The founder of Europe’s leading consultancy analysing micro trends and key technologies, Nils Müller is convinced that paper is not on the path to extinction. His concept , “Print+”, refers to the ways print and paper can create memorable experiences that complement digital products in innovative ways.
In his study The Five Megatrends in Print, Müller lists examples of how manufacturers are innovating to attract consumer attention. Talking books, intelligent packaging and cross-linked business cards are just a few exciting examples of how the market for print and paper has changed within the last few years, offering new possibilities for cross-media campaigns. Furthermore, the use of paper is highly resource efficient; companies like UPM ensure that their paper products are sustainable throughout their whole lifecycle.
Müller predicts huge potential for paper producers like UPM and recommends being open to new trends in the search for new business opportunities. “Paper producers, print houses, agencies and advertisers need to communicate a lot more. Many companies often don’t know about what customers want or what innovations already exist,” he explains. “New functionalities and finishing touches guarantee a unique experience and create a strong market position.”
MEGATREND 1: Attention economy
Human beings have a limited ability to absorb and process information. New stimuli help to route a message deep into the consumer’s consciousness. One interesting example is the “talking photography book” developed by the Munich-based advertising agency Serviceplan. It features mini speakers which are almost invisible on the page. When the pages are turned, the story is told acoustically. The look and feel of paper remains, but the surprising wow factor makes the product interesting. Light effects, videos and augmented reality are further enhancements that can be combined with paper.
MEGATREND 2: Convergence
Print and digital are increasingly merging and the prevalence of “seamless media” – the availability of the same information via different types of media such as smartphones, tablets, game consoles and TV – will continue to rise in the future.
The Swedish technology company Ericsson is working on an intelligent paper which can be used for food packaging. After touching the paper, information such as the nutritional content of the product is sent to the smartphone via the cloud. The concept is similar to NFC (Near Field Communication) business cards. Driven by an integrated micro chip, personal information such as a telephone number or address can be saved on the card and transferred easily to any smartphone.
MEGATREND 3: Virtualisation
Thanks to virtual reality glasses, users can immerse themselves in a new world in which they can discover new cities, games or even fly. “Cardboard glasses” made from paper make virtual reality available to all.
Companies like Volvo already use this kind of technology to allow customers to experience virtual test drives. The cardboard glasses simply have to be folded into shape. The smartphone is then placed into a panel and the video – which has previously been saved on the phone –starts playing. Watching the video through the glasses creates the impression of being part of the film. A further outcome of the virtualisation trend is 3D printing with paper, which is similar to a standard inkjet printer, but the results are astonishing thanks to the paper’s unique ability to capture millions of colours.
MEGATREND 4: Outernet
Not only is the virtual world becoming increasingly connected, but the same also applies to the real world. The internet will be part of our surroundings and everyday objects will become carriers of virtual content. For example, e-readers can determine the reader’s location via GPS and edit text accordingly — an interesting feature for travel guides, for example. Even today there are e-reader novels in which the text adapts itself to the location and adjusts the story accordingly.
MEGATREND 5: Smart devices
Since the emergence of Apple’s intelligent assistant – Siri –, more and more smartphone users are speaking to their mobile phones. In the future, books could also soon start talking to us and cardboard packaging can be upgraded with artificial intelligence and cloud-based storage systems.