Blippar's print app lets readers of this ad from Maybelline try on virtually every color shade in the Color Show line of eye shadow.
When it comes to the traditional print piece, we are all used to its benefits and flaws. Print gives words and advertisements weight, and is a powerful way to reach an audience. But it is also static, which is at odds with today’s on-the-go society, used to content changing and morphing on a regular basis.

To bridge the gap between traditional print offerings and the digital realm, companies like Blippar have created augmented reality applications that can bring print to life.

In 2011, four people with a passion for the industry founded Blippar in the United Kingdom. The first major campaign was for Kraft’s Cadbury marquee, and there was such a high engagement rate, it led to subsequent campaigns and, a year later, an expansion to the United States. Today, Blippar has successfully run campaigns for brands such as General Mills, L’Oreal and Hasbro, and are continuing to expand their international reach even further.

“Ironically, we don’t want to be seen as augmented reality or a technology company,” said Lisa Hu, U.S. Vice President of Blippar. “It’s not about ‘scan this code,’ but more about being a platform. We talk about blipping and engaging and sharing with friends, and it is resonating really well with consumers, shoppers and readers. We are bringing that physical world to life for the consumer.”

Until now, Blippar was targeting magazines and brand agencies as it sought to establish its platform. Today, that target audience is expanding—newspapers and print shops, in particular—are in their sights. The company is now going to the publishers who have advertisers participating in campaigns, looking to form partnerships that will bring the technology and possibilities to more brands. And printers have a unique opportunity to introduce the platform to all the jobs that walk in the door—there are very few types of print jobs that couldn’t benefit from Blippar’s technology. Even editorial departments are finding new ways to bring their stories to life with instant reader engagement opportunities such as polls or animations that delve deeper into a subject or illustrate a point.

“In Bloomberg Businessweek, for example, we did a poll about corporate responsibility. There were five answers, and readers could see what other people were saying in real time,” said Hu. “Another example would be a fashion story about a new clothing line—readers could do instant try-ons or “Blipp to buy”. There are many, many features that could be explored. And on top of that, it doesn’t have to be static content either; it can be very dynamic. If they Blipp more than once, we can show them multiple things, or reward them with exclusive content for blipping multiple times. It can really drive up the reader engagement. Plus, for all these features we have all the different data points as well, so we can tell a publisher that this many unique visitors interacted with the story, in this location, and shared to these places, and so on. There is a lot that we can do.”

As an added benefit, the company also tracks “missed Blipps”—those times when consumers try to scan something but there is no interactive content to go with it. That becomes powerful information to go back to a brand with evidence consumers are looking to have a deeper experience with them—and makes a hero out of the one who brings it, whether that is an ad sales person, publisher or printer. 

Expanding the content
Until now, anyone wanting to run a Blippar campaign had to work directly with the company to create the images and actions around them. To help grow the platform and give everyone from print sales people to publishers the ability to create dynamic content, Blippar recently launched its Blippbuilder feature.

“We are partnering with major companies that have access to millions of shoppers or readers, but there is only so much we can do to create Blipps,” noted Hu. “So we created a self-service tool to empower all these other players out there to create their own Blipps. We empower these people to create their own experience and give consumers more ‘Blippable’ content.”

They designed the tool to be easy to use—as simple as drag-and-drop to upload an image into their system, and then have access to all the tools needed to make it come to life. “Right now, most of our work is customized Blipps,” said Hu, “but what’s going to happen is that it will invert and there will be more Blippbuilder users. We’ll still have customized Blipp services, however, but we are going to be very strategic in how we go to market. This is supposed to be a powerful tool to put more Blippable content out there, but it can go in conjunction with other interactive experiences going on with that brand in other venues.”

Today, Blippar is a free app available on the iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows platforms. Hu noted that at the moment, about 79 percent of the traffic comes from iOS, another 20 percent comes from Android, and the last 1 percent comes from the combined Windows and Blackberry systems.

This is the future of print, and everyone in the lifecycle of the printed piece needs to be thinking about how they can take advantage of this and similar technologies to stay ahead of the curve. Printers should be pointing it out to clients, publishers should be thinking of new ways to use it in their content, and ad sales people should be demonstrating it to their prospects—this is the future of print, and it is a bright and hopeful one, indeed.

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