Title:
Consumer product carton having MICR encoded incentive
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention is directed to a consumer product package that contains an affixed, yet removable, promotional offering that is invisible to the consumer at purchase but is one that can be processed through an established financial network once removed.



Inventors:
Reilly, Michael D. (Plymouth, MN, US)
Application Number:
10/389299
Publication Date:
09/16/2004
Filing Date:
03/14/2003
Assignee:
REILLY MICHAEL D.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
53/445, 53/474
International Classes:
B65D5/42; G09F23/00; (IPC1-7): B65B61/02
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
JOHNSON, JERROLD D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Diederiks & Whitelaw, PLC (Woodbridge, VA, US)
Claims:
1. A consumer product package having an affixed, removable MICR encoded incentive, comprising; a consumer product package having an internal surface and an external surface, said package being sized and configured to receive a consumer product; an incentive having MICR encoding; and wherein said incentive with MICR encoding is removably disposed on one of said internal and external surfaces and is capable of being processed through an established financial network.

2. A consumer product as recited in claim 1, wherein said incentive is removably disposed on said internal surface of said package.

3. A consumer product as recited in claim 1, wherein said incentive is removably secured to one of said internal and external surfaces through an adhesive, dry peel release and combinations thereof.

4. A consumer product as recited in claim 3, wherein said adhesive is selected from a group including removable, repositionable, frangible and combinations thereof.

5. A consumer product as recited in claim 3, wherein said adhesive does not interfere with processing said incentive through the established financial network.

6. A consumer product as recited in claim 1, wherein said consumer product is a ready to eat cereal.

7. A consumer product as recited in claim 1, wherein said incentive is selected from a group includes a rebate, check, coupon and combinations thereof.

8. A consumer product as recited in claim 1, wherein said incentive is a negotiable instrument.

9. A consumer product as recited in claim 1, wherein one of said internal and external surfaces is provided with indicia indicating said consumer product is provided with said incentive.

10. A consumer product as recited in claim 1, wherein said incentive is printed with indicia relating to a particular theme, event, season or combinations thereof.

11. A consumer product as recited in claim 1, wherein each of said internal and external surfaces has an upper and lower portion.

12. A consumer product as recited in claim 11, wherein said incentive is provided in one of said upper portions of said internal and external surfaces.

13. A consumer product as recited in claim 1, wherein said consumer product is selected from a group including a ready to eat meal, snack, baking mix, dough based product, beverage, dairy product or combinations thereof.

14. A consumer product as recited in claim 1, wherein said consumer product is selected from a group including personal care products, electronic based products, software product; textile based product and combinations thereof.

15. A consumer product as recited in claim 1, wherein said incentive is a negotiable instrument.

16. A consumer product as recited in claim 1, wherein each of said internal and external surfaces is provided with indicia.

17. A consumer product as recited in claim 16, wherein said indicia provided on said external surface is distinct from the indicia provided on said internal surface.

18. A consumer product as recited in claim 17, wherein a substantial amount of said indicia on said external surface relates to a consumer product and a substantial amount of said indicia on said internal surface relates to a promotion, theme, event or combinations thereof.

19. A blank forming a portion of a consumer product package, comprising; a blank having first and second surfaces, each of said first and second surfaces having first and second longitudinally extending side edges and first and second transversely extending end edges; at least one of said first and second surfaces being printed with indicia related to a consumer product contained within the consumer product package, said indicia containing additional information relating to an incentive, rebate or coupon being offered in connection with an event, theme or promotion; a removably detachable promotional piece being encoded with MICR printing, said promotional piece being related to said event, theme or promotion; and wherein said promotional piece is attached to one of said first and second surfaces such that upon removal from said one of said first and second surfaces, said promotional piece is capable of being processed through an established financial network.

20. A blank as recited in claim 19, wherein each of said first and second surfaces have an upper and lower portion.

21. A blank as recited in claim 20, wherein said promotional piece is removably secured to said upper portion of one of said first and second surfaces.

22. A blank as recited in claim 19, wherein said promotional piece is adhesively secured to one of said first and second surfaces.

