and the other comes back to a little bit more kind of connected packaging for good use as well.

Adrian Tennant: You’re talking to us today from your home in Europe, which arguably led the world’s approach to data privacy with its introduction of GDPR. So those pop-ups we all see asking that we enable cookies are a direct result of that. Well, now the EU has the digital product passport. Jenny, for listeners who are unfamiliar, could you just explain what the DPP is and what it might mean for anyone involved in designing or fabricating product packaging?

Jenny Stanley: Yeah, definitely, so the DPP, the Digital Product Passport, is an initiative that is all part of the eco-design for sustainable product regulations. So it’s all about eco-design. It’s all about sustainability, and it’s a key action under the EU Circular Economy Action Plan. So basically, it’s a tool that is the passport for that particular product, which is to give information about that product’s environmental sustainability. So it’s a digital record of the product’s sustainability, and to give information about the life cycle, and that should be from design to end of life. It’s not in effect at the moment; it’s thought to be implemented in 2027. But again, as you say, that’s something that’s going to affect designers. It’s going to affect people who are looking at the packaging, and it means that it’s something that you’re going to have to prepare for to ensure that, obviously, the digital passport will be able to report on those things, but also report things in a way that you want them to be reflected for your brand. 

Adrian Tennant: In addition to the DPP, Europe is also leading the way in sustainability reporting with a directive making it mandatory for large enterprises to report on their environmental activities from January 1st of next year. The accounting giant Deloitte reportedly believes that this will impact American firms that do significant business in Europe, just as GDPR has. But, as we’ve seen in global surveys from Kantar and Ipsos, as well as Bigeye’s US-focused studies, a significant proportion of consumers do want more sustainable choices. So, Jenny, how do you see connected packaging aligning with brand sustainability goals in the light of the EU’s directives?

Jenny Stanley: I mean, there’s so much happening in this space that almost hard to keep up with it. So, of course, the DPP, which we talked about, but, you know, it wasn’t that long ago that single-use plastics were banned. And we all know that we’ve got to pay for plastic bags in supermarkets, certainly in the EU, but I don’t know about the States. if you do want a plastic bag. And you’re absolutely right. There are huge studies to show that consumers really do want to know where things have come from. In fact, a recent study said 70 percent of people would pay a small amount more for a brand that was doing something good for the environment versus their current or normal choice. So I think there are some really big opportunities here for connected packaging to be able to put their sustainability messages, credentials, and efforts in the forefront. If consumers are very interested in making the right choice for the planet, then as a brand, you need to ensure that you are doing the right thing. And then of course, communicating that to your consumers. A recent campaign we did for Don Simon was around their new packaging. Their new packaging has removed the aluminium from their milk and their juice cartons. And if you look at it as a standard carton, to me as a consumer, it just looks like a normal carton. The interesting part is that we needed to tell the consumers that, actually, there’s been an awful lot of work going into this packaging to remove this aluminium layer, and it’s so much better for the environment. So how do we do that? Of course, we did it through a QR code. So when the consumer scans the QR code on that packaging, we actually tell them all about it through a series of fun, short mini-games. We talk to them about how the carton has been sourced, how it is not bleached, it’s natural, and how it has no aluminium in there, what that means for them, and what that means for the consumer. And obviously, that helps to align that brand, Don Simon, with better packaging, better for the planet, and a host of other things that are in there also encourages those consumers to share this on social media as well. So not only is it great for the brands to be able to interact with the consumer that they already have, that’s already purchased that product and has scanned and interacted with them, but also this is really helping the brands to tell the story to other people as well. And that being shared on social, of course, that’s opening up that brand awareness. So there are fantastic opportunities for connected packaging to really help brands talk about their sustainability goals and talk about what they’re doing; consumers demand more information, and this is the best way to be able to communicate with them.

Adrian Tennant: Consumer trust has become a real issue in marketing. How does connected packaging help brands collect data in privacy-compliant ways that consumers can trust?

Jenny Stanley: Yes, I definitely think marketing has done some damage to itself in the past with the tracking and all these different types of things that we don’t need to go into, but I’m sure we’re all aware of. Connected packaging, done in the right way, really offers that ability to have this two-way conversation. It’s not just we’ll have everything from “Thank you, Mr. Consumer, and off we go,” but it’s actually being able to have this two-way dialogue to share information about the packaging. There’s no other way that example I just shared, with Don Simon and their aluminum-free packaging, there’s no other way that they would’ve really been able to engage the consumers on that basis to share on social media but still, you know, by a regular TV ad or something like that, it just, just wouldn’t happen. So this is a way to really be able to have one-to-one interactions and one-to-one conversations. And that then obviously builds trust. It’s all got to be, of course, privacy compliant in the same way that any advertising, if it is going to be collecting personally identifiable information, must have the consumer’s permission. This aligns with that; there’s obviously no way around that. But it does mean that there is this opportunity to be able to collect data, both person identifiable and non-personal identifiable, that really helps the brands to be able to understand who their consumers are. And I think being able to have this at a much better level. TV is very generalistic; with the connected packaging, you can change the conversation based on the product that they’ve scanned, the flavor that they’ve scanned, the size that they’ve scanned, where they are in their purchase journey, where they are geographically, the language that they want. This is a personalized conversation. This is content which is much better curated, therefore builds better trust, and therefore, comes to a scenario when the consumer actually feels happy to be able to share that, which, of course, is the ultimate goal, not only collect the information but then have consumers to share that, brand or that message on their social media, to other people as well. So, really, I think connected packaging does that in a fantastic way.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message. 

