In this brave new digital age it’s really easy to forget the importance of print marketing. As technology becomes ever more sophisticated, businesses should consider using print, not as an alternative to digital, but as a way of bridging the gap between these two essential marketing tools.
My own experiences in digital marketing reflect how the world has tried to catch up with digital technology and the internet. Like many people in the creative industry, I have battled with major technological changes that have forced me to turn-my-back on print in favor of on-screen advertising and design. For many years, I have largely ignored print marketing because of the trouble it caused me.
Print & digital caused me problems!
When I first started out in the ad industry in the early-nineties, print was king. Overworked designers were hand-rendering print ads using transfer lettering, reprographics, and other typesetting techniques. Just as I perfected this craft, the world went all “Quark”, “Corel” and “Adobe” and made these techniques virtually obsolete!
Fast-forward ten years and I’m working for an ad agency in England. I had just perfected Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign and was starting to create print ads for businesses all over the UK. Just as I started to get good at digital print design, companies decided to divert their marketing budgets from print marketing to cheaper, mass-market online advertising! Thus forcing me to learn a whole new set of web design skills!!?
Fiddlesticks!!! I couldn’t help feeling that digital technology was nothing more than a naughty little sprite- constantly running away from me, and laughing at my design misfortune! While print was an old man, ready to kick-the-bucket! My story is a common tale within the marketing and design community and explains why many creative people are reticent to return to the “old ways”.
Listen people! It’s a sad story, but we need to get over our print prejudices, because the world is changing and thinking of print as a dying medium is actually an ”old-way” of thinking. New technologies are starting to work hand-in-hand with digital mediums. Now, more than ever,print can be adapted to fit the digital world. We need to stop thinking of print as our enemy and re-embrace it like an old friend that still has a few tricks up its sleeve.
Time to re-embrace print
According to marketing experts, there is a new resurgence of print marketing from forward-thinking business people who recognize the revenue potential of direct-mail ads and other print promotions. In a crowded online market in which users are bombarded with banner ads and display ads, people are becoming jaded by internet advertising. Print is becoming a legitimate alternative.
It’s sometimes difficult to differentiate your business in a crowded online market. However, it’s not so difficult to make a difference with a posters, flyers, or other print promotions. A large proportion of companies have yet to take advantage of new digital technologies. By optimizing your print promotions, you can create print promotions that not only stand apart, but also do a great job of bringing customers from a print ad to your website or sales offer.
Since working for print companies for the past 5 years, I can honestly say that print never went away for a lot of businesses. Especially small business and local chains who completely rely on direct mail offers and local print ads for their walk-in business. I also see larger businesses starting to return to print to take advantage of new technologies that make it possible for customers to interact with them via smart phones. Thanks to the gigantic leaps-forward in smart phone technology, we are now able to bring customers to smart phone optimized web pages, social media pages, landing pages, and even to our checkout pages – directly from a print ad. QR code technology is fast becoming an effective bridge between these two worlds
For those who aren’t sure what a QR code is; A QR code is a small rectangular barcode that can be printed on any of your print products. It contains a link to your LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, web page, portfolio site or any other piece of cyberspace that you’d like to send people too. It utilizes smart phone scanning technology to navigate to a specific website; as long as the viewer has a QR reader application on their phone, they can take a picture of a QR barcode and the application will navigate them straight to that piece of cyberspace via their phone!
vCards & meCards
You are able to make maximum use of this technology when creating business cards. All your contact details and social media profiles can be captured via a QR Code that is encoded with vCard or meCard information. vCards and meCards are Personal Data Interchange (PDI) interfaces that exchange user profiles between devices. It works like a virtual exchange of business cards. Put a QR code encoded with your contact and business details, and you will give people a super-easy way to store your details in their phone.
Using QR Codes for Marketing
There are a number of practical ways QR codes can be used for marketing and promotions in a variety of settings. QR Codes can be integrated into just about any type of printed materials, including:
- Conference/Event Displays
- Print Advertisements
- Business Cards
- Brochures, Posters and Flyers
- Postcards and Mailers
Once a QR code is scanned the encoded information can be used to automatically trigger a range of actions on the user’s device, including:
- View a Mobile Website or Landing Page
- Dial Telephone Number
- Send a Text Message
- Send an Email
- View a Message or Special Offer
- Download Contact Details (vCard or meCard)
- View a Google Maps Location
- View a Social Media Profile
Using QR Codes for your business
This technology works best as a quick transfer of information to your mobile digital devices. The benefits for businesses such as take-out restaurants are obvious; they can create a business card, flyer, greeting card, or fridge magnet print that holds their number, location, and menu information that can be immediately accessed by the customer. The customer doesn’t have to write, type, or look up the restaurants location. In addition to being a fast information transfer, QR codes can also transfer interesting information that enhances the user experience. For instance, I noticed a QR code on the wine tag on my bottle of wine recently that surfaced some great information about the vineyard, the grape, and how I could order other wines from this particular vineyard. In this way, QR codes are enhancing the customer experience of a product. Here are some other ways that you can get the most out of QR codes:
- Event companies and music related businesses can offer free downloads to music or video content from “smart posters” at events
- QR code links to personal voice messages can be used for corporate gift-giving and other one-to-one promotions
- Hotels, museums, and tourism related companies can use “smart prints” to easily share information and points-of-interest
- Shop owners can display “smart prints” that give customer access to testimonials, review information, specific product info, or daily deals
As creative professionals, we should take notice of these uses and find similar ways to use the full extent of the QR capabilities.
The future of print-to-digital technology
QR codes are only the tip-of-the-iceberg as far as print-to-digital technology is concerned.
The following video is an example of someone using what is known as Marker Based augmented reality in which a computer processes information that it has been presented with via a “visual marker” (i.e., QR code, barcode, or other printed graphical image) and subsequently superimposes a computer-generated image based on where that marker is located!
Granted, it all sounds incredibly complicated, (way above my graphical design knowledge and understanding) but the results are amazing, and incredibly significant for the future of print! The fact that such things are possible not only answers the question “can print marketing work with digital marketing?” but also suggests that the marketing possibilities for both print and digital are just beginning.