When customers search for product details at a store, Kelly Schlafman wants that information to pop — almost literally. As the Intelligent Packaging Leader at P&G, her role is to get information into consumers’ hands in an accessible, engaging, and ideally interactive way. That means embedding digital apps from QR codes to NaviLens on packaging so customers can retrieve ingredient lists to product demos in the way they need. Schlafman, who is blind, believes the more ways customers can learn about what they’re buying, the better they’ll feel about what the products they bring home.
“One of the things that we’re doing as we implement these across our brands is making sure we always keep the consumer at the center,” she says. “We must be very clear on the problem we’re trying to solve for that consumer, and that informs our choice on how we bring that to life on the package.”
You can hear more from Schlafman in the video below or read our lightly edited transcript.
My name is Kelly Schlafman, and I’m leading the Intelligent Packaging Program for P&G to drive benefit for consumers, retailers and the environment. If you think about our packaging over the last 50 years, many people are familiar with this 1D linear barcode, which has served us very well for about 50 years. But we were starting to see a lot of different solutions popping up, as more and more data was needed for this packaging, and this program is really intended to address this.
Intelligent packaging is all about making our physical pack more interactive, and engaging than it has been in the past. So instead of just having static content that we see on a physical label, it’s about adding anything as simple as a QR code, which can be scanned natively from a camera, or something more advanced like NaviLens, which is all about bringing accessibility to the product, but connecting to some sort of digital experience, that’s going to be much more engaging for our consumers. I happen to be blind, myself. So for me, just speaking from personal experience, one of the most interesting use cases is actually making our packages more accessible. So for me, looking at a physical pack, there’s a lot of information that I’m just not able to access when something’s just on a physical pack. But as we start to shift that into the digital world that becomes accessible, really, to all our consumers versus what we have today.
Once you shift into the digital world, the really amazing thing is you can make that content much more personalized. We can make consumers feel better about what they’re purchasing. So making sure that we’re getting it right as far as allowing them to understand what the ingredients are or allergens, or is this a sustainable product? Is it ethical? There’s a lot of information that consumers are expecting, but they’re not all expecting the same thing. As we shift this to digital, that’s really the beauty of it. You can start to make these personal experiences where we really can ensure they’re making choices they feel good about. Then when they get at home, more engaging experiences to help them make sure they’re using it correctly.
One of the challenges to bringing smart packaging to life is simply that it is fairly new. While consumers know what a QR code is, and they know what to do with it, they’re not as in the habit of scanning that in store or scanning consumer products to get that type of information. One of the things that we’re doing as we implement these across our brands, is making sure we always keep the consumer at the center. So being very clear on what’s the problem that we’re trying to solve for that consumer, and then that really informs our choice on how we bring that to life on the package, so it’s very clear to the consumer, why they would scan and what the benefit will be when they do scan.
One of the projects that P&G is participating on for sustainability is called Holy Grail. It’s an industry consortium in Europe, being led by the European Brands Association to help us make our packaging more recyclable, by allowing it to be sorted more easily. So we’re actually putting signals into the packaging that can be picked up as it moves through the waste stream, to be able to pull out food and non-food, for example grade plastics, so that we can feed back back in and really encourage the circular economy.
The most exciting thing for me in working in this space is that we’re really fundamentally changing how we communicate with retailers and how we communicate with consumers in a really transformative way versus what’s been done over the past 50 years. Seeing that come to life in market is certainly something that’s very exciting to see.
One of the things I love about this job is the multifunctional nature. I’m IT functionally, but I’ve always loved being able to partner with people with many different skills across P&G and that’s been something that I’ve had the opportunity to do with this work, also being able to really paint the future. What can be our legacy right or what can how can we really define how P&G can serve consumers better? Especially as I talk things about accessibility and transparency and sustainability these are trends I think that we’ll be around for a very long time. So being able to really put my mark on this work for hopefully decades, is exciting and one of the things I love the most about this job.