23. A blank as recited in claim 19, wherein said promotional piece is a negotiable instrument.

24. A blank as recited in claim 19, wherein said promotional piece is provided in closer proximity to one of said first and second longitudinally extending side edges and one of said first and second transversely extending end edges.

25. A method for supplying a promotional piece to a consumer as part of a consumer product package, comprising the steps of; developing a promotional theme to be offered in connection with a consumer product; producing a plurality of promotional pieces having a pre-assigned value relating to the promotional theme; creating a series of consumer product package blanks; printing said blanks with at least two distinct types of indicia, at least one of which is related to the promotional theme; affixing said promotional piece to a predetermined position on said blank; forming the blank into a consumer product package; filling said consumer product package with a consumer product; distributing the consumer product package with the consumer product; purchasing the consumer product package by a consumer; removing said promotional piece from the consumer product package; and submitting said promotional piece for redemption or credit.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCES TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates to consumer product packages having a promotional offering, such as coupons, rebates and incentives, removably attached thereto. More particularly, the present invention relates to a consumer product package having a MICR encoded incentive, coupon or rebate that is disposed on a surface of a package configured to hold the consumer product while being invisible to the consumer when the consumer product package is positioned for purchase.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] There are number of promotional incentives, rebates and coupons that are provided in connection with attempts to increase the sales of a particular product or offering as well as reward programs that provide incentives to reward consumers for repeat purchases of similar products.

[0003] Promotional or marketing programs offered today may be enabled over a global communication network, may require use of mail or courier services, telephony or other means requiring human intervention.

[0004] In a commonly used promotion, the components needed to participate in the promotion are provided directly on the package and require the consumer to undertake a number of steps in order to take advantage of such promotions. For example, the consumer is typically required to cut off a particular symbol, such as a proof of purchase symbol or, alternatively, to remove a code, such as a UPC code, from the package. Then the consumer sends the material to a pre-determined postal address and waits a period of time until the rebate or coupon is mailed back to the consumer.

[0005] Such systems do not, however, have significantly high redemption rates. For example, coupon-based programs may only realize a 1-2% redemption rate and promotional offerings only slightly higher. This is likely due to a number of reasons, one of the most important is ease of participation in the promotion and the convenience of being able to take advantage of the opportunity. In the example of a conventional system, a consumer has to cut out portions of the package, address an envelope and finally mail the envelope and its contents to the pre-established address. In this type of promotion, the cost of the postage is often a significant impediment to the consumer as the value of the rebate or coupon are not sufficient to entice the consumer to make the investment of time and money. That is, the coupon may only be worth one dollar and when factoring in the cost of the postage, envelope and time involved to participate the consumer may simply elect not to do so. Another drawback to such redemption systems is simply the wait involved before the consumer receives the coupon or rebate. A still further drawback is that the promoter must contract with third party fulfillment systems in order to process those requests for coupon fulfillment.

[0006] In still other examples of coupon or rebate redemption programs, a unique code or number is printed either internally or externally of the product package. The consumer then logs onto a network address and submits information relating to the consumer over a global communication network. Then the consumer may be prompted to print out a coupon on their own printer or again wait for a coupon or rebate to be mailed to them. A still further embodiment of this type of system is that the consumer accumulates value in an account and over time may be able to redeem the value for products or services.

[0007] However, the foregoing system also suffers from a number of drawbacks. Use of a global communication network subjects the consumer to potential privacy concerns, in that the users electronic address may be captured by the system or network that the user logs onto. In addition, if the user has to enter information such as a home address or other personal information, the user is then potentially subjected to unwanted solicitations. Moreover, the system requires that the consumer take additional affirmative steps such as logging onto a network before acquiring the opportunity to participate in the redemption program. Finally, in order to support such a system, the issuing organization must establish a network address and set up the necessary infrastructure to accept the data being transmitted.

