Author Archives: Kevin Keane

About Kevin Keane

Kevin Keane is Chief Legal Officer at Security Group Inc. He has more than 35 years of experience facilitating success for entrepreneurs. Along the way he has been president of a service printing franchisor, and CEO of a global trade association. Kevin can be contacted at or on Twitter

The Magic is “IN” the PRINT (pssst, what’s that mean?)


Magician and Money

Observation – when the Harvard Business Review and Advertising Weekly are both talking about the potential of Augmented Reality to drive sales for marketers, we printing passion-istas may want to pay attention.

From Ana Javornik, writing in HBR on 18 April 2016:

“Basically, if the AR experience is just a one-off episode, which was true of the lab study, the augmentation will most likely direct people’s attention towards the technology.  But if it is well integrated in an environment or in a process, it has the capacity to positively impact purchase activities and have a more far-reaching influence.”

As a card carrying member of The Print Protagonists, I have been known to rail against the use of Image Recognition #IR augmentation platforms as they tend to create exactly the issue that Ana objects to – they take people away from the printed material, instead of being integrated IN the selling environment – moreover, as visual search becomes more prevalent, images themselves become the trigger to the immersive experience, not printed material which becomes redundant and un-necessary.

Realism compels us to admit that in some use cases, the technology is cool enough that it still drives sales for the marketer.

Elaine Naum in 1,000 Reasons to Embrace Augmented Reality:

“In select Thomas Cook store locations, would-be travelers can test drive their tour before they buy. Special headsets take them on breathtaking excursions like a helicopter ride above the Manhattan skyline. The added tech increased Thomas Cook’s excursions revenue 190%.”

IN the considered opinion of The Print Protagonists, anything that takes the consumer away from printed material seems sort of at cross-purposes to what printing companies profess to desire – increased sales and continued relevance as a media channel by adding value to print, or, in our view IN the print.

Print does not want to be a one-off, right?

We want repeat sales, from repeat customers who are excited to be making more money from the magic IN our printed products, right?

But we are realists, we know that many brand marketers have used and will use IR platforms such as Blippar and honestly, we admit that anything which triggers the use of print, even on a potentially evanescent basis, is not all bad.

From this 21 April 2016 article in Advertising Weekly:

“Eventually the whole store will become a digital touch-point, and Max Factor will be able to create an end-to-end experience across the shopper journey from print to shop windows, in-store wobblers and beyond.”

The Print Protagonists have a simple mission-message, we want to “Keep Print in the Picture.”

We think IR will eventually abandon print as the essential Launchpad to immersive multi-media engagement, and even if it does not abandon print entirely we think the objection noted by Ana Javornik in the Harvard Business Review is most perceptive – we think IR directs attention towards the IR technology, not towards driving more sales from the customers of your printing customers.

What is the better way?  We call it #InterActivePrint

If this post intrigues you – and you’d like to learn more about how YOU can offer your customers Magic IN the print, please feel welcomed to contact me.

Digital – it’s the data, dummkopf!


“Only 2% of the 50 trillion pages printed today are done digitally.”

Will the number of ‘pages’ being printed continue to explode, no matter what printing process is used?  Probably.  But the places that printing is being printed, may not be at the local print shoppe.

Print consumption is platform agnostic nowadays, and importantly, ’print’ is no longer about pages only, today the types of print can rival the range of devices comprising the Internet of Things (IoT).

If print can be seen as an interconnected tool to much deeper immersion in all kinds of fields from retailing to education, then certainly commercial printing as we have known it can prosper, but that good fortune will not be accomplished via the commercial printing model as we have known it.  Print is not merely ink on paper, print is becoming: ‘digital imaging on any imaginable substrate.’  And crucially, it’s about engagement and the data flows that arise from the consumption of digital print.

This article on personalized printed bags to make Waitrose customers feel more special at the holiday season 2015.  How cool, and effective. And data driven. The truth that the marketing impact of print is NOT ABOUT THE PRINT.

Moving closer to the present, from Australia, a review of the Aurasma Augmented Reality platform at SXSW in Austin Texas.

Print is the trigger to a massive increase in sales conversion.  And maybe conversation too.

Now – as a card carrying member of “The Print Protagonists”, I may beg to differ with using print as the static launch pad into the cloud seeking for the image recognition trigger.  I think a better path forward for traditional commercial print is to embrace Interactive Print because in that model “The MAGIC is “IN” the PRINT.”

