Unlocking the Potential of Interactive Print

Troy Forget


Print and digital worlds are increasingly converging as marketers look to engage prospects on multiple fronts and cut through the clutter with relevant, high-impact and immersive materials. Through interactive print, they can use the traditional print medium to extend brand interactions online – increasing retention and brand recall, while captivating and informing their audience.

Forward-looking companies are already incorporating this technique into marketing campaigns, as a variety of factors – including low cost barriers and widespread access to supporting technologies – make it increasingly easy to harness interactive print’s potential.

The Tech Effect

Technology is a key contributor to the success and evolution of interactive print. For example, widespread computer and Internet access has led personalized URLs (PURLs) – once regarded as cutting-edge – to now become a staple in many marketing campaigns. Use of PURLs is, of course, still very valuable –providing marketers with granular analytics around individual prospect activity, and giving prospects their own, personalized connection to a brand.

Interactive print has, more recently, grown in popularity due to the ubiquity of mobile devices – with smartphone shipments set to outpace those of PCs by 2012, according to Morgan Stanley. As a result, quick response (QR) codes, or 2D barcodes, are making their way into more campaigns. Consumers simply scan the printed matrices with their smartphones and can instantly access a wealth of related, online materials – such as websites, maps, product videos, vCards and more. Because the use of QR codes is cost-effective for marketers and consumers alike – marketers often incur no special printing charges, and consumers can download free apps that turn their phones into 2D barcode readers – this is a technique with staying power.

In addition, webcams – a market set to reach $3.2 billion by 2015, according to WinterGreen Research – are also contributing to the popularity of interactive print and, in particular, augmented reality (AR). Through AR, large, printed graphics instantly morph into interactive, 3D images when held in front of a webcam. Marketers can leverage AR to let their prospects rotate and trial products, view a 3D map of a tradeshow floor, launch a game and much more.

Tips for Incorporating Interactive Print

To best take advantage of interactive print and leverage it most successfully within campaigns, keep the following tips in mind: 

  • Be strategic – Don’t jump on the interactive print bandwagon without giving it some forethought. Ask yourself: how can I use interactive print in a way that is most reflective of my brand? No need to include QR codes on every page of every ad – use them strategically and in a way that makes sense, and understand the content you’re trying to drive your audience toward.
  • Consider your demographic – Use interactive print strategically, keeping in mind these campaigns are most successful with those who have adopted smartphones.
  • Be memorable – With interactive print still, in many ways, a nascent discipline, there is plenty of room to push boundaries and give your imagination free rein. Again, be sure to do so in a way that is consistent with your brand image.
  • Choose printing partners wisely – Make sure you work with a printer that has good ink coverage, to ensure that all images print correctly with no extraneous or missing ink that could impair functionality.
  • Test the final product – Test your interactive print component on multiple models of smartphones, webcams, etc., and among multiple focus groups, to make sure you’re leaving your target audience with a stellar impression.

Marketers should see interactive print as a burgeoning and promising opportunity – enabling them to reach out to prospects on the devices they want and in a way that’s convenient and “cool.” If a picture is truly worth a thousand words, then a 3D or other interactive image – when applied strategically – has the potential to be invaluable.


Troy Forget is senior marketing manager for the printing products and services business of Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples, Inc. Staples Advantage serves organizations of 20 or more employees all the way up to the Fortune 1000, including global businesses; local, state and federal government; healthcare organizations and educational institutions.