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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Commercial Printing: The Marriage of Print and Digital

Articles in the media touting the marriage of print and digital always make me happy. Not only because I’m a firm believer in the place of custom printing (and because I’m a printing broker) but also because these articles mirror my own experience. Print and digital amplify each other’s strengths. They don’t have to fight, and one doesn’t have to replace the other.

So here’s what I read just recently. You may find it interesting. The article is entitled “Clickable Paper: An Alternative for Opening the Door to the Omni-Channel World.” I found this on on 07/02/19. It was written by Barbara A. Pellow.

To put this in context, I’ve been reading (for many years now) about multi-channel marketing (here referred to as “omni-channel” because it encompasses all channels). Ostensibly, when a brand interacts with potential customers through many, or all, media, including print marketing, email, perhaps even large-format signage on the facades of buildings or glued to vehicles, and/or even the printed QR codes (or other patterns) that send your smart phone to a related website when you point your phone at it—the brand can expand its presence and enhance your experience. It can do this very effectively, far more so than if the brand only sent you a postcard or an email.

More exposure equals more sales, if and only if the exposure benefits the potential customer. The process has to be enjoyable, immersive, and valuable in terms of the potential customer’s buying needs.

The Thesis of Pellow’s Article

So in this light, here’s what the article says. First, it notes that printers today are expanding their services to stay relevant. They do have competition, and there is in some cases less business to be had. Or, more specifically, there is less business in terms of putting ink on paper or toner on paper. Pellow’s article notes that printers who once offered only offset lithography are now also offering digital printing, design services, direct mail, large-format signage, and expanded finishing capabilities.

(In this vein I would add such digital enhancements as digital foiling and digital die-cutting. I would also add strategic marketing advice. Printers no longer just do what you ask in terms of printing. They also advise you on how to expand your market share using their commercial printing services.)

“Clickable Paper: An Alternative for Opening the Door to the Omni-Channel World” goes on to define the “fan experience.” (This is just one example of the benefits of multi-channel, or omni-channel, marketing, but I think it’s a good one.) Specifically, the author notes that sporting events have gone up in price, and the attention span of most people (including sports fans) has gone down (presumably due to competing ads and the ever-increasing demands of contemporary life).

This is a bad situation. So marketers have to step up and provide “a more seamless, entertaining, engaging fan experience” (“Clickable Paper: An Alternative for Opening the Door to the Omni-Channel World”). This is what I personally call the “Wow” factor. Marketing interactions have to be great now, not just good. Otherwise, the consumer will just filter them out. But the good news is that truly great marketing initiatives absolutely will engage the potential client.

Barbara Pellow then goes on to define “clickable paper” as “an interactive print solution that bridges the traditional offline-online gap. It connects print and digital with cloud-based intelligent image recognition software” (“Clickable Paper: An Alternative for Opening the Door to the Omni-Channel World”).

In layperson’s terms this means that you can download an app to your smartphone (Apple or Android), and when you point the camera phone at an image on a printed surface (printed page, large-format sign, poster, vehicle wrap), you will be transported to an online experience. The image recognition software will make the link between the printed page and the online content. The marketer can curate this experience, ostensibly based on a two-way conversation between the brand and the potential client. (After all, once you’re online, you can experience something and then respond to it in real time, and the online software can then tailor the ensuing experience to your needs and requests.)

In short, then, Pellow’s article says you can “enhance the fan experience by creating an interactive experience with signage and event programs” (“Clickable Paper: An Alternative for Opening the Door to the Omni-Channel World”). These static printed pieces become a doorway into a two-way conversation based on a multi-sensory experience. “The event programs could take attendees on instant journeys from the printed page to photos, videos, statistics, and historical performances of their favorite players using a clean, markless method” (“Clickable Paper: An Alternative for Opening the Door to the Omni-Channel World”).

What makes this especially effective, as Pellow notes, is that brands can then monitor sports fans’ online responses to the digital content and then tailor successive marketing campaigns based on this user feedback. And it is a truism that the more a brand learns from a potential client through such interaction, and the more relevant the brand can therefore make all subsequent interactions, the more likely a prospective customer will be to buy the brand’s product or service (in this case perhaps the tickets for a future sporting event).

The Take Away: What You Can Learn from This Article

I think “Clickable Paper: An Alternative for Opening the Door to the Omni-Channel World” holds far-reaching implications for all brands in all sales sectors, not just sporting events. Here’s my logic based on Pellow’s article:

    1. Events, products, and services are in many cases getting more expensive. This is true for both necessities and entertainment.


    1. People will still pay for an engaging, emotionally satisfying experience.


    1. The marketing materials (i.e., commercial printing products) have actually become part of this experience, just as an enjoyable, in-store interaction when buying a television in Best Buy can increase the buyer’s total “spend.”


    1. Therefore, as a marketing professional, your goal is to create an engaging, memorable event.


    1. You now have more tools than before, including both custom printing products and digital technology.


    1. If you blend the two, playing to the strengths of each, your chance of “Wow’ing” your clients increases, in part because you are involving more of the potential customer’s senses (not only the tactile sense evoked by commercial printing but also the visual and aural senses engaged by online media).


    1. Blended media (multi-channel, or many-channel; or omni-channel, all channel) works better than either print or digital alone. Your chances of intensely engaging the potential consumer increases significantly if you carry your brand message across multiple media.


    1. To go beyond Pellow’s article, I would say that her paradigm for omni-channel marketing will enhance not only marketing for sports events but pretty much for anything you can imagine.


  1. I think the next step, which is already under way, is to bring virtual reality into the mix. After all, now that I’m seeing more VR headsets in the thrift stores my fiancee and I frequent, it seems that virtual reality is becoming more commonplace. And up to this point, I can’t think of any experience that’s more immersive than virtual reality.

Who knows, in the very near future you might strap on a VR headset, slip your camera phone into the goggles, point your phone at a QR code on the side of a building, and be transported into a mind-bending VR experience—for a football game, or for anything else you can imagine.

Smart marketers will take note.

4 Responses to “Commercial Printing: The Marriage of Print and Digital”

  1. Not only expanding our services to stay relevant, but we’re also going to different directions, and the modern technology helps.

    • admin says:

      On the one hand, I think you now need to do this to survive. On the other hand, if you are able to find out what the customer needs and provide it, I think you can thrive. Thank you for your comment.

  2. info monde says:

    Hello, I enjoy reading all of your article. I wanted to write a little comment to support you.


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