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Now that I’m old enough to know how these things work, I can begrudgingly give credit to the genius who insisted on “a prize in every box” of Cracker Jack. When I was younger, I thought that prize was made just for me (OK, and occasionally my little brother), a small token of appreciation that seemed to say, “Gee, you’re special.” The same went for those tiny comics that had me smackin’ Bazooka Bubble Gum, the games and toys in McDonald’s Happy Meals, the treats at the bottom of the cereal box. I didn’t, yet, think of myself as a consumer. And I certainly didn’t think of myself as having brand loyalty (although I surely did, as we’ve been told for years that most kids do). Yet, I see it so clearly now — how my preferences were shaped, how that little something extra made a big impact and, in the end, a big difference in how and what I buy. It’s a quality I seek out — and practically expect — today. Whether it’s a handsome recipe card included in a box of pasta or smartly designed grab-and-go yogurt; I’m inclined to choose the brand that gives me more, ’cause, I am special.
Maybe I’m just blogging out loud, but it seems as if there’s a new “prize” in town, and Cracker Jack Kids — even if we’re all grown up — are still the target demographic.
Take, for example, some of the brilliant innovations in wine and spirits packaging. Labels like these are a wine lover’s dream. How often have you had a great bottle of wine, only to go to the store the next day and not remember the name? Or worse, served an expensive bottle that was too cold or too warm. Packaging that allows consumers to peel away a portion of the label to help them remember the product they love, or that has a built-in temperature gauge (Coors Brewing Co. is doing this, too), sends a powerful message: Not only do we care about your business, we care about your enjoyment of this product, and we hope you’ll buy it again. In a saturated marketplace, a message like that can go a long way.
So can tapping into the Smartphone market, which is — no surprise — booming. Pew Research Center in Washington recently found that “40 percent of American adults (18 years or older) use their cell phones to surf the Internet, check their email and instant message.” Companies such as WiMO Reality are taking advantage of this, and it’s no surprise that the brands taking advantage of WiMO (TNT is promoting season two of HawthoRNe on packaging of Sony Pictures DVDs). In simple terms, WiMO is a Smartphone application that allows users to scan an image (using their phone’s built-in camera lens) off a product’s package (or any printed materials) that then connects to virtually any type of content that is imaginable, from promotional tools and exclusive content, to instructional and music videos, to locating the nearest place of purchase. It’s timely and smart, not to mention fun and entertaining, hallmarks of all good toys, hallmarks of all good packaging extras to capture the interest of Cracker Jack Kids.
The packaging has changed, but the concept has not. Companies still need to make the most of their product, while consumers — from little kids to Cracker Jack Kids — want it all, and then some. I rarely indulge in the excesses of youth, but when I do, you better believe I go right back to the brands I grew up on, and no, I never share.