[0008] Therefore, what is needed is a promotional incentive program that does not suffer from the drawbacks provided above, and provides an immediate benefit to the consumer and sponsor of the promotion, and one that is convenient and easy to use, and may be processed through established network systems.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0009] The embodiments of the present invention described below are not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise forms disclosed in the following detailed description. Rather, the embodiments are chosen and described so that others skilled in the art may appreciate and understand the principles and practices of the present invention.

[0010] In one embodiment of the present invention a consumer product having an MICR encoded incentive is described and includes a package that has an internal surface and an external surface. The package is sized and configured to receive a consumer product. The present exemplary embodiment includes an incentive that has MICR encoding and which is capable of being processed through a financial network. The incentive with MICR encoding is removably disposed on one of the surfaces so as to facilitate redemption of the incentive in connection with the theme, event or promotion with which it is being offered.

[0011] In a still further embodiment of the present invention a blank is provided that forms a portion of a consumer product package. The blank of the present invention has first and second surfaces, each of which has first and second longitudinally extending side edges and first and second transversely extending end edges. At least one of the first and second surfaces is printed or imaged with indicia that relates to a consumer product contained within the consumer product package. The printed or imaged indicia contain additional information that relates to an incentive, rebate or coupon that is being offered in connection with an event, theme or promotion. A removably detachable promotional piece is provided in connection with the present embodiment and the promotional piece is encoded with MICR printing. The promotional piece is related to the event, theme or promotion that is featured in the indicia. The promotional piece is attached to one of the first and second surfaces so that upon removal of the promotional piece from the surface to which it is attached, the promotional piece is capable of being processed through a financial network.

[0012] In yet a still further embodiment of the present invention, a method for supplying a promotional piece to a consumer as part of a consumer product package is described and includes the steps of initially developing a promotional theme to be offered in connection with a consumer product. Then the manufacturer or promoter produces a plurality of promotional pieces that have a pre-assigned value either tailored or relating to the promotional theme. A series of consumer product package blanks are provided and then printed or imaged with at least two distinct types of indicia, one of which is related to the promotional theme and the other is likely related to the consumer product that is to be contained in the consumer product package. Next, the promotional piece or incentive is affixed to the blank at a predetermined position typically through an adhesive. The printed blank is then formed into a consumer product package. Next, the consumer product package is filled with consumer products that are intended for human consumption and the package is then distributed to various retail and wholesale outlets. After the consumer purchases the consumer product package, the promotional piece or incentive is removed from the consume product package and then the consumer submits the promotional piece for redemption or credit.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0013] These, as well as other objects and advantages of this invention, will be more completely understood and appreciated by referring to the following more detailed description of the presently preferred exemplary embodiments of the invention in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, of which:

[0014] FIG. 1 depicts a planar illustration of the consumer product package of the present invention with incentive affixed thereto;

[0015] FIG. 2 provides the obverse surface of the consumer product package shown in FIG. 1;

[0016] FIG. 3A illustrates a cross sectional view of the present invention showing the incentive affixed to the consumer product package;

[0017] FIG. 3B provides a further cross sectional view of an alternate embodiment of the present invention showing the incentive affixed to the consumer product package; and

[0018] FIG. 4 shows a high level flow diagram of the present invention showing the method of preparing the consumer product package with removable promotional piece.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0019] The present invention is now illustrated in greater detail by way of the following detailed description, but it should be understood that the present invention is not to be construed as being limited thereto.

[0020] The invention is depicted in FIG. 1 and includes a consumer product package 10 that is sized and configured to receive a consumer product. In the present exemplary embodiment, the consumer product package 10 is constructed of paperboard, but may be made of any suitable material for containing consumer products including, but not limited to paper, plastic, tin, aluminum, other metals, corrugated and other cellulosic materials. The consumer product contained in package 10 in the present example is a ready to eat (“RTE”) cereal, such as CHEERIOS®, LUCKY CHARMS®, CLUSTERS®, TRIX® and others available from General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota.

