Turbo-charged, Reality Print

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 Even a fair number of 8-year-olds misplace their parents’ outdated BlackBerries on a regular basis.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.

Large-Format AR

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.

Mall media is going mobile, too. As the holiday season approaches, mall shoppers across America and the world won’t necessarily need special apps. If they possess the right phone type, they can just touch and go. Australia-based out-of-home ad firm Eye has switched on Amplify, a technology-agnostic platform that allows campaigns to extend onto smartphones via integrated NFC, QR code, augmented reality, and SMS connectivity technology. A roll-out across 8,300 existing Eye portrait digital and static six-sheet poster sites in the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. began in June. With eyeball traffic from 268 million people monthly, Amplify is the world’s largest mobile-enabled, out-of-home media network, according to Eye.

“With the exponential growth in smartphone penetration, advertisers recognize the power of mobile but the technology itself can often be the barrier to trial,” commented Jeremy Corfield, global director of commercial at Eye. “With Amplify, we have removed that perceived complexity. Whether it’s mobile coupons to drive product trial, movie trailers to encourage viewing, loyalty programs for ongoing connections, augmented reality for creative amplification, or simply a call to action to drive web traffic, our Amplify solution delivers all in one.”

Eye CEO Gerry Thorley added: “The conventional approach the industry often takes is to push whatever the latest technology happens to be which quickly becomes outmoded and doesn’t start from a client's perspective. The Amplify proposition means that we can always start with the client challenge and recommend an appropriate solution using whichever technology platform is most appropriate rather than pushing the latest widget.”

Saying No to Static (Print)

Post-Graph Expo, Tempt In-Store Productions, New Berlin, WI, showed off interactive signage at the ShopperExpo on Chicago’s Navy Pier, where some 150 exhibitors converged Oct. 16-18. Acquired two years ago, Tempt (booth 215) now is a subsidiary of mega printer Quad/Graphics. The IDEAlliance G7-certified Master Printer provides in-store marketing materials and programs for many of the nation’s leading retailers and brand marketers. It offers extensive production expertise and resources to develop attention-getting, sales-driving shopper marketing programs in conjunction with other Quad/Graphics solutions.

From design and prototype services through finishing operations and customized kit packing, Tempt works with customers to create impactful in-store destinations. Its trademarked Actable Interactive Signage product makes the connection between the power of print and mobile technology to enhance a consumer’s shopping experience. For retailers and brands, Actable links all relevant channels as it creates a new level of connection with consumers. It allows retailers and brands to simultaneously format digital and print content to save time, money, simplify updates, and connect with consumers across devices and channels. Multi-platform mobile deployment also can be leveraged through one point of contact.

Actable connects consumers with special offers, product reviews, exclusive videos, shopping assistants, social networks, and other enhanced content. By downloading the Actable application to a smartphone and scanning a sign, for example, a consumer can be taken to a how-to video on assembling a recently purchased table, an exclusive coupon for being in the store that day, or even taking a picture with the designer du jour. Actable creates a portable experience for shoppers to take their in-store experience with them after they leave the store.

Actable allows retailers and brands to offer a unique, digital in-store experience without having to spend money on pricey kiosks, flat-screen TVs, and other digital technology that demands valuable retail space, said Tempt. Retailers are looking for efficient ways to display their product and promote their brand, whether it is in-store or online. Actable combines both, giving consumers an opportunity to connect to a brand on a more personal level, while driving more successful campaigns and increasing sales.

Tempt’s large-format printing capabilities include a 64-inch KBA Rapida 6-color, inner-decked UV sheetfed-offset press and two of the world’s fastest, UV flatbed digital presses: 1) an Inca Onset S70 60 x 120 inch bed sheet device featuring 600 dpi and a semi-automatic feed system, and 2) an HP TJ 8550 65 x 144 inch roll-to-sheet system featuring 400 dpi, print options on lighter weight stocks to .016 inches, and inline square trimming. For finishing, its Kongsberg I Cut CAD digital cutting table (60 x 120 inches) works in conjunction with the digital presses to deliver final product in any shape or size required.