techDespite the explosion of digital marketing, the myth that “print is dead” has been soundly debunked. It’s old news that technology and print are not oil and water. In fact, they’re more like peanut butter and jelly. The integration of technological advances has added efficiency, power, reach and effectiveness to print’s already serious marketing clout. So, what exactly are these innovations and how do they bridge the gap between print and digital? Let’s take a quick look at some of the technologies that are making print magic in today’s marketing world.

  • QR Codes

Quick Response (QR) codes are two-dimensional barcodes that link users to online information when scanned with a smart device (phone, tablet, etc.) enabled with a QR code reader app.  These barcodes look like black and white pixelated square patches and can be used to launch corporate or personalized websites, automatically populate contact information, RSVP to events and much more. You may see them on business cards, packaging, advertisements, signage and direct mail pieces. QR codes can usually be printed at no extra cost and because they are so recognizable, specific user directions are typically not necessary.

  • Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) technology allows users to be directly immersed in video animation or interactive graphics that overlay real world environments. Rather than diverting the user to Web-based content like QR Codes, AR pulls the content through the device so that the visual is superimposed onto the user’s physical surroundings. Perhaps the most relevant use of AR today is IKEA’s print catalog. Customers scan furniture pictures from the catalog and through AR technology are given a virtual image of the piece in their living space to help visualize how it would look in the home.

AR can be triggered by scanning an AR icon on printed material using a smart device enabled with an AR app. For example, imagine scanning the AR icon on a takeout menu and seeing the menu items come to life or meeting your real estate agent virtually face-to-face after scanning her business card. Like QR codes, AR icons are printed. However, because AR works on image recognition instead of barcodes the icons take subtle forms including logos and symbols making it important to clearly point users to these virtual access methods.

  • Near Field Communication

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology transfers data between devices through radio frequencies. This is the same technology that allows Apple Pay users to hold their phone next to a retailer’s contactless card reader to complete a transaction. Unlike QR codes and AR, which require the user to download specific apps onto their device, NFC technology is embedded in most smart devices.

NFC is typically integrated with print by embedding a “tag” in the printed material. Nominally priced, NFC tags require no power source and look like thin stickers. They are often placed on the back side of printed items with a call to action on the front such as “Tap Here!” When an NFC-enabled device gets within 10 centimeters of the tag, the user is engaged in an interactive experience. So, perhaps you tap your phone on a postcard from your favorite clothing retailer and it takes you directly to the new spring line on their website. Or maybe you tap a car brochure to launch a video tour of the manufacturer’s new SUV. NFC’s applications in printed media are practically limitless…product packaging, direct mail, brochures, retail signage and much more. And new inks and papers with embedded NFC technology will make this advancement even easier to use.

  • Beacons

One of the newest tech tools, beacons are small devices that use low energy Bluetooth technology to transmit information directly to users’ mobile devices when they come within range. Unlike QR codes, AR and NFC that require users to individually engage the technology, beacons push information to many users. Additionally, because the mobile device that receives the message also identifies the user, targeted marketing messages can be deployed based on user browser or purchase history.

While beacons are sometimes as large as hockey pucks, some are small enough to be embedded in print media. That’s just what NIVEA did when it included a water-resistant bracelet with a tiny beacon in its print ad. Parents could put the bracelet on their child at the beach, specify a maximum distance on the NIVEA app and would then be alerted if the child wandered beyond the predefined distance. Cool, right? Note that beacons do require a seller-specific app and the price tag may limit their use to targeted print applications.

  • Video Players

Another intriguing new device is a small LED or LCD screen that is incorporated into printed pieces and plays a video upon opening. These video players combine the best of both worlds by leveraging print’s tangibility and permanence with digital media’s ability to engage audiences. The video can be customized or versioned based on the recipient. And if you’re concerned about the environment, have no fear; they’re reusable too!

Still seem a bit daunting? No worries. The multi-channel marketing experts at Curtis 1000 can help design a solution that seamlessly merges print and electronic methods to deliver the ROI you need. Why not let your local Curtis 1000 expert “uncomplicate” your direct marketing needs? Call us at 877-287-8715 or fill out the “How Can We Help You” form on our website today!