[0021] The consumer product package 10 of the present example has at least two major panels 12 and 14 which have obverse sides, 12′ and 14′. The package 10 may additionally have first and second minor panels 13 and 15 respectively, which have obverse sides 13′ and 15′. The package 10 may also be provided with tabs and flaps to facilitate the closure of the consumer product packages 10, but for the purposes of this invention those elements will not be discussed herein.

[0022] As provide in FIG. 1, the faces of panels 12, 13, 14 and 15 provide the interior face or surface of the consumer product package 10. Indicia, 20 which relates to the promotion currently being offered, is provided on one of the major panels 12 or a flap or tab of a panel so that consumers may view the indicia without tearing open the package. For example, in the present embodiment the promotion relates to a specific theatrical event and the indicia 20 may provide information relating to the location of available cinemas showing the movie or cinematic event, and provide instruction for use for the incentive certificate.

[0023] The consumer product package 10, for the purposes of the present invention is also known as a blank. The blank or package 10 has first and second longitudinally extending edges 17 and 19 and transversely extending end edges 21 and 23. The longitudinally extending sides 17 and 19 and transversely extending end edges 21 and 23 define roughly the outer boundaries of the blank 10 or package. The surfaces have upper and lower portions that formed through a median line 50. The upper and lower portions of panel 12 include 55 and 57, respectively and the upper and lower portions of panel 14 include 51 and 53, respectively.

[0024] FIG. 1 also depicts the incentive certificate designated as numeral 30. The redemption certificate 30 of the present example is adhered to the major panel 12 of the consumer product package 10 through the use of a frangible, releasable adhesive 32. The adhesive 32 may be an acrylic based adhesive, repositional adhesive such as sold under the CLEANTAC® name available from Moore North America, Inc., Stamford, Conn., removable adhesives available from H.B. Fuller, St. Paul, Minn. or any other suitable adhesive that will removably adhere the incentive 30 to the panel 12 but which will cleanly release from the incentive 30 so that the incentive 30 may be processed through a financial network.

[0025] The incentive 30 is provided with MICR printing (Magnetic Ink Character Recognition) 34. The MICR printing 34 enables the incentive 30, once removed, to be processed through traditional or established financial networks. Use of the clean release, frangible adhesive 32, enables the incentive 30 to travel through the network with causing jamming or other problems associated with clogging of equipment. Also, as shown in FIG. 1, the incentive 30 is provided with additional indicia 36 that may instruct the consumer on use of the incentive or provide restrictions relating to the promotion.

[0026] While an adhesive may be used, other structures are contemplated to hold the incentive or promotional piece to the blank. These include “piggy back” arrangements wherein a liner material is coated with adhesive on each side or an adhesive on one side and a “dry peel” release on the other. The side of the piggyback arrangement having a either the releasable adhesive or dry peel release is then affixed to the incentive. The other side, which is a more aggressive adhesive, such as a permanent adhesive is then used to affix the incentive to the carton or package. Upon removal of the incentive the adhesive has a greater affinity for the liner and as such, the adhesive remains with the liner rather than the incentive piece. The dry peel release system is available from CCL Label, Inc. of Framingham, Mass.

[0027] As provided in FIG. 1, incentive 30, is constructed of 24 lb paper stock and is provided on panel 12 and in closer proximity to transversely extending end edge 21 than transversely extending end edge 23. This is so that the incentive 30 is closer to the end of the package 10 that is to be opened by the consumer. In addition, the incentive 30 is provided in closer proximity to longitudinally extending side edge 19 as opposed to longitudinally extending side 17. While the positioning of the incentive 30 has been identified above, it should be understood that the incentive may appear in any portion of the package or blank 10 that meets the needs of the promotion or manufacturer.

[0028] Turning to FIG. 2, the obverse side of the consumer product package 10 is shown and includes major panels 12′ and 14′ and minor panels 13′ and 15′ which make up the external face of the package 10. One or more of the panels 12′, 13′, 14′ and 15′ may be provided with standard indicia relating to the consumer product to be enclosed within the package 10. For example, the indicia may include the normal marketing, nutritional and other information relating to the CHEERIOS® RTE cereal, available from General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, Minn.

