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The Blank Spaces On Packaging Can Offer Brands And Retailers Valuable Real Estate And Connections With Consumers

October 20, 2020 Sarah Cavill

The shift in behavior during the pandemic that required delivery of so many items has made packaging more abundant, providing valuable real estate that brands should make the best of to add value and meaning to their brand’s campaign strategies.

amazon packages halloween

A box, packaging or receipt offers up blank space that may be as valuable to brands as billboards, especially as ecommerce explodes with demand in 2020. For experiences, coupons, partnerships and brand engagement, packaging real estate offers opportunities to reach and engage consumers. 

Amazon Lets No Space Go To Waste, Kicking Off AR Strategy With QR Codes On Boxes

Amazon made some noise in 2015 when they branded their boxes with bright yellow advertisements for the Minions movie, and now they are using their “billboard on the box” wisely again, with an augmented reality (AR) campaign. Currently, boxes shipped from Amazon are kitted out with a bright white pumpkin on the box and a QR code, which when scanned takes users to an app with a variety of different gamified options. Sarah Perez for Tech Crunch reports “One [App store] screenshot shows someone drawing the face on a pre-printed white pumpkin to turn it into a jack-o-lantern. When they then scan the QR code, the pumpkin jumps out as an AR object. Another screenshot shows an AR pumpkin and bat wings over top an image of a dog.” The app appears to also have other animated characters and filters, including a happy Corgi, a little blue car and a selfie mode. 

Simply called “Amazon Augmented Reality,” Amazon describes the app as a “fun way to reuse your Amazon boxes until you’re ready to drop them in the recycling bin.” It is part of the mega-retailer’s recent push to promote less packaging and waste. Amazon is also working with influencers on social media on an initiative called #boxtumes, which encourages people to use their Amazon boxes to make fun and funny Halloween or playtime costumes. Although the AR and influencer campaigns don’t have specific promotional tie-ins, bringing customers good feelings can increase loyalty and trust, and app downloads can help offer more information to Amazon about their customers.

Receipts Are Valuable Advertising Space For Coupons, Just Ask CVS

Shutterstock_210191599 Unrecognizable woman in light blue shirt checking a long grocery receipt at store.

The comically long CVS receipts are treasure troves of coupons for customers enrolled in the CVS ExtraCare Rewards program, and the coupons are offered whether customers buy a pack of gum or a grocery list of items. With more than 62 million ExtraCare Rewards members receiving curated advertising every time they buy something, CVS is able to create value for an array of consumers, with coupon redemptions offering even more information for future targeting. In addition to store coupons, CVS also uses the receipts to tease promotions, like surveys that customers can fill out for the chance to win monetary prizes, or other rewards programs at CVS, all of which allows CVS to collect more opted-in, first-party data and increase their engagement with consumers. 

Shopify Encourages Branding Of All Packaging For Maximum Unboxing Effect 

Shopify has made the real estate on receipts even easier for some brands to use as advertising space by giving clients that want to provide paper invoices an option to add their logos, product images or codes for future purchases. Shopify encourages fully branded unboxing experiences, including branded tissue paper, stickers, filler and custom boxes or envelopes. “The demand for ecommerce packaging solutions to handle shipping and logistics, as well as to create a unique customer touchpoint, has grown alongside it, with a total market value of $61.55 billion dollars expected by 2025,” noted Shopify.

Using Boxes As A Billboard For Corporate Social Responsibility And Brand Messaging Can Avoid Consumers Feeling Overwhelmed By Ads

Shutterstock_1748796299 Hand holding smartphone and giving like on black square in social media. Person support activist USA movement black lives matter online. People protest against racism. Blackout Tuesday 2020.

If brands are effectively tapped into what their customers want, they may understand that their audience is touchy about too many ads. Instead, brands may choose to use their “black spaces” to share messaging about recent corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, championing causes or more subtle forms of brand engagement. Blank space can even be donated to charities or organizations that brands want to align with or advocate for, in a similar way that many brands added banners on their websites in support of Black Lives Matter. Additionally, “Shipping boxes can also be used to provide educational or informational content that consumers find useful, such as recipes, fun facts, coloring pages for kids, etc,” noted Retail Customer Experience in an article about the importance of using the real estate that boxes offer. Providing QR codes or promotional tie-ins that consumers can opt in to digitally is still optimal, even if the advertising push is less overt. 

Blank Spaces Can Be Used By Brands To Promote Free Offers Or Amplify Strategic Partnerships

A box, packaging or blank spaces on invoices and receipts can also be effective places to promote partnerships or co-branded offers. Similar to blow-ins or samples that brands might drop into the delivery boxes of  strategic partners, brands can hop onto the blank spaces partners make available for advertising.

It’s important when promoting brand partnerships or co-branding on boxes or other blank spaces that the shout out or promotion aligns well with the lead brand and makes sense to the consumer. Just as few people would want perfume samples in deliveries of dog treats, advertising on blank spaces should further the goals of the partnership, offering something meaningful to the consumer and optimizing the overall advertising strategy. 

As with all multichannel strategies, using blank space should amplify a brand or retailer’s campaign goals without impacting long-term perception or revenue generation. The opportunity to be creative and reach consumers, particularly with the increase of deliveries now and soon the holidays, should delight businesses eager to connect with consumers even when they aren’t shopping in store. 

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Senior Marketing Communications Writer, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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