Maybe only 2% of the 50 trillion waterfall of pages being produced today are digital, but trust me on this, that percentage will ratchet fast.  This report from the esteemed Boston Consulting Group released in February of 2016 has some spot on graphical charts, but for my money the seventh paragraph talking about the use of RFID to drive sales and reduce costs is the killer app.  I have no ties to RFID, and often question the green bona fides of RFID, but the impact of that digital tool (sometimes incorporating printed tags) is not debatable.

I do have ties to the fervent belief that old school printing is replaceable by print drivers in homes and offices which may be resident in a host of IoT devices.  If print as we have known it is to have a seat at the marketing feast-table, then we need to embrace data driven Interactive Print pronto.

As we mark again the Ides of March, we do well to not drink the Hemlock flavoured Kool aid that claims everything is good and healthy in traditional commercial printing.

Two Years Before The Mast: Print’s Position vis-à-vis the + Sign



Two Years Before the Mast is a memoir by the American author Richard Henry Dana, Jr., published in 1840, having been written after a two-year sea voyage from Boston to California on a merchant ship starting in 1834.

The expression “before the mast” is little known today, lost like the ghost Flying Dutchman. It means thusly:

Before the mast – Literally, the position of the crew whose living quarters on board a ship were in the forecastle (the section of a ship forward of the foremast). The term is also used more generally to describe seamen as compared with officers, in phrases such as “he sailed before the mast.”

Two years gone now, since as New Year’s Day 2014, an Australian print industry association executive observed about the decline in some forms of traditional print in the ANZAC region, “It’s not Print OR Digital, It’s Print + Digital.”

Bright bloke.

But might it not also be OK, if it is Digital + Print?  Does position matter? Can print still thrive before the mast?

On 17 December 2015 Layar, the Augmented Reality platform for Image Recognition-based interactive printed matter, posted a delightful saga of scathingly brilliant trans-Atlantic cooperation, between the destination marketing agency Miles, and the Sarasota, Florida tourism folks, and of all things, the iconic London taxicab.

The blog post closed with this observation from the executive charged with the project:

“We believe traditional media is an important part of a marketing strategy, not as the primary messenger, but more as a tool to drive visitors to the digital marketing components,” said Neal Alfano, Creative Director for Miles. (Emphasis supplied.)

In other words Digital + Print.

And let’s be honest, pride of placement annoys us print evangelists.  And we are tilting at evanescent windmills, because it matters not a whit if we are before the mast or behind it, before the + sign or after it, we are still in the media mixology and that is all that counts.

And as we read the Taxicab tale we see that printed wraps for the cab exteriors were needed, and so were printed promotional posters to be placed thru out London.  Print may not be primary, but it is necessary and as we have long espoused, print is the essential launch pad to a richly immersive multi-media experience.

Oh, and by the way, the Print Protagonists believe that  Interactive Print where the magic is ‘in the print’ is the best path forward for printing company leaders around the globe.  We fervently believe that using a solution that requires print to trigger the magic by virtue of the print itself and not an image uploaded to the cloud, is the smart way to retain print’s relevance.

But we are also pragmatists – if you can find a print supporter even amongst those who state that print is not the primary messenger, then who cares about whether we are before or after the plus sign?  Miles supports “Print +”: Print 101: Tips for Top Travel Guides & Brochures and Print Has Its Place

Tiffany Azzara of Miles says it well:

“For me, print is inspirational, and the web is informational.”

Spot on.

Viewing Print From The Wrong End Of The Megaphone: Collapsing Funnel Or Flowering Cornucopia?



As we round the bend into 2016, global graphic arts participants are fond of citing examples of print re-discovered. Perhaps we find an article in some obscure scientific journal that endorses print for retention of information in an educational setting. Or maybe we gleefully point to digital first companies like Google or Amazon using print to promote one of their array of services.

If we could consult the wisdom of the Magi in this holy season, what might those three kings exhort as portents from yonder star?

One. We are well advised to celebrate these print use cases (although we may be preaching to the choir and not the congregation of possible customers)

Two. We are wrong to ignore the truth that some conventional segments of print are in substantive decline.

Three. We are foolish to not embrace Interactive Print for its potential to leverage the value proposition of added value “in the print”.

If we are honest, the truth is laid bare in the contents of the daily (or less often) visit from the post office in whatever country we reside.