[0029] In addition to the standard indicia provided on the external face of the consumer product package 10, indicia 38 relating to, complimenting or matching the incentive 30 contained internally of the package 10 is provided. The indicia 38 is intended to draw the attention of the consumer to the presence of the incentive 30 inside the consumer product package 10, as the incentive 30 is invisible to the consumer. By providing the incentive 30 internally of the package 30, the incentive 30 is protected from theft, without significant tampering of the external consumer product package 10.

[0030] Indicia 20 and 38 may be provided through ink jet, flexographic, reverse gravure, electrostatic or other printing or imaging that is necessary to achieve the informational objectives of the present invention.

[0031] Turning now to FIG. 3A of the present invention, a side view of panel 12 of the consumer product package 10 is provided. FIG. 3A depicts major panel 12 having a pattern of adhesive 32 applied to the surface thereof. The incentive 30 is applied to the adhesive 32. While FIG. 3A depicts a full pattern coating of adhesive, that is the adhesive extends from one edge of the incentive 30 to the other, different patterns of adhesive are of course contemplated under the present invention. For example, the adhesive could be applied in a strip along one edge, provided only along the margins of the incentive 30, be centrally disposed of the incentive or other combinations.

[0032] In an alternative attachment configuration shown in FIG. 3B, a carton blank 12 is provided and coated with a permanent adhesive 32. Adjacent the adhesive 32 is a release liner 33, preferably coated with silicone or other release material. Next, on the uncoated side of the release liner 33 is provided a coating of a dry peel release material 34 available from CCL Label to which the incentive 30 is removeably adhered. As indicated above, the dry peel material has a greater affinity for the liner 33 than it does for the incentive 30 so that the dry peel layer 34 remains affixed to the liner 33 and not the incentive 30.

[0033] In preparing the consumer product package of the present invention, a series of incentives or promotional pieces 30 are printed with appropriate indicia and MICR encoding so as to enable the promotional piece to be traced through the financial networks to the issuing institution. A series of blanks are then stamped or die cut from suitable material such as paperboard and are imaged, through such means as ink jet, flexographic, reverse gravure, electrostatic, etc., with suitable graphics and other indicia for the promotion that the products are intended to promote. Next, a pattern of adhesive 32 is applied to a predetermined area of the blank 10 so as to be able to retain the incentive 30 in position. In the present example, the pattern of adhesive 32 is disposed in closer proximity to transversely extending end edge 21 and longitudinally extending side edge 21. The pattern may include a series of dots, lines, etc. or be a full coated adhesive pattern that is sized and configured to cover the entire back surface of the incentive piece.

[0034] As provided previously, the adhesive needs to be a frangible, removable adhesive that can be applied in either a hot or cold fashion, depending on application requirements and the substrate chosen for the promotion. The selection of the adhesive type is not critical but the adhesive must release cleanly from the incentive or promotional piece 30 so as not to cling to processing apparatus such as check readers used to process the incentive or in this instance negotiable instrument. The incentive or promotional piece 30 is then blown on or tamped on to the adhesive to form a removable bond. The bond that is formed is sufficient to hold the incentive 10 in position during further processing and filling of the blank 10.

[0035] Surprisingly, it has also been found that the incentive 30 of the present invention including the attachment means described in connection with FIGS. 3A and 3B above does not cause any difficulty in processing of the consumer product. That is, the thickness is minimized so that the carton blanks can be processed through existing equipment.

[0036] The incentive or promotional piece 30 is disposed internally of the product package or blank 10 so as to be invisible to the consumer while the product is positioned on the retail shelf for sale. Indicia 20 and 38 that is printed on the blank or package 10 communicates to the consumer that the promotional piece or incentive 30 is located within the package or blank 10. This provides a level of security for the promotional piece 30.

[0037] Next, the blank 10 proceeds to a forming station wherein the blank 10 is formed into an open-ended container. The consumer product is then inserted into the formed blank 10. In the present example, the consumer product is a ready to eat cereal such as CHEERIOS®, LUCKY CHARMS®, CLUSTERS®, TRIX® and the like, available from General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, Minn. After the consumer product is inserted the blank or package 10 is sealed and then packaged for distribution to retail outlets such as grocery, wholesale, convenience stores and the like.

