For those of us old enough to remember what the world was like before the rise of the internet, we may have thought we’d seen the last of direct mail as a marketing medium, but it would appear that we may have been wrong in that assumption. Innovations such as QR & AR have breathed new life into direct mail as a communication channel by bridging the divide between the physical and the virtual, allowing marketing and creative professionals to express themselves in the way only a physical media can whilst maintaining the ability to track and analyse metrics.
Let’s start by rolling the clock back 30 years to 1991. Bryan Adams had claimed the number 1 spot on the music charts for what seemed like eternity. Right Said Fred were claiming to be “Too Sexy”. Bill & Ted were about to embark on their “Bogus Journey”, Arnie was promising us he’d be back as Terminator again, and the world was introduced to Sonic the Hedgehog for the very first time. These were a few of the things diverting our attention away from world changing events such as the Gulf War and dissolution of the Soviet Bloc as we wondered what the new decade would bring us.
The internet wasn’t new of course, not even back in 1991, but it had yet to weave its way into every facet of our lives as it has now and was almost still consigned to the realms of interesting technological curiosity. It was also the time when direct mail was the channel du jour, and marketing was far more art than the science it is today.
Over the course of the next 10 years the internet became ubiquitous and changed the way we lived and worked forever, and direct mail was gradually replaced by new and exciting forms of media that offered all manner of ways to track interactions, profile media consumption trends and promote marketing from “glitter and glue” to a foundational pillar of an organisations business strategy.
I’ll be honest, I was convinced that direct mail was a thing of the past, something we would look back on through rose-tinted specs with a hint of nostalgia whilst conveniently forgetting the pain of fighting with mail-merges, the endless paper cuts of envelope stuffing and the mountains of return envelopes. Then came QR/AR and direct mail was re-born.
What is QR?
We’ve all seen Quick Response (QR) codes recently of course as part of the Government’s NHS Track & Trace system. The black and white box of pixels we scan with our phone to tell the powers that be where we were and when. It may feel little like big brother, but your opinion of the politics notwithstanding the technology is now a tried and tested way of driving traffic from a physical media to a digital world.
What is AR?
Augmented Reality. Still underutilised as a marketing tool in my opinion and possibly at the stage where the internet was back in 1991, AR allows us to view digital assets in the real world. The most recognisable incarnation is Pokémon Go, the craze that swept the world a few years back and, if the rumours are to be believed, led to more than a few people walking off cliffs as they tried to “catch ‘em all”.
Once again, QR & AR are not new technology and whilst these technologies are radically different, they also have one thing in common, they enable marketeers to use printed assets to trigger a digital journey… That’s huge!
Billboards, posters, on the page adverts, business cards, flyers and yes direct mail campaigns are all back on the menu with the added bonus of delivering the same data and analytics capability that made digital marketing the powerful tool is today.
The possibilities for creative minds are exponentially larger than they have ever been as campaigns cross the divide between the physical and virtual and it is the job of marketing professionals to develop new and innovative ways of making the experience as immersive for the recipient and effective for the advertiser as possible.
We’re just starting to see the use of AR enter mainstream advertising, but it requires specialised apps to work effectively and that is limiting effectiveness right now. QR on the other hand is a proven technology that only needs the camera built into every smartphone made in last 10 years, so for today QR is the route to take when looking at direct mail.
The Clever Marketing team were there when direct mail ruled the waves and, whilst we have become experts in digital marketing over the years, we’re also not blind to the potential that the direct mail/QR partnership has to offer. So come and speak to us today to discover how to include these elements into your digital marketing strategy.