Let’s get phygital – why integrating physical and digital experiences is key to marketing success

Johannesburg, 14 Apr 2023
Ian Nel, Strategic Planning and Programs Director at Canon South Africa.
Ian Nel, Strategic Planning and Programs Director at Canon South Africa.

Digital channels offer marketers almost infinite opportunities to be creative and spread a brand message, but businesses should not overlook the importance of tangible, physical experiences in marketing.

This is according to Ian Nel, Strategic Planning and Programs Director at Canon South Africa, who says the ‘phygital’ trend – combining physical and digital elements – allows brands to deliver immersive experiences and make emotional connections with markets.

Nel says: “Despite the rise of digital technologies, consumers still need a tangible experience. Physical experiences often create an emotional response. For example, flipping through a book creates a sense of ownership and connection, with a multi-sensory experience including touch, smell and sight creating a more immersive experience for the reader than an e-book might offer.”

He adds that physical, printed materials also keep the brand message alive in markets where digital media is not available during load-shedding and network outages.

Nel says marketers should aim to create a good mix of physical and digital content to make their campaigns more engaging and memorable. “Some people may believe print is dead, but we see great examples of brands innovating using tangible printed media with digital media to deliver an immersive experience for customers.

He cites the use of QR codes and 3D images on printed banners and flyers, which come to life when viewed through an app. Large-format printed branding can be deployed to produce creative shop fittings and wallpaper, creating a memorable experience for shoppers. Textured and elevated printed designs bring a new dimension to banners, inviting viewers to touch and experience marketing messages in new ways, and can make brands more accessible to visually impaired customers. Pre-cut shapes and double-sided printing can be used to produce interactive pop-ups, printed papercraft templates and origami-style marketing materials.

Amritha Sethi, the UAE’s first NFT sound byte artist, created a phygital media artwork for Expo 2020 Dubai by recording the words “Future NFT Dubai” and using the resultant sound wave to inspire a futuristic artwork. Scanning the QR code next to her signature adds an augmented reality dimension to the artwork in Instagram. Arius technology and STALE AMSTERDAM used 3D scanning and Canon’s elevated printing technology to create a series of 12 original Salvador Dali monoprints consisting of more than 40 layers and using four litres of acrylic paint.

“Innovative brands are thinking outside the box and making experiences more tangible. The physical component may require more planning than digital, because there are factors like the media to be used and how the collateral will be deployed. But this extra planning is a worthwhile investment if you consider the importance of delivering a multi-sensory experience,” he says.

Nel notes, however, that quality is crucial when bringing printed media into the phygital experience. The media used should be good quality and the printers should be capable of exceptional printing on media – whether floor and roof tiles or outdoor banners and signage. “Colour, quality, precision and finish have to be top quality. If the colour doesn’t pop or the wording is unclear, the print would destroy the objective. This is why marketers need to partner with brands that understand colour, media, the technologies behind superior printing and the different ways and means to market products,” Nel says.