Connected Closures: Meet the New Technology

By: Robin Dorhn-Simpson

Do you remember when microwaves came on the market? Or when computers replaced typewriters? How about the huge mobile cellphones the size of a shoebox? Technology is constantly changing. Just when we think we have it figured out, it changes. It can add much stress to our lives, or it can make it more enjoyable. Once you embrace it and see how relatively easy it is, the fun begins.

  Millennials have been raised around technology, making it very comfortable to them. They don’t have the fear that baby boomers sometimes experience when learning new technology. Since many businesses are focusing their marketing dollars on the millennial audience, technology in marketing is a natural progression. Many marketing studies on millennials state that, amongst other things, they want experiences. As a producer, are you satisfying their desire for something fresh, new and authentic? Are you connecting with them on their terms via mobile devices? Near Field Communication Technology can help producers do just that.

Near Field Communication

  Quizelet.com defines NFC as a short-range wireless connectivity standard that uses magnetic field induction to enable communication between devices when they are touched together or brought within a few centimeters of each other. Many consumers may already be familiar with this technology through their use of Google and Apple pay.

  Similar to Bluetooth technology, NFC communication is faster and sends information over radio waves. It takes less than one-tenth of a second to establish a connection between two devices.

  Smartphones are the most common form of NFC devices. Most Android smartphones and newer iPhones have the technology included. For older mobile phones, apps can be downloaded to allow these devices to read a variety of NFCs.

  NFC requires at least one transmitting device, and another to receive the signal. A range of devices can use the NFC standard and will be considered either passive or active. Active devices can send and receive data as well as communicate with one another. Passive devices often take the form of a tag or chip, sending information to active devices without needing a power source of their own.

What does all this mean for you?

  In August, Guala Closures, a company that has traditionally employed advanced technologies and connected closures, used NFC technology to add communication content into the cap of a Malibu rum bottle. The chip inside the enabled “smart cap” is so small it’s practically invisible. Each cap then has a 4-letter code, which acts as the proof of purchase inside the lid. 

  Tapping on this cap allows both the consumer and the brand to know more about one another. The producer will know where and when it was purchased. In return, the consumer has access to recipes, contests, and different communications offered by the brand. This will allow the relationship between producer and consumer to reach a new level.

  Many people today are concerned about companies accessing their personal information. Simon Yudelevich, General Manager for Guala Closures North America told Beverage Master Magazine about the concepts of connected closures.

  “When you tap your phone and connect, you give consent to the brand to gather information on when and where. When the consumer goes online to look at what this is all about, there is an explicit consent which requires the consumer to opt-in, in compliance with all applicable regulations,” said Yudelevich

  By committing to developing connected solutions in cooperation with its clients, Guala Closures help them learn more about their consumer habits and loyalty to their brands. In this framework, the company also deposited a patent of the solution that combines the NFC technology with aluminum closures.

Marketer’s Delight

  Since brand owners control the marketing of their product, they have an abundance of creative options with this new platform. The possibilities are endless.

  “By tapping the cap, you get access to great marketing content, which not only further strengthens the relationship between consumers and the brands they like, but also allows them to build a brand community of consumers via access to social media such as Facebook, etc.,” Yudelevich said. “Since the brand owner’s goal is also to engage the consumer, they can create recipes-of-the-month, which can be changed every day if wanted. They can create contests or ask the consumer to join their club. They can even ask the consumer to send a message to their friends about what they just purchased. Marketers can change the messages as often as they want. They can add, delete or amend the content. Since everything happens on the cloud, the changes are simple. They can tap, create video content whereby when the cap is tapped, a video uploads and the consumer can see how to use the product.”

  “Marketers want data from the consumer, including how much they paid to pay for the product. Businesses want the ability to track and trace where the product was purchased, as well as monitor anti-counterfeiting. This is already changing the face of marketing,” Yudelevich said.

  Malibu Rum has recently signed on with Guala Closures with limited-edition connected bottles currently circulating in Ohio and Texas. Marketers plan on including drink recipes and sweepstakes. Soon, consumers will be able to win prizes through a mobile game called Sunshine Slide.

  “Everyone’s excited with this new rollout for Malibu to develop these smart connected closures that enable the brand to get close to its consumers, Yudelevich said. “Once other companies see this new technology and its benefits, these closures for spirits and wine are going to be the leaders in direct-to-consumer marketing.”

Kilchoman Distillery Company Case Study

  In early 2018, Thinfilm Electronics of San Jose, California joined forces with Kilchoman Distillery Company, a producer of single malt Scotch on the island of Islay. Kilchoman distributes its whisky to 13 countries and wanted an effective way to interact with the end consumer. While they didn’t put their technology in the caps of bottles, they used NFC powered, interactive neck-tags for their Machir Bay and Sanaig Whiskey. Fully integrated with Thinfilm’s CNECT Cloud Platform, the tags were the digital touchpoint that consumers could tap to have an individual marketing channel.

  In a case study published at www.thinfilm.com, Thinfilm Electronics created a mobile-optimized product system where the CNECT Cloud Platform stored and managed all of the unique tag IDS. The tags allowed Kilchoman to track the time from “ship-to-shelf” across 13 countries as well as analyze item-level intelligence and consumer interaction data in real-time. Thinfilm produced a branded NFC scanner app called “Discover Kilchoman” available in Apple’s App Store.

  The results concluded that the end-to-end NFC mobile marketing solution was highly encouraging, with a 6.5% engagement rate. This rate is several times more effective than traditional digital marketing activities and created a way for Kilchoman to connect directly with consumers and build customer loyalty. It also mitigated the need for additional promotional support or omnichannel activities. 

  Compared to traditional digital marketing, the NFC display was 70 times more effective than email, search engines and social media. They concluded that there was a 35% virality rate (each bottle tapped by 1.35 consumers on average) and a 22% iOS engagement via the custom Kilchoman branded app. Finally, they were able to identify that it was an average of seven weeks “ship-to-shelf” time.

  Thanks to intelligent technology and the desire to connect with the end consumer, companies are now able to have a one-on-one relationship with those who love and use their products. Each brand has a unique story. Now they can make sure their customers know it.

  So, set yourself apart from the competition. While millennials are brand loyal, someone has to be the one they support. To gain loyalty and foster the next generation of consumers, have originality, offer a great experience, be authentic, have value, and keep the digital conversation going.

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