The New Cool Factor in an Old Medium

March 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Every new development in communications has brought dire predictions of the demise of print.  Certainly the emergence of digital devices and social media has opened a new array of marketing possibilities, but there will always be times when nothing will do other than a printed item that you can place in someone’s hands.  And printers are giving us innovative and exciting ways of making those pieces distinctive.

“The best way get your printed piece noticed is to make it different from your competitors,’” points out Mike Leathers, executive vice president at Commercial Printing of Birmingham, AL.  “As customers are printing smaller quantities of their marketing material, they are becoming more open to ideas that make their pieces nicer and set them apart.  There are more types of coating and finishes now than ever before. These things will add a cost to the piece, but since runs are smaller it doesn’t break the budget.”

Some of the options range from pearlescence and flat paper with three-dimensional effects to OLEDs (organic light emission diodes).  OLEDs are thin plastics used in digital displays such as televisions that are being developing to the point they can be used in printed pieces, though they are expensive.

Audiences these days expect and respond to individualized messaging.  Variable data printing has enabled printers to provide personalized direct mail.  The most common use is to change the address and salutation on each piece, but customization can also involve changing text and images according to target market, or even according to the individual.

Quest always recommends that our clients use a mixed media approach to reach a broad audience and to reinforce messaging through repetition in multiple modes.  Printers are embracing that, developing tie-ins to the emerging digital market.

QR codes on printed materials are one of the most widespread ways to enhance potential customers’ engagement, allowing them to access additional product information, videos or discounts on their mobile devices.  Print can also lead a target customer to a personalized URL generated specifically for that individual, where a company can present information relevant to the individual and measure how he or she interacts with it.

Wade Kellett, vice president/sales & marketing at Weatherall Printing in Tupelo, MS, notes that augmented reality, developed by Layar, is a fast-growing trend in the integration of print with technology.  A smartphone or tablet is used to scan a printed page, and the device superimposes graphics, audio or other sensory enhancements to augment what is on the page.  It has been used for product packaging, manuals, educational books and games.

3D is another developing area of print.  Companies like 3D Print Dimensions of Auburn, AL, take a digital model and “print” a three-dimensional solid object layer by layer.  Currently, 3D is most commonly used to produce parts, devices and prototypes for a variety of industries.  But as the technology continues to advance and costs drop, marketing applications are undoubtedly around the corner.

Printers are keeping ahead of the curve with new capabilities and an eye to future technologies.  This is good news for anyone with a product or service to promote – it means the print medium will continue to be fresh, modern and creative for many years to come.

Starting with a good marketing plan and graphic design from an ad agency and adding the new accoutrements found in the print industry can set companies apart from their competitors in fascinating new ways.

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