You buy your kids a fancy new gift, and all they want to do is play with the box it came in, right? Well, several of the world’s top fast-food brands are currently figuring out how to tap into that excitement for marketing purposes. You thought Happy Meals were fun? Now, thanks to state-of-the-art advances in conductive ink technology, the container your inexpensive lunch comes in can double as an interactive smartphone toy.

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Over the past year or two, Pizza Hut, KFC, and McDonalds have experimented internationally with limited-edition versions of their iconic packaging that have a little technological magic baked in.

Check it out:


DINNER AND A SHOW

Pizza Hut entered the fray last month when they announced the world’s first playable DJ pizza box. They took their classic pizza container, the same cardboard box littering frat-house basements across the country, and added touch-sensitive control surfaces, a sliding switch for mixing, and effects buttons.

“Created by printed electronics expert Novalia, the battery-powered box connects to your computer or smartphone via Bluetooth and is compatible with DJ software like Serato DJ.” A small number of the boxes are being given away to Pizza Hut customers in Great Britain with the winners announced via the company’s U.K. Twitter account.

This isn’t the chain’s first foray into augmented packaging. Last summer, Pizza Hut’s Hong Kong division ran a promotional campaign called the “Blockbuster Box” featuring pizza boxes that doubled as makeshift movie projectors.

They created a unique “pizza table” (also called a “pizza protector,” the little plastic doohickey in the center of a pizza that keeps the cheese from sticking to the box) with a lens that can be inserted into the side of the box. The legs of the table can hold a smartphone and the lens projects the screen.

 

Four themed boxes were released, each with a QR that linked to a movie to download: “…Slice Night (for horror fans), Anchovy Armageddon (for science-fiction), Hot & Ready (for romance), and Fully Loaded (for an action flick).”

KFC of India also found a way to differentiate itself from the competition this summer and score some social media buzz with a novel packaging called the “Watt A Box,” a fried chicken container-slash-recharging-station with a built in USB port and 6100mAh battery. That’s enough juice to charge the average smartphone three times!


PLAYING WITH YOUR FOOD

Back in May, McDonald’s Netherlands branch had some fun with traditional Mickey D’s accoutrements by reimagining the brand’s traditional placemats. Thanks to conductive ink and a paper-thin circuit board, the McTrax placemat can be used in conjunction with a smartphone as a fully working MIDI-controller for making beats, loops, and even recording audio.

Digital design lead Jan Jesse Bakker told AdWeek: “The paper of the placemat is what makes this technique so innovative. The phone merely acts as the speaker and screen, which is easily connected to the placemat via Bluetooth, making the sure you can hear the music on your speakers.”

A few months earlier, McDonald’s of Sweden also had some fun with promotional packaging with a campaign called “Happy Goggles,” a Happy Meal container that transforms into a virtual reality headset. 3,500 of the boxes were made available in March during Sportlov, a Swedish skiing holiday, and included a ski-themed VR game called “Slope Stars.”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnYg752URcE&w=1300&h=600&rel=0 ]

The takeaway here is way larger than fast food chains, of course. Promotional packaging is a smart, fun way to create interactive experiences for customers. Even if the promotion is just for a limited time or for a small segment of your overall business, social media quickly picks up on these announcements, and people all over the world join in the conversation — bringing your brand’s name with them. From a marketing perspective, you’ll be lovin’ it.