Printed holiday cards are fewer and fewer with each passing year. Conversely, photo postcards  of family members near or far are on the rise. Our credit card statements, if we haven’t opted out of printed statements, show not only increased balances due, they show that the highly trumpeted savior of print – transpromotional printing, aka trans-promo, or as one wag portrayed it – trans – pooh pooh, was no savior at all, merely a poseur exposed on trumped up claims. And quite likely, we also receive a niche publication printed magazine targeted to one of our peccadilloes:

“Kentucky Long Rifle Magazine – for the muzzle loaded moonshiner”

“The Epicure’s Guide to Tyrolean Cuisine, and Hats”

As a friend who works at one of the top ten printing companies in the world noted in early December: “the only part of our business that is booming is niche publications, there is a magazine for every odd-ball avocation you can dream up.”

Of course those “special” magazines probably have a print run rather shorter than Newsweek magazine, oh wait, that magazine isn’t printed no more…

Maybe we can see another portent in the decision of Hallmark, the massively successful creator of printed greeting cards, which branched into other media including its own Television channel, branded gifts, its own retail stores and so forth, when the firm decided to make its massive collection of world-class art elements available for subscription purchase much like one can buy a stock photographic image from Getty Images and its peers.

The plain fact is, people are buying fewer printed greeting cards, and mass market magazines and many more conventional traditional printed products are meeting the same fate, especially in the informational and promotional print segments.

So which end of the Megaphone do you use to view print’s future?

Trumpeting examples of print being used by unexpected players is not bad, but it may be more of a one-off media spend. The funnel is getting squeezed, more and more potential print users are opting for a heavily freighted digital spend at the expense of print.

But if we use the business end of the Megaphone to peer out at an expanding vista, what can we see?

Firstly, that logistics print (labels and packaging and so much more) is on a growth trajectory.

Secondly, the opportunity for print to provide a measure of security is growing. And here we do not mean the innovations in currency printing (e.g., Canada’s plasticine dollar denominations,) or even the hidden factors in passport printing (how ever did ISIL manage to get a passport printing machine?); no, we refer to the increasing global consumer concern – how do I know my medicine, my wine, my foodstuffs are genuine and also safe?

Print has a huge role to play here as the most universal (widely available) most democratic (value priced in every economic strata) and most convenient and approachable means of providing assurance.

We Print Protagonists see a bright future for print, but not for many traditional, conventional printed products. We believe as fervently as the Magi believed—behold the magic “in the print” using Interactive Print as the launchpad to a richly immersive multi-media experience.

Rise in Omni-Channel Shopping- What Printers Need to Do?


Printers are used to thinking of themselves as (at least in times gone by) as craft-based manufacturers. The rise of the information age coupled with mobile commerce has meant that printers are quickly moving to embrace web-to-print and e-commerce. Printers should also consider a team, perhaps a wholly separate team, thinking like retailers. So read this article from that retail perspective and note that omni-channel shoppers AKS “Gold Standard Consumers” buy more when they “See More” channel options:

According to a recent study by IDC Retail Insights, omni-channel shoppers have become the gold standard consumers. A multichannel shopper will be spending on an average 15 to 30 percent more than a consumer who uses only one channel. However, in case of omni-channel shoppers, the spending is more than 20 percent than that of multichannel shoppers.

Store sales which come from online customer research are around four times more than the total ecommerce sales. This implies that retailers should provide a complete package in the form of a united multi channel shopping experience to the consumers. If they fail to do so, they might risk the loyalty of the consumers and have a negative impact on the overall sales.

Print fueled AR drives mobile commerce and provides reach to  multichannel shopper.

Innovation Ennui: Hidebound by History. Is Print’s Prudence proof of Paralysis?


Many years ago, when I was president of one of the first quick printing franchisor companies, a wise-man counseled me with this pearl — smart franchise companies know that almost allgood marketing ideas do not occur at franchise HQ, instead they happen on the front lines — in the franchised locations, as the result of franchisee and customer interactions.

Implementing the advice meant that I sought the counsel of some of our best and brightest franchised owners and one of them told me about “Ed.” Ed was the head of research and development for Lee Newspapers (now Lee Enterprises) a chain of community newspapers based in Davenport, Iowa. Ed’s job was to actuate the punch line in George Bernard Shaw quote made immortal by Teddy Kennedy’s eulogy for his brother Bobby. “…Others dream things that never were, and ask why not?”

