Throughout the media, technology and communications sectors, two camps seem to exist: print lovers who broadcast the catch phrase ‘print is not dead’, and the digital natives who believe their ‘virtual environments are the future’.

But, the truth is, both are right.

How can that be, you may ask? Let’s explain:

Digital versus print

Technology is the foundation of the contemporary world that we live in. In South Africa alone, 94.6% of citizens have Internet access through their mobiles. Work, school and entertainment all happen online to varying degrees. People access news through social media platforms and websites, and turn to digital solutions for their pleasure. These include Spotify, YouTube, Netflix or Twitch.

The virtual environment has provided users with many options, causing marketers and brands to follow suit and offer digitised ad campaigns or electronic content. With the rise of the metaverse — yes, that’s a thing — going digital is the future.

Printed media, on the other hand, remains a fan favourite. Whether it’s in book sales skyrocketing during the pandemic, or magazines standing strong, printed media is showing that it’s going nowhere! What’s more, brands across the globe benefit from it because consumers are reported to remember them better if they had interacted with brand messages through print.

This traditional form of media is tangible and tactile, which means that it engages a consumers’ senses. For this reason, it has the ability to cut through the digital noise more clearly.

And if both print and digital have so many unique benefits, they are going to be stronger together than apart.

Interactive print

You might have guessed it, but interactive print is a term that refers to combining traditional print with digital elements. It’s also referred to as clickable paper and is mainly used in mixed media campaigns.

This combo places the user experience at the forefront once again. By using print products that draw on mobile content delivery, the consumer becomes an active participant in the customer journey. This is because they interact with signs or posters that immerse them in a digital world.

Many different technologies can be used to digitise any printed media! Whether a brand wants to run a mixed media campaign, or a newspaper is aiming to bring news a little differently — the technology is available.

Interactive print emphasises brands using omni-channel to deliver news or brand messages. Print and digital media used together can reach a far wider audience than just one alone and bring consumers a consistent product or service.

Interactive print options

There are many ways that you can integrate print and digital. Let’s take a look:

Quick Response (QR) codes
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past two decades, you know what these square-shaped grids are. This type of barcode is an optic label that can be read by machines. Information is embedded in it and a digital device conveniently retrieves it and performs an action such as taking you to a specific website.

It’s often combined with paper by printing it on flyers, posters, tickets or tags. When scanned by a QR-scanner or your phone (you can download an app if it’s not a built-in feature), the code takes you to the website of the brand handing out the flyers. It can also be used to play a video, take you to a form or retrieve geographical info.

Augmented Reality (AR)
Augmented reality uses a layer of virtual augmentation on top of the real world. This is similar to when you use animal ear filters on social media. But instead of adding bunny ears to your face, a picture on a brochure can come to life.

The benefits are that while interactive print takes up less space in the physical world, it still presents all the important information the consumer needs to know. In instances where the product does not yet exist but needs to be visualised, AR fills the gap and shows the physical dimensions and appearance of it to the customer.

The technology works by creating hot spots on a page that a mobile device then registers to create the 3D or moving images.

Virtual Reality (VR)
Similar to AR, VR creates an alternative reality that users can interact with even more! Instead of just listening to audio play when an image comes to life, users can pick up virtual objects as if they really existed.

Unfortunately, combining print with VR means that additional equipment and higher costs are involved. You will see AR and print combined much more than VR.

In South Africa, a good example of a campaign where interactive print was used is the Pick ‘n Pay Super Animals series. Customers received a pack of four collectable cards for every R150 they spent. Each card contained a specific animal’s information and a barcode (the QR code’s older brother). The corresponding app would bring the scanned cards to life.

Do you feel that print and digital are partners or foes? Let us know in the comments below.

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Do you want to read more about printed media? Why not find out more about The role of B2B comms in print.
*Image courtesy of Canva