[0038] The consumer purchases the product at a retail outlet. After opening the package 10, the consumer can easily remove the promotional piece or incentive 30 from the interior of the package by breaking the frangible adhesive 32. After reading the indicia 20, 36 and 38, the consumer then can take the incentive 30 to a relevant outlet where the incentive can be redeemed or received so that it can be further processed.

[0039] In the present invention, the incentive or promotional item 30 is a negotiable instrument that allows the holder to receive the benefit of a monetary value for a cinematic event. The theater receives the incentive and then submits the incentive or promotional piece 10 to a financial institution similar to that encountered when one submits a check for processing. That is, the financial institution with which the issuer has an account remits payment to the theater's bank so that the theater can be compensated for issuing the ticket to the patron.

[0040] The incentive 30 of the present invention may also be provided with a number of security features to prevent tampering or forgery. Such features include, but are not limited to microprinting, watermarks, thermochromatic ink, stains that react with chemicals, and the like.

[0041] Turning now to FIG. 4, a flow diagram is presented to illustrate the flow of the present invention. A request is usually received from marketing, sales, etc. in an effort to boost sales in connection with an upcoming event, season or the like. This begins the developmental step illustrated at module 100. In considering the promotion to be offered as part of a consumer product package 10, the promoter or manufacturer may conduct or receive the results of consumer surveys 105 and may weigh the probable success or failure against prior experiences of prior promotional programs 107.

[0042] After the program has been developed at 100 and all the factors 105 and 107 have been considered, the promotional piece or incentive 30 is produced at step 110. In the present example, the promotional piece or incentive is a negotiable instrument that can be used like a check for claiming the price of a patron's entry price to a theater or other event, such as a concert, play, sporting event, and the like. By providing a negotiable instrument, the patro/consumer can simply remove the incentive from the package and take it to the event in order to gain entry without having to pay for the event. As such, the present invention provides the consumer with superior convenience when compared with other programs.

[0043] Next, the product package blank is created at step 120 and then printed or imaged at step 130. The consumer product package may be constructed from any suitable stock such as paperboard, corrugated material, metal, plastic, etc. depending upon the particular application. Where the material, such as paperboard may receive printing or imaging directly, the material is simply passed through a print station and imaged. In the cases where the material is plastic or metal and the ink or toner may rub off on contact, the label or film may be printed and then applied to the material that is to form the container.

[0044] After the container has been printed at step 130, the promotional piece 30 is affixed to the product package blank at step 140. Then the blank 10 is formed into a open ended container and filled with the consumer product at step 150 and sealed. The package 10 is then ready for distribution at step 160.

[0045] The consumer product package 10 is provided to various retail, wholesale and consumer accessible outlets where the promoter or manufacturer intends the product to be purchased at step 170. The consumer, after purchasing the product, then removes the promotional piece or incentive 30, illustrated at step 170, and then submits the promotional piece for redemption or credit at step 180. The act of submitting the piece 30 for credit includes surrendering the piece at a theater, event, etc. where the piece is accepted as payment for entry to the particular event that makes up the promotion. The piece 30 is then processed through conventional financial networks, such as banking and related institutions through which the issuing bank submits funds to the submitting bank to cover the cost of entry to the event.

[0046] In addition to the promotional piece being a negotiable instrument suitable for entry into a particular event, the piece could be a redemption check that the consumer simply deposits into his or her account, or a store check that the consumer can use towards the purchase of various goods and/or services.

[0047] It will thus be seen according to the present invention a highly advantageous consumer product package having a removable incentive has been provided. While the invention has been described in connection with what is presently considered to be the most practical and preferred embodiment, it will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that the invention is not to be limited to the disclosed embodiment, that many modifications and equivalent arrangements may be made thereof within the scope of the invention, which scope is to be accorded the broadest interpretation of the appended claims so as to encompass all equivalent structures and products.