"Making printed products sexy again"


Rafi Albo has been linking printed products with electronic media in an attractive way for years. The CEO of SEGMARKETING, a company that specializes in innovative applications worldwide, is convinced that, "Augmented, virtual and mixed reality will boost demand for print and thus printers' potential incomes".

"Panorama" met the 45-year-old Israeli in his home town of Tel Aviv and spoke with him about the varied options of combining print and online.

“Panorama”: You have been called the “global guru of connected 1:1 marketing” at times. What did you understand better than many other marketing strategists as a pioneer for attractive print applications?

Rafi Albo (CEO SEGMARKETING): Everybody says the Internet is killing print. I, on the other hand, show varied options of how print can be linked with the Internet using the correct technology with the aim of making printed products sexy again.

Something you already did with your company SEGMARKETING before augmented reality existed...

... yes, because it was always my aim to fascinate people with attractive printed products. That is why I created a brochure many years ago in which quiz questions had to be answered by pulling out individual paper components, like from a mechanically closed safe that only opens when the correct answers are given. When I was in Brazil recently, I saw another, of how a creative printer chose the front page of a newspaper of the same day for coffee packaging in order to prove to consumers at the point of sale how fresh his coffee is. I just believe in best customers marketing. That's why we need to be pro-active, in other words: print needs to go on the offensive. Just like they say in sport: the championship is won with good offense, not defense.

Can you elaborate on this?

For me, going on the offensive with connected printing lines means two things.

First, printers need to have good creative examples at hand at all times in order to show them to their customers.

Second, printers need to integrate new technologies, new approaches, new ideas. My advice here is this: start small, think big, advance quickly. Every printer that observes these principles will earn more money – I have no doubt about that.

Rafi Albo is considered to be the global guru of connected 1:1 marketing.

You devised the motto "When Creative Meets Data" for your company SEGMARKETING that specializes in innovative augmented and virtual reality solutions. What do you mean with this?
Ultimately, it's a question of creativity, data, technology – and print.

I specialize in mixed reality experiences where physical printed products are turned into superb digital content experiences. Print product animations in 2D, 3D and 360-degree videos on smartphones or tablets enable a fantastic WYSIWYG effect: “What You See Is What Gou Get”. And print is always at the start of all these applications. We don't need Facebook or YouTube to provide consumers with video content, we can produce the playback effect with print products.

Robust North, the Finnish IT company which does business with SEGMARKETING, has developed a new, revolutionary augmented reality solution in Arilyn. How does Arilyn stand out from conventional AR applications?

What makes Arilyn so special and successful in comparison to previous augmented reality solutions, which were often cumbersome due to their size, is that it can be downloaded to today's fast smartphones in a matter of seconds. Its handling is also very easy. We give the printing houses the license, and they can then use the applications independently. The entire process is performed via drag & drop interfaces and is cloud based.

You mentioned printing houses: is the basis for your online connections only print?

First, I don't do "only" online because I truly believe in “On-Life” applications in which online is connected to real life. Second, all my solutions actually work only in combination with print and real life. We develop the basic ideas and concepts and then pass these on to printers. We also offer "powered by Arilyn" model, which printing houses can in turn offer their customers. For example, they can combine 360-degree videos with a competition in their own apps where readers see immediately whether and what prize they have won. Thanks to our new technology, Arilyn is not only able to read "flat" images but also information on bottles or cylindrical packaging before converting them into videos.

Augmented reality was followed by virtual reality. What benefits does virtual reality offer in combination with print?

Virtual Reality and 360-degree videos break the rectangular frame set by a smartphone or tablet and enable a new, circular form of storytelling in a 360-degree dimension.  This has allowed us to include 250 different places around the world, for instance. All a printer needs is a license from us and the readers of his print products can embark on an exclusive helicopter sightseeing flight over Rio de Janeiro, New York or Dubai using their smartphone, which is even provided in 3D when connecting a pair of special glasses to the smartphone. Or we also have another offer, where children can color in a printed car body with pencils and take a quick picture of it with their smartphone - the personalized, three-dimensional car immediately starts to drive and can even take part in a race.

Will virtual reality continue to change the print industry in the future? And, if so, in what way?

Virtual applications will certainly not completely change the graphic arts industry. However, I do believe that VR, AR and MR (mixed reality) will boost demand for new print forms and thus the potential income of printers. And this goes for all segments: newspapers, magazines, advertising catalogs, direct mailings, labels, and packaging. Because MR offers added value for print products, which benefits readers, consumers and therefore also advertisers.

Why do you think is it so important to combine print and mobile devices?