Ed didn’t go to graphic arts industry trade shows; he went to the shows his newspaper ad space clients might attend. He wanted his skunk-works of innovation to be forward thinking, changing and ever willing to try things, even things that failed.

Dr. Joe Webb, renowned commentator on the printing industry has long cajoled us to do much as Ed once did — go to conferences of designers and ad buyers to learn what moves them, not what servo-drive moves the roller train in the Iron Horse press. I found this article posted by Dr. Joe in the Economics and Research section of WhatTheyThink to be amazing and worrisome in equal measure, because Dr. Joe’s research protocols are so stellar.

I administrator a Facebook Group page for people in the graphic arts around the world. Every day, I post items about new and exciting uses of print, oft-times centered on what I like to call smart, interactive print – print made more valuable to the customers of your customers, through response drivers like QR or NFC or AR or printed electronics and so forth. But there is another observation that makes one wonder — the articles that receive the most comments, and likes and shares and so on, are often about print’s past — XYZ Print Shoppe in Palooka-ville. No one values the 600 year-old patrimony of print more than me, but change happens. We change or we wither.

Seize the Day, or glissade gently into that long good night?

Back on February 2nd, 2012, John Newby of the Ottawa Times (Illinois) wrote a great blog about the potential of Augmented Reality and newspapers. His final line applies to every segment of the printing industry:

“It will be interesting to see how and if the print industry embraces such technology or if we squander yet another opportunity”.

If we look at Dr. Joe’s chart, it would seem that thus far, the amorous advances of AR have been largely rebuffed. Only 7.1% of the 209 surveyed participants offer AR.

In a very visual and interactive age, AR, QR, NFC and whatever comes next add value to print by making print more interactive and more visually dimensional. Yet we tarry – 93% seem to say, let’s hurry up, but then wait?

What’s past ain’t prologue Poindexter!

Exactly one day after Dr. Joe’s post went up on WhatTheyThink, Jennifer Matt wrote a fiercely disruptive piece on WhatTheyThink that should be taped to the bathroom mirror of every C-level print industry executive. Jen put this line in bold in her article:

The human resources in the print industry are predominately “experts” at yesterday

So accurate and so ‘hidebound by history.’

This week I happened to spot on someone’s LinkedIn profile a pic of Steve Jobs, the Apostle of Apple with one of his pithy epithets:

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology, not the other way around.”

We print peeps are hard-wired to admire technology. In this change agent era, we might do well to re-consider.

Jim Daly, owner of Fine Arts Imagery, a giclée printing atelier in Asheville NC commented on the Jobs quote as follows:

“Isn’t it ironic that the most profitable companies speak in terms of customers, creating value and experience, while the others talk about efficiencies, share price, etc.? The former create the future while the latter seem satisfied to “optimize” that which has been successful in the past.”

Print has changed mightily over the centuries and yet, even now, there are aspects of everyday print production that could be easily intuited by Benjamin Franklin or even Johannes Gutenberg. Much of traditional print has moved to the evanescent stage of the Internet’s ether and it’s not coming back; ergo, print and perhaps especially smart, interactive print, presents ostensible opportunity to those who’s glass is slowly filling with optimism.

As the whirling dervish of change continues to upset the conventional and disrupt the traditional, some print segments wither while others flourish. There are massive people costs, (I wonder how many folks I know from print who are now in real estate, a dozen?) and the stresses on the owners and senior managers to try to get it right when embracing new strategies cannot be understated. But in the maelstrom we can be certain of the terrible beauty of this trifecta:

Innovation is crucial, Innovation is cruel, Innovation is cool.

Or, in a cornpone hat-tip to that certain beefcake TV commercial we posit:

“Print, it’s what’s for Winners.”

Brand Differentiation with Augmented Reality Enabled Packaging


I often repeat the December 2011 wisdom of Dr. Ronnie Davis, Chief Economist of Printing Industry of America who noted that of the 3 segments of print: informational, promotional and packaging, only the latter – packaging, labels, cartons, shrink sleeves and more, is immune to digital substitiution. One of my legal & marketing consulting projects is in the province of packaging and this video confirms a personal prediction that augmented reality enabled packaging can offer real brand differentiation and enhanced value for marketeer and consumer alike.

AUGMENTED REALITY PACKAGING / LiveViewStudio from LiveViