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A New Way to Bridge Direct Mail and Digital Marketing: Augmented Reality

January 17, 2018 4 min read

This article was originally published in DMAW Marketing AdVents, January 2018, Vol 57, No 1

You may have seen or heard about Governor Jeb Bush, the former Republican Presidential Candidate, mailing iPads to people – to share video through the mail. And while the costs for such mailings may be outrageous for many, technology now enables us to include digital video in the mail without having to ship expensive gadgets along for the ride.

Augmented Reality - LifePrint
A person using the LifePrint app to watch a video on their phone’s screen that is overlaid onto the source photo held in their hand.

In the next logical step for augmented reality (AR), what has largely been reserved for mobile apps and large on-site displays can now be transformed for direct mail use.

Augmented reality is simply the display of digital content overlaid onto your view of the real world, whereas, Virtual Reality (VR) is an immersive virtually constructed sensory experience. Think Google Glass and Microsoft Hololens versus Oculus Rift. The problem with these applications is that you need to purchase and wear additional hardware to experience them.

If only there were a solution that takes advantage of current technology that everyone already has… enter Apple with its partnership with LifePrint, a mobile app for AR rendering. Simply open the app, hover your phone in front of an AR source material, and the still image or art comes to life with video and sound.

So what sort of content can we utilize?

For now, LifePrint content is limited to live photos and fifteen second videos. These offerings will likely expand over time, but because fifteen second spots are the most popular video ad format, this shouldn’t be much of a hindrance for current platform adoption. Focus your message on being direct and to the point to ensure these videos will add value.

How does this bridge digital and mail?

The AR source material you utilize in LifePrint can be repurposed for more than photos. Imagine reusing your postcard, carrier, or mail piece art to kick off AR content.

Let’s say you send a postcard mailer for an animal shelter that stars a cute animal on the cover. This cover art could be used as the trigger for LifePrint. That way when you use the app, you could see the animal come to life before your eyes. This engagement drives you to respond to the mail piece or website, where you can learn more about adoption and ways to support the shelter.

In a longer format mail piece, you could do more than pull at heart strings… you could reaffirm your desired response by delivering a self-contained, multichannel engagement message. Imagine getting a letter from a charity and you are able to view a quick message from someone they helped that is asking you to give in their own voice and words. Would you be more likely to donate? This is what AR can provide without requiring additional mail costs.

But how will people know the AR content?

The easy answer? Tell them about it.

Despite the obvious pros for incorporating AR content (low cost and increased response rate), the primary con is that people have to use an app to view this content. The key to remember here is that AR is providing additional value; it’s not replacing your mail message. As such, any drawbacks to availability are effectively non-existent—especially since the inclusion of AR doesn’t increase your mail costs.

With Apple’s and LifePrint’s help, AR content allows marketers an inexpensive way to incorporate digital video into your direct mail campaigns that creates a self-contained multichannel experience to boost engagement and response rates.

Adoption of the LifePrint app will continue to grow organically since it is sold at Apple stores and also works with Android devices. Plus, your organization can encourage adoption by simply highlighting when and where you offer AR content. Because it’s new, many people will be willing to try it out. Simply make sure you list a link to download the app in the footer of the mail piece or next to your copy calling out the special content.

What are some other ways we might utilize AR video content in our next campaign?

You should feel free to add AR content into any printed format. Anything as small as a business card to as large as a poster or billboard can deliver AR content using the LifePrint app. The main takeaway here is that your ideas are no longer restricted to the printed page. Be creative in how you incorporate digital video.

With Apple’s and LifePrint’s help, AR content allows marketers an inexpensive way to incorporate digital video into your direct mail campaigns that creates a self-contained multichannel experience to boost engagement and response rates. Be bold and imaginative in your application of this emerging technology. 2018 will see several advances in augmented reality hardware, so I hope this will help keep you ahead of the digital curve.

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