Because everything is interconnected anyway, so it's only a logical development if print is also linked to electronic media. I don't see any reason why print should stay "stupid", because there are so many smart application options.

You speak of "connected print" in this context. What do you mean exactly?

I distinguish between two categories when it comes to print applications:

Simple clicks – static printed products made up of paper and printing ink - that's not very interesting to me because everybody has them.

IP clicks – printed products that provide a hidden experience and which form a gateway to an absolute digital experience - they make all the difference because they offer real added value. VIP clicks are print products that are IOT enabled via apps or clouds i.e. that are connected to the Internet Of Things.

The more VIP click jobs that are generated, the more products can be sold by printers in the higher price segment and the better the margins are in return. An ideal way of entering a market is Best Customer Marketing: All known brands have their VIP customers who make up a considerable share of sales. We know from market analysis that 5 to 7% of customers generate 30 to 40% of profits, the top 10 customers make up a good 50% of profits.

To what extent are top brands, in particular, predestined for mixed reality applications?

For brand companies, emotional connections and the sharing of experiences are particularly important to stand out from their competitors. That's why storytelling is also becoming increasingly important for advertising customers. When a static image in a newspaper or a poster comes to life via a smartphone, in other words: moving images are combined with a good idea and high quality content, this generates real added value. That's why printers and brand companies are the main target group for my mixed reality applications.

The application is one thing, a presentation tailored to readers and customers another. How important is the right content for AR, VR and MR?

The best technology is useless without content. That's why the right ideas with a high level of creativity are key cornerstones of my offensive thinking. After all, customers are human beings, not numbers in some Excel tables, and they love personal attention. 99% of all printers have virtually the same machine line-up. That is why ideas have become the key capital not only in marketing communication but also in the graphic arts industry.

Does that mean you consider such animation elements in newspapers and magazines, in addition to the editorial part, to be an opportunity for advertising customers?

Yes, definitely. Classic adverts are boring. For a long time, we were used to first reading a text, then looking at the pictures, and later on we also discovered videos for advertising. Now we have the option of combing all of these and telling fascinating stories in 360-degree videos. This is just as interesting for the editorial content as it is for advertising customers.

Will the combination of AR, VR and MR with print therefore develop increasingly toward marketing in the future, or will they retain their status as a fun element?

Whether it’s entertainment, games, marketing, sales, news, education or packaging – I see endless application options in all areas. I have no doubt that such applications will increase, in particular on labels and packaging due to the high significance of the point of sale and the strong competition among producers.

Do you also consider online and “On-Life” elements to be suitable methods with which printed daily newspapers or magazines can address dwindling circulations?

Without doubt. Because it allows publishers to offer their readers so much more. I'm convinced that attractive applications will gain in significance for newspapers especially as we are only at the beginning of a major development. AR and storytelling with 360-degree videos offer a range of possibilities for the printing industry and the ways in which readers - or should we call them observers – consume them.

The use of AR, VR and MR is one thing, but actually persuading people to view interactive content is another. What do you think is the best method of getting people to activate their smartphone?

The answer to that question is quite simple: as I mentioned previously, you need to arouse readers' interest with compelling content and the right storytelling. Then people will pick up their smartphones automatically.

Are print/multimedia combinations something for younger, smartphone-savvy people, or do you also see potential for the older generation?

It goes without saying that mainly younger people use smartphones. But it would be a major mistake for newspaper and magazine publishers and advertisers to focus only on the younger generation with such applications.

And where do you believe the road is headed for print/online combinations in the coming years?

The development will continue, and it will be rapid. In the graphic arts industry, what is today two years used to be seven. The applications are becoming ever more complex. After augmented reality and virtual reality, the next evolution is already on the doorstep. Mixed reality, which mixes the real world with virtual reality.

Rafi Albo gives this cassette made from wood as his business card, adding ironically: "Without innovative ideas, you will disappear from the market one day much like audio cassettes..."

Rafi Albo in brief

Rafi Albo is 45 years old ("I'm actually 25, but 20 years of professional experience is added to that..."), and founder and CEO of SEGMARKETING, which is based in his home town of Tel Aviv (Israel) and has been combining print and online successfully since 2000, all over the world. He operates all over the world and in the last four years has visited printers, agencies and brand manufacturers in nearly 50 countries

With SEGMARKETING, Rafi Albo is also involved in other companies, for example, as the Global Marketing & Business Development Director of Arilyn. Rafi Albo is also Global Ambassador to the Printing Industry of www.augmentedworld.org, the biggest organization of augmented and virtual reality in Silicon Valley, which held a conference in Santa Clara last June attended by 5,500 people.