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Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Jenny Stanley, the managing director of Appetite Creative and an expert on connected packaging and experiences. You’ve given us plenty of examples that really illustrate how connected packaging can bridge that gap between the physical and digital worlds. So, Jenny, I’m curious: what kind of analytics solutions do you develop alongside your creative applications to help clients measure the performance of these projects?

Jenny Stanley: Yes, it all comes back to data at the end of the day. And in order to understand how the experience is working, of course, we need to understand all of the data behind that. So, our backend dashboard is called the QR Connect Platform. And that allows brands to be able to generate their QR codes. It allows them to generate all of their serialized or unique alphanumeric codes, whatever they might need. But on the other side, of course, it collects all of that information. So we’re able to see how many people have scanned the QR code when they scanned the QR code. that really helps brands to understand, you know, is this a product that’s being consumed in the morning, in the afternoon? is there a particular pattern in the times and days that people scan the QR codes? We also obviously record all the information in terms of what happens in that experience, so, what did people interact with most? If there were several videos, which video did they watch most? All of that type of information. And then the collection of any data or questions that are asked. So when do you consume this product? How often do you consume this product? What’s your favorite flavor? What do you think about this particular flavor? What do you think of the packaging? Did you know that it didn’t have aluminium in it before you bought it? Did that help you in your purchase decision? Whatever it might be in terms of those types of questions, of course, we can harness that and collect all of that data as well. And then on top of that, of course, you’ve got any personally identifiable data that consumers might want to give away, which would be, you know, their email address, their telephone number, their name, which, of course, means for marketing they have the opportunity to follow back up on that as well. But it does really come back to the data. And that’s where you see so many brands now changing into always-on QR code initiatives. So, for example, in the summer of last year, Coca-Cola announced that they were going to put QR codes on every single product they produce, something like 1.8 billion units per day or something crazy. Why? Because they want to have that consumer behavior. They want to be able to understand what consumers are doing and what they think. Similarly, Pepsi just released a statement saying that they, in the last 18 months, have increased their CRM first-party data by 50 percent. So, you know, brands are really starting to wake up to the data and the power of the data that they can actually collect through connected packaging.

Adrian Tennant: Well, in addition to that data reporting, you also have an AI-powered analytics tool that enables your clients to ask anything about their data via a chatbot. So Jenny, more broadly, how do you envision the role of AI and other emerging technologies in shaping the future of smart packaging?

Jenny Stanley: So AI is everywhere. It’s absolutely everywhere. And there are so many interesting applications for it. You talk about the chatbot. The chatbot’s a fantastic way to be able to, again, have that one-to-one interaction with the brand and the consumer. So they can ask questions, you know, does this have gluten in it? Are the ingredients sourced from a sustainable place? Tell me where they’re from. All of these different types of questions, but also questions, even in healthcare types of scenarios, you know, how many of these should I take in a 12-hour period? Or something like that. So it’s really, really interesting to be able to have that. And then, of course, on the back-end, being able to understand actually, what are the questions that people are asking? Where are the gaps in data? What is it that people and your consumers want to know? AI is only at the beginning. We’ve only really scratched the surface, and we all know that there’s so much more future. In terms of smart packaging, I think there are some fantastic advances that we’re going to be able to see in terms of identifying things like preference behaviors, and for marketeers, I think there is fantastic innovations that are going to be coming up to help, shape how they do their marketing in the future. But also, there’s just some fun stuff that we’re doing now with AI and using AI to create images and backgrounds for brands as a campaign. I don’t know if you’ve seen the Chupa Chup campaign – it’s in the Middle East at the moment, is about people just putting in a very quick phrase and getting back a fun, multi-colored, image and then sharing that on social media. So, there’s this whole range of things from entertainment all the way back to big data and data analytics and predictions. So AI has just begun to really kind of move us forward in so many different ways.

Adrian Tennant: Jenny, are there any examples of recent campaigns where you saw results that maybe you weren’t expecting?

