Imagine a package that changes its stripes, like a chameleon, adjusting its look to the whims of each consumer that walks by the shelf. Perhaps we are not as far from this as you might think.
Picture this, you are walking down a supermarket aisle and your iPhone, or any other smart phone, is offering information, coupons, and other specials . . . just for you. The person right next to you in the aisle is getting a completely different coupon. Apparently this technology is very close to going live.
I came across two pieces this week that pointed to fascinating developments for retailers, marketers, and even consumers at the point of sale. The first suggested marketers should target very small groups of consumers with their messages, not the large-scale messages that so many have perfected for the “global economy”. The second suggested a mechanism for doing this.
In the first piece Bruce Nussbaum, in a very interesting article on his Business Week blog, NussbaumOnDesign, talks about attending a class given by David Armano, VP of Experience Design at Critical Mass, where he identified a divergence in the way students use Facebook and twitter at Parsons School of Design. The juniors used Facebook very differently than the seniors, he calls this micro-cultures.
From this experience Nussbaum speculates that companies should consider fragmenting their brands according to micro-cultures. He wondered if “those brands that sell across demographics, such as razors or cleaning materials, need to target their messages differently to different micro-cultures”.
The second piece, a cover story in The New York Times, suggests the technology that might allow this to happen on a pretty micro scale, down to the level of a supermarket aisle, is already in development with a program called AisleCaster. I won’t get close to the ethical issues involved, but this article covers in detail the ability that marketers now have to target messages based on cell phone usage.
The implications are fascinating. Lets assume that someday, fairly soon, the technology will exist to change the look of a package on shelf for each individual consumer as they wander down the aisle. Like a chameleon that changes its stripes. The question remains, what is the role of a package, and should it change to fit every consumer that walks by?
For now, I say it should not. A package represents the essence of brand meaning, and as a result should reflect a consistent look as everything else morphs around it.