Transforming Product Performance

Mark Hewitt, CEO | Strategy & Innovation Lead

The QR Code landscape in black and white

Recent years have seen QR codes transition from being used simply for the execution of time-bound, one-off campaigns, to being recognised for the wealth of potential that sits within its pack-bound dots and dashes. So, why aren’t companies embracing the true transformative powers of the QR Code? And how are CEC changing that?

The history of the QR Code

Connected Packaging isn’t new. The idea of using a smartphone to scan a product, transforming an offline moment into an online one, has been around for more than 10 years in the West. It’s typically used as a promotional add-on, enabling the showcasing of new technologies and content experiences such as visual recognition, RFID, QR codes, NFC or Augmented Reality. These Connected Pack campaigns were sometimes innovative, sometimes gimmicky, but always seen as a tactical add-on. QR codes and the campaigns that used them were never core to a brand’s marketing strategy or any robust business case.

In China, where the QR Code has been used for decades, organisations have doubled down on QR code technology, using it to enable mobile payments. 

So, why the difference in approach? It’s likely that for many Westerners, the need to download an app to access the experience limited the reach and engagement opportunity, further reinforcing the view that the QR Code campaign was non-essential. 

Breaking a gimmicky reputation

Over the last ten years, there have been hints that Connected Packaging could be more useful than just a promotional tactic. In 2013, ‘Track my Macca’ in Australia used Connected Packaging to showcase where food ingredients came from. A short while later, 19 Crimes hit the alcoholic beverages market supported by an engaging brand story they shared through Augmented Reality. 

It wasn’t until 2017, when QR codes became native to smartphones (meaning that an app wasn’t required to scan the QR code), that the barrier to scaling consumer reach and engagement disappeared. Or at least that’s what was expected. However, when engagement with QR didn’t pick up, it didn’t take long for people to realise that the problem was QR itself. Outside of China, the view was that QR was uninspiring and lacking any visual appeal. Most brands felt fearful that putting a QR code next to their well-crafted brand equities and pack designs would devalue them. 

Then Covid hit

Suddenly, QR Codes became the star of the show. Almost overnight, people from all walks of life recognised them for their usefulness. In the era of contactless, QRs quickly became the contactless code of choice. People of all ages were scanning QR codes on menus, packs, posters and in retail outlets all around the world. Around the same time, brands began to realise that QR codes didn’t have to be black and white; they could be crafted, coloured and branded. Gradually, industry began to recognise the QR Code for the potential that it holds. 

Why has take-up been so slow?

Despite this newfound recognition of QR Code potential, few brands have managed to break from the tactical, promotional, time-bound campaigns of yesteryear’s Connected Packaging with their limited business and brand value at scale. 

The failure to break free from the old-fashioned perceptions of how a QR Code can serve a product can be attributed to a several reasons: 

  1. Large corporates – those who stand to gain the real benefit from scaling their Connected Packaging programs tend to be fragmented and unconnected in their operations. This seems to be particularly true of CPGs. And, if businesses and departments operate in silos, scaling Connected Packaging becomes a very complicated process. 
  2. CPGs tend to lack any empirical data at scale which could provide benchmarks for performance. How do you know what good looks like if you lack context?
  3. They have no standardised measurement framework for Connected Pack or any understanding of how to attribute business value. Without business value, there cannot be buy-in which is essential for the allocation of time, money and resources.
  4. Large organisations tend to struggle with unconnected end-to-end processes between pack, digital and data teams and can lack clear end-to-end ownership of a Connected Pack programme, meaning even those programs that are attempted are much less likely to be successful.  
  5. And, lastly, there is often no clear guidance on the use cases that will provide the short, medium and long-term brand and business value, and without knowing where you want to get to, how can you identify a route to take? 

Taking the mystery out of Connected Packaging

Whilst this myriad of issues may seem complicated and difficult to resolve, we’ve developed specific technologies, tools, processes and insights to make scaling Connected Packaging programs easy. These systems and processes have been proven to successfully work with Connected Pack roll-outs for some of the world’s largest CPGs. 

First, it’s about establishing the correct business case. Without understanding what businesses stand to benefit and the scale needed to achieve these results, it’s impossible to get the support needed for a scaled program delivery. That’s why we developed a Connected Pack business value calculator that makes it easy for businesses to see exactly what they could be generating from a well-executed Connected Pack program scaled efficiently and managed effectively. 

Transforming Product Performance

To make the transformation change that is needed, brand owners must look at their packaging with a new strategic approach. We’ve defined this as Transforming Product Performance. 

Transforming Product Performance is an approach that sets a new Connected Packaging Performance Frontier for CPGs. It centres around a Management Information System called Mi-view360™ which brings together talent, technology and data.

It uses AI to combine these elements to provide intelligent, actionable insights into consumer product use behaviours and provide the benchmarks for continuous improvement at scale across all markets, categories and use cases. By leveraging a connected set of systems across the enterprise, Mi-view360™ establishes new and relevant transformative product performance benchmarks. Benchmarks that can help businesses see the difference such a program could make, develop a robust business case and secure buy-in across the business. 

Transforming Product Performance also leverages people and processes to create an end-to-end capability that breaks down organisational silos. It is not a time-defined one-off, but a capability that is continuous and always-on; a capability that can be tapped and offered by the organisation at any point.

Transformative Product Performance focuses on the key consumer growth drivers; Sustainability, inclusivity and accessibility and shopability, to deliver insights that help you understand what your consumers really do with the pack in their hands, enable you to enhance product and brand experiences, improve brand preference and, ultimately, increase brand and sales growth.

To learn more about how we might help you deliver transformative product performance through Connected Packaging, contact


Written by Mark Hewitt, CEO | Strategy & Innovation lead

Mark has spent his career helping businesses grow and lead in digital transformation. For the last 10 years he has successfully led brand, digital, technology and packaging businesses and worked with leading CPG brands, helping them operationalise Connected Packaging Programmes around the world. In 2022 he co-created the multi-award winning AccessibleQR code with Zappar.

CEC Overview

For more than 4 years, CEC has been helping clients quantify the true potential of their Connected Packaging. From revealing the true business case for Connected Packs to establishing the infrastructure and helping clients scale, CEC’s talent, tech and data insights are helping businesses better understand consumer behaviour when they have the product in their hands.

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