When it comes to our beloved medium these days, progressive print purveyors need to think beyond variable data and imaging—way past ink and paper, even. The reality is that more junior-high students have iPhones than you may think. Even a fair number of 8-year-olds misplace their parents’ outdated BlackBerries on a regular basis. Statistics show that within about two more years, some 65 percent of all Americans will have smartphones.
Bearing that number in mind, print firms can stay competitive with what one industry consultant calls the “dynamic e-stuff” that makes print come alive. Stop “printing,” he advised, and start supplying the marketing services that can best support customer goals. Consider the technologies in which print campaigns can be made interactive. (Think of so-called “4D” movies with physical effects in the theater.) There are PURLs and e-mail marketing, social media of integrated, multichannel marketing programs, of course. But let’s go a step further, beyond traditional marketing. Even two-dimensional QR (quick response) codes seem so, well, 2010. Today’s sensory branding employs the latest scent technology, taking the scratch-n-sniff effect to a whole new level for perfume manufacturers. There also are hyperlabel optical tagging systems that use invisible, infrared-reflective patterns – scanning a printed piece with an IR wand can verify authenticity or provide interactivity, such as launching a URL in a web browser.
And then there’s augmented reality (AR), which uses an app to animate static images. Mobile smartphone technology and the print medium are partnering more and more to capture attention and rise above the visual clutter. Early-adopting pioneers include McDonald’s, USA Today, and Topps Trading Cards. AR can be found in magazine ads for cars such as the VW Beetle and Mini Cooper. Americhip is one of those innovative firms inventing new ways in which to blend the digital world with other mediums. Its Video-In-Print (VIP) technology is patented worldwide for the design and development of the first interactive HD video embedded in paper. One of the latest AR applications is in vending machines.
Research undertaken by marketing communications consultancy Hidden found that consumers are more likely to purchase a product after experiencing augmented reality (AR). They will also buy at a higher price point according to the study. Hidden’s research involved showing 100 parents traditional marketing materials, including a display advertisement, for a children's toy, while another 100 parents experienced the toy as interactive augmented reality. Each participant was then asked if they would consider buying the product and at what price.
“The study results clearly indicate people were more engaged with the augmented reality experience than the display advert,” said Hidden CEO Matt Trubow, adding that the figures are “interesting but not unexpected. More importantly, however, the audience was so engaged that they were willing to spend more to obtain the item after viewing the AR experience,” Trubow noted.
In the wide-format space, Walls 360 creates graphics printed on high-quality fabric stickers (reusable hundreds of times) with on-demand designs ranging from big digital marketing campaigns to tangram dissection puzzles for kids’ rooms. Entrepreneur magazine named the firm one of its “100 Brilliant Companies” for 2012.
During the London Olympics this past summer, printed products came to life on smartphone apps thanks in part to free WiFi wireless networking made available on parts of the London Underground train system. “Putting WiFi on Tube platforms and stations massively enhances the power and potential of technologies like image recognition and augmented reality,” said Jess Butcher, CEO of applications provider Blippar. “That’s a huge boost to this growing industry,” Butcher noted, adding that it was a chance for advertisers and brands to come up with entirely new ways to get commuters’ attention.