An integrated marketing plan that utilizes a combination of print and digital media is typically the best way to accomplish the marketing goals and strategies that a company has developed.  Print ads are well suited to provide branding and promotion of targeted products in an impactful way, while digital products are well suited to provide measurable click throughs and lead generation.  Therefore, a combination of both can accomplish the goals of many marketing campaigns with the balance dependent on the specific goals of the campaign and the demographic being targeted.  Some new technologies using mobile apps are now enabling print and digital media to work together and complement each other as directly connected products.  These two universes can now be connected in several ways (and it does not take a worm hole to do it).


Better than QR Codes?

Digital Watermarking
A company named Digimarc has developed an app that uses multiple content identification technologies, such as digital watermarking, to give mobile devices the ability to engage with other forms of digital media. A reader launches the Digimarc app, points his or her phone at the content of interest (such as a print ad or brochure) and is then connected to the digital world (such as videos, web pages, directions, sharing via social media or shopping cart) similar to a QR Code.  The nice thing is that rather than incorporating a visible QR Code or Microsoft Tag into an ad, it embeds imperceptible digital information in graphics or behind text, creating an invisible hyperlink from the printed page to online content.

The digital links in these applications could be links to product datasheets or a direct link to pin the product on Pinterest or talk about it on Twitter. These digital watermarks do not occupy valuable space on the page nor do they negatively impact the layout or design aesthetics. In addition, various places in the ad can link to different types of media or web pages so numerous links can be used in a single ad or brochure page.  However, these watermarks can be read only by the Digimarc app – other standard QR Code reader apps will not work.

According to the Digimarc’s website, “today’s magazine readers are primed to make the connection between printed content and online media:

• Among all types of media, magazines rank highest in triggering online searching.
• 75% of consumers feel that digital content complements — rather than replaces — print.
• 59% of magazine readers say they are driven to the web by articles, 57% by ads.”

I was impressed by these numbers showing that print ads in magazines are still vital to the marketing efforts of a company. Putting print ads together with online content could be a very powerful marketing approach in the future.

NFC Enabled Ads
Lexus developed what was reported to be the first mass-produced print ad embedded with a NFC chip in the April 2012 issue of Wired magazine.  “Place your NFC-enabled Android phone here,” the ad said, to experience the apps in the car’s dashboard.  The reader simply held his or her phone just above the NFC chip and the app automatically launched, showing a demo of the Lexus GS 2013′s Enform App Suite.  Unlike a QR Code or digital watermark that requires the user to launch a reader app and point it at the bar code, the NFC chip launches the app automatically and brings up the linked digital information.  Like the Digimarc watermark, it does not occupy valuable space on the page like a QR Code would. 

The current drawback is that there are not that many mobile devices with NFC chips in them yet. However, this will certainly change in the future as mobile payments, which will likely use NFC chips, begin to take hold (especially in the U.S. market, which is behind in this area compared to the European and Japanese markets).  The new Samsung Galaxy S III has NFC chips in it so that should help propel this functionality forward.

Augmented Reality – The Future?

Augmented reality promises to bring things to life by using 3D imaging to immerse a reader into the scene.  Some companies are now developing technologies that will bring print to life with 3D images overlaid on top of them using this technology.  These images are typically triggered to appear by digital watermarks.  A company called daqri has developed an augmented reality app that can overlay any type of 3D image onto a print graphic using a smartphone or tablet.  It can make print ads or books interactive using 3D imaging.  As an example, 3D CAD models could be launched when a phone running daqri’s app is pointed at various products in a brochure or magazine ad.  Many more applications will become evident as creative people find new ways to apply this technology.

I recently received a very impressive copy of Milwaukee Magazine that is an entirely interactive issue. The October “Best of 2012” issue features 146 image recognition and augmented reality experiences that readers can launch on their Actable-enabled smartphones and other mobile tablet devices. The app enables the pages to launch videos, 3D images, audio files, photos, links to online content such as Pinterest boards, and more.  It is powered by Quad Graphics’ mobile pp called Actable which I downloaded easily and it worked relatively well (sometimes it locks up but for the most part works well).  Even the ads are active, and I was impressed with the 3D watch image which allows the user to rotate around it, zoom in and out, etc.  I have showed it off to most everyone at the office (and at home) and would like to try it out on a few pages next year in Microwave Journal (any takers on the advertiser side?). 

Marketers have some exciting new tools coming online due to advances in technology, especially in the area of mobile apps.  Smartphones and tablets are now powerful platforms for new apps that will enable the print and digital worlds to work together in new ways we have not even thought of yet.