Jenny Stanley: Ooh, yes, quite a few, but one that I really love actually is for a milk brand, a Swiss milk brand, it’s called Emmi. And they have a whole line which is lactose-free products, and when they first came to us – we’ve been working with them for a couple of years – but when they first came to us, they wanted us to create a connected packaging experience, that would have lots of nice, prizes and that would collect CRM data. So, we created some games that highlighted different things in the game. So there was a new range that was 60 percent less sugar. So we had a balance game, which was talking about healthy diet, healthy balanced lifestyles. But then they also wanted to have all of this information about lactose-free and lactose-free recipes. And it was really, really aimed at people who were lactose-free. I actually said, “Don’t you think we should include a question at the beginning, which is, ‘Are you lactose intolerant?’” And, they were kind of a bit dismissive and went, “Yeah, okay, then fine.” So we included that as part of it, and we had great interactions; there’s all the information. People were spending over two minutes on the games. But the most interesting thing, going back to a question that we weren’t expecting, was that actually over 80 percent of those people were not lactose intolerant at all, and so everything that was positioned for these people who can’t actually ingest lactose and lactose intolerant people, actually was completely wrong The reason people were purchasing this product is because it was plant-based and therefore they believed that to be healthier for them. So, this was a major turning point. So the next campaigns that we did with Emmi were all about a Healthy lifestyle, doing lots of yoga, being able to change your lifestyle, and start your day in a good way with any good day. And so a big, big difference. Just ask the question and find out what your consumers are all about. So it was a really great moment where connected packaging could do a lot more than just collect data.

Adrian Tennant: Mmm. really unexpected consumer insights. I know you recently attended London Packaging Week. What were some key takeaways or trends you observed?

Jenny Stanley: Yeah, so it was really interesting for me to see that firstly, when I was speaking to people, they knew what Connected Packaging was, and having done this connected packaging education for eight or nine years, it was fantastic to find that not only do people know what it was, but actually there were categories in the awards that were focused on connected packaging. So this was really, really exciting for me. Of course, the other was the massive focus on sustainability, and the push towards, better packaging choices, and education around packaging choices as well. in terms of being able to understand, plastic versus carton, carton versus paper, cetera. So there was this real, focus on the right choices, for packaging as well. So they were my two main things, I think. people understand connected packaging and the advantages that it brings them. and secondly, really focusing on the type of materials, that they were using.

Adrian Tennant: I mentioned earlier that the connected packaging market is estimated to be worth north of $60 billion annually by 2030. What’s contributing most to the sector’s growth would you say?

Jenny Stanley: It’s a combination, I think, of all the things that we’ve just mentioned. So, the wake up from brands to realize the potential that their packaging really has and to turn their packaging into a media channel and a communication channel between their consumers. The removal of third-party cookies and the introduction of the GDPR laws means that collecting first-party data has become harder than ever for brands, to understand who their consumers are and to be able to connect with them. So that’s, that’s a big one. But then, the legislation that’s changing, so you know, the movements to saying that you must have so much more information on your product packaging means that the QR code really is the easiest way to be able to deliver that, and so of course that’s pushing, but then also there is the increase in inflation everywhere and I think that’s having an effect on two things. One, the increased costs, and therefore the increase of fakes on the market. So a way to be able to authenticate and protect your brand against fake, non-genuine products, is also pushing that hugely. And then lastly, again, that increase in inflation means that your consumers are more disloyal, so to speak, and are looking for offers and are looking for cheaper options. So, if you can use those QR codes to be able to create a loyalty program, then again, there’s a massive push there to be able to retain those consumers. So, I think there isn’t one answer that’s kind of pushing that, but all of these things combined is really contributing to the massive growth in this sector.

Adrian Tennant: Jenny, what’s next for Appetite Creative?

Jenny Stanley: So we’ve got so many different things happening, and we’re always working with the newest technology. So the AI that I touched on is something that we’re going to be exploring so much more as well, not just in the data point, but also in that entertainment side. So that’s definitely a big one for us. We’ve got a lot of work going on in serialized QR codes. So, being able to create lots of different programs from the identification of single units. Instead of being able to do SKU or SKU-level data, we’re able to actually produce data not only on a batch level but also on an individualized product level. And then lastly, again, keeping with that sustainability theme, we’re doing so much work at the moment with deposit return schemes, reusable schemes, and how QR codes and our data tracking systems can really support companies who want to make some big changes in markets. So, lots of big things happening, and it’s a really, really exciting time.

Adrian Tennant: It certainly sounds like it is. If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners are interested in learning more about connected packaging and Appetite Creative, what’s the best way to connect with you?

Jenny Stanley: Well, of course, you can get me on LinkedIn, Jenny Stanley. You can download our e-book, which you mentioned a little bit earlier, which you can find on our website,

Adrian Tennant: And we’ll include a link to the e-book on connected packaging in the transcript for this episode. Jenny, thank you very much for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Jenny Stanley: Thanks very much to you.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, Jenny Stanley, the founder and managing director of the connected packaging and experiences agency Appetite Creative. As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation, along with links to the resources we discussed, on the Bigeye website at Just select ‘podcast’ from the menu. Thanks for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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