Nine magazines, open and lying on top of each other, their spines aligned from the top left of the image to bottom right.

Print as a portal to a new brand reality

Feel a bit cold? Pick up your phone and turn the heating up.

Fancy a spicy pizza? Pick up your phone and buy one. 

Order not arrived? Pick up your phone and message the store’s chatbot. 

You probably get the picture, but how about when the pizza arrives it reminds you that you need a dining table? Plenty of us have used Augmented Reality (AR) apps like the one that can be found in the Wayfair app, which shows how furniture and furnishings can look in our homes. All in all, there are an incredible number of ways that brands can now interact with us. And there’s no doubt that developments in technology just get cooler and more convenient with every day that passes. In fact, it’s almost ironic that while so much has been put on hold over the last 18 months, virtual experiences and connections are one area that has been accelerated by Covid 19.

It all feels very futuristic, but humans are multi-sensory creatures. Experiences of every kind need to have a feeling of connection and interaction that encompass all our ways of being. Which might go some way to explain why the more basic digital means of reaching customers – like eshots – are seeing diminishing returns. So, savvy marketers are looking at ways to combine the best of ‘Extended Reality’ or ‘XR’ – an umbrella term for immersive technologies, such as Augmented and Virtual Reality ­– with ‘real world’ sensory experiences. Clearly, print has a huge role to play in this, as it’s not only a well-established physical medium, but it allows brands to play with texture, smell and even taste.

Print industry expert, Karis Kopp believes that print is the key to bridging online and offline experiences and can encourage ‘digitally fatigued’ customers to engage with Extended Reality experiences in a way that other channels cannot match. “Print is the ‘jewel in the crown’,” she says. “It’s the perfect tool for integrating channels for more impactful and engaging multi-channel campaigns. XR helps to create completely unique experiences, taking print – and brands – to an entirely new level.” Printed materials that employ XR can literally add a dimension to the viewer’s physical surroundings. And our old favourite, Augmented Reality can turn magazines, catalogues, direct mail, or any other printed material into an interactive experience.

A pair of hands holds a smartphone, which is running an app that allows you to scan your own face and try out different lipstick colours.
Augmented Reality can turn magazines, catalogues, direct mail, or any other printed material into an interactive experience.

Research suggests that 73% of consumers use multiple channels when shopping and in understanding this, plenty of big brands have already taken the plunge and are successfully using XR and print together to create fun and effective campaigns that build loyalty and, most importantly, drive sales.

Test drive from afar

Porsche, for example, ran a print media campaign inviting readers to sit in the driver’s seat of its new model and explore every angle of the interior, just by scanning the ad with their phone. The average person drove ‘in app’ for over three minutes and in just one month, the campaign doubled requests for real-world test-drives. It’s a great idea that can be translated across so many industries – from Real Estate to travel agencies, AR can offer virtual tours of hotels or properties. 

Go wild in the aisles

Toys ‘R’ Us in the United States transformed its stores into a digital playground for kids by adding virtual giraffes, racetracks and other games across their footprint which could be activated by pointing a phone’s camera at signs in-store. A less noisy alternative for retailers could encourage shoppers to use AR through Point-of-Sale displays, so they can discover more the item. Perhaps learn about the designer or what makes it Fair Trade.

Try with your eyes before you buy 

Rolex took its print ads to the next level with a virtual experience to promote a new line of watches. Readers could ‘try on’ the new models and scroll to see different styles. It’s a technique that’s proven particularly effective in fashion and beauty, where consumers tend to want to try a product before purchasing. It also has the added benefit of helping to reduce the chances of a product being returned, which is an increasingly costly challenge for brands selling online. 

There’s no doubt that consumers love AR right now, but Covid 19 certainly slowed down the predicted 2020 boom in Extended Reality. However, when examples like those above are generating sales, it won’t be long before others follow suit. But, as Karis points out, the devil is in the printed detail. “The printed asset is what hooks them to want to engage with the brand further. That’s why it’s essential for brands to get print right,” she explains. “Because if that’s achieved, they already have that quality engagement needed to entice the customer to download and app or scan a code. And once they have done that, brands can easily track the campaign’s impact and see how they are interacting with different touchpoints in the journey.”

Written by Mathew Faulkner