Hi-tech print

From conductive ink to near-field communication, advances in print technology are enabling today’s marketers to reach new creative heights

 
Even in a digital world, printed flyers in the mail are one of the most convenient ways to find out about neighbourhood sales, services and deals on Friday night pizza. But there’s more to direct mail than the humble flyer. From more precise customer targeting to integrated multi-media experiences, the digital age is infusing the print medium with greater capabilities.

 
But it’s the advances in print technology itself that has begun to unleash an entirely new level of creativity.

 
Every year, Canada Post brings together top marketers for its Think INSIDE The Box conference, an event designed to explore the potential and possibilities of direct mail. This year we saw example after example of how marketers are harnessing some amazing new print technologies to create truly incredible campaigns. Think conductive ink that can turn printed material into electronics, near-field communication, and ecological elements that are literally full of life.

 
Here are a few of the highlights from the conference.

 

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home
The campaign:
#lookingforyou

To convince Londoners to adopt the many stray animals they had rescued, the shelter targeted shoppers at a UK mall. As people walked by stores, volunteers handed them leaflets about the shelter. Those pages were embedded with tiny Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) tags. As shoppers made their way around the mall, holding or carrying those leaflets, they passed many billboards. When they did so, the RFID launched a video of Barley, a charismatic rescue dog who appeared to be following the shoppers as he popped up on every billboard they passed. It was impossible to ignore his message – that he was looking for a forever home. He was quickly adopted during that campaign, and so were many other shelter animals.

 

Pizza Hut
The campaign:
#pizzadjdecks
When Pizza Hut wanted to drive brand awareness and encourage sales in its 350 locations in and around London, it worked with a local printed electronics company to turn its pizza boxes into DJ decks. Using conductive ink and connecting via Bluetooth to any mobile device, the boxes were capable of mixing, scratching and turning out beats of actual music. Pizza Hut sent samples to local media, garnering coverage and awareness, and then used a limited number of the boxes for pizzas sold to the general public. The catch? The company didn’t announce which locations were using the turntable boxes, and instead used social media to give clues. Eager customers followed the company’s twitter stream, and then went in-store to buy pizzas and, hopefully, score a limited-edition box. The campaign launched in August and all boxes were claimed by September.

 

Pequeno Editor
The campaign:
Tree, Book, Tree
It takes a lot of trees to make books, and that’s a fact this small Argentina publisher wanted to underscore with kids. To demonstrate the connection between trees and books, and the importance of environmentally careful choices, the publisher used acid free paper with ecological ink to print one of its children’s books, Mi Papá Estuvo en la Selva (My Father Was In the Jungle). Jacaranda seeds were then sewn into the biodegradable pages. When children finished with the book, they could plant it in the ground and, with careful tending, grow a tree.

 

Bank of New Zealand
The campaign:
$hred
Innovation isn’t always about technology – creativity can also drive it. When the Bank of New Zealand wanted to teach people how important it is to be wise about financial planning, especially regarding mortgages, the bank decided not just to tell them, but to show them. It mailed mortgage holders across the country $1,000 in shredded dollar bills. Delivered to their homes as a plastic-wrapped, brick-sized parcel, the shredded cash came with a note telling them they were wasting thousands of dollars a year on their mortgage payments. The tactile bundles worked: BNZ’s mortgage lending went up by $600 million, and enquiries about home loans jumped 13%.

 
Campaigns like these require significant investment, so they’re primarily used when companies have an important event or anniversary to mark, or when there’s something special they want to say. But as the technology advances, that is bound to change. Hi-tech messages and offers will make their way into mainstream, everyday marketing – and into our mailboxes.

 
If you’re interested in finding more out about what happened at this year’s Think INSIDE the Box conference, you can visit our marketing blog.
 

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