How Print and Digital Are Stronger Together

They kept saying “print is dead,” but boy were they wrong. The newest wave of technology has print and digital working together, creating a synergic union leading to even more powerful marketing.

Today, mobile is a key factor in the digital channel. And new technologies take advantage of our love of our phones by leveraging the connection between mobile and printed materials. Mobile barcodes (QR codes), near-field-communications, and augmented reality (AR) pull us into the digital realm at a point that starts with a printed document.

QR Codes
Let’s talk QR codes. This is the technology you are probably most familiar with—it’s those funny-looking black squares and dots. The way QR codes work is a mobile phone scans a QR code on a printed piece (magazine advertisement, billboard, poster, and postcard), which reveals information. Marketers can use QR Codes to direct people to their website, blogs, social media to promote events, promotions etc.

QR codes started way back in 1994 and were extremely popular in 2014 but then seemed to fade away. But they are making a comeback. Key to that is that in 2018, Apple started including built-in QR code detection in their devices, thus removing the main adoption hinderance with this technology which was getting people to download the QR apps. In fact, according to recent estimates from Juniper Research, the number of QR coupons redeemed via mobile devices will reach 5.3 billion by 2022.

Near Field Communications (NFC)
Another interesting technology merging print and digital is NFC. This technology enables the “tap to pay” applications that speed checkouts at retail locations you’re probably familiar with. But NFC tags can be attached to printed materials as well, allowing smartphones to communicate with magazines, direct mail, posters and more. A fun example is a poster promoting an event; passersby can tap the poster and watch promotional videos or even buy tickets to the event right then and there.

Augmented Reality (AR)
Augmented reality, or AR, is another emerging innovation at the interface of print and digital and maybe the most exciting. This technology creates interactive experiences out of print ads, catalogs, or other printed materials. It’s powerful because it creates the magic word in marketing—“engagement”—by bringing products to life. People can experience what it’s like to be in a new sports car or to try on a fancy watch. What’s even more powerful is the audience can scan-and-purchase directly from the printed piece.

Currently users still need to download an AR app. However, one key benefit is that unlike QR codes, images that trigger AR experiences do not detract from a printed piece’s appearance. An AR app can recognize fine art just as effectively as a jumbo postcard.

The best way to get familiar with QR, NFC, and AI is to start to integrate them with your own print products. Try them out and then have conversations with your clients.

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