drupa saw print’s old guard defiantly stand up and show off a youthful new wardrobe. Or at the very least, a trendy new hat or two. Far from standing by their products and stubbornly recalling the ‘good ol’ days’ of when it was just print and paper and no internet, vendors showed a refreshing vitality and versatility in their portfolios, especially in and around the cross media arena. One application in particular caught my eye – interactive print without QR codes – an innovation that offers printers an interesting twist to their operations and what they can offer their customers.
It would be foolhardy for any business to dismiss the rise of Smartphones and what it means for the way in which consumers see and access information. A recent study showed that the UK had the highest worldwide annual growth in Smartphone ownership at 17.5%, with 51.3% of the total UK mobile audience using one as their primary device (yours truly is now officially in the minority, although I’m not bitter – my phone has a currency converter and a stopwatch). However this doesn’t mean a direct increase in the scanning of QR codes, far from it. Another study showed that only 14.5% of the smartphone audience in EU5 (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and UK) interacted with QR codes. Something is obviously very much amiss. Dons deerstalker.
The QR code is ubiquitous these days. It can be found printed on near enough anything, from magazines and billboards to exhausted toilet rolls and tombstones. The initial strong interest in the QR code, coupled with a number of high profile and successful cross media campaigns (such as the Starbucks/Lady Gaga ‘Digital Scavenger Hunt’), shows there’s a dynamic concept there but that something isn’t quite clicking (pun intended). Perhaps it’s purely the design. Maybe consumers worldwide are morally and spiritually offended by the unattractive aesthetics of the black and white blob? Possibly. But more likely it’s down to the awkward usability, the limited functionality and the often nebulous purpose of the actual tag. Any form of communication in advertising has to be clear, eye-catching and worthy of the reader’s time. The intended audience shouldn’t have to (and won’t) work to be enticed. So how to solve this issue? And what profitable prospects does it hold for printers?
The removal of the QR code is obvious and inevitable, with the popularity and indeed simplicity of other logo-free Reader Apps reflecting that (such as ‘Google Goggles’, an application that uses a phone’s camera to recognise logos, landmarks, books etc and then searches for information on the targeted image). The growing trend for digital interaction is rhapsodic and will need to be catered for. It’s key for printers to monitor this trend carefully, to be ready for any profitable developments and to ensure their customers are aware of marketing opportunities that arise. On top of making print more multi-dimensional, it enables brands to gain access to a plethora of analytics that can ensure businesses are marketing the right way, to the right consumer, with the right hook.
Many of the exhibitions at drupa demonstrated that print need not fear digital applications, merely understand them. What’s the saying? If you can’t beat them, then look to integrate them into your operations in a way that can help businesses add value to their marketing operations. Rolls off the tongue. Print is still an integral player in communications field, but it just needs to evolve a little bit with the times and invest in some modern kit; just as I need to invest in a phone that doesn’t just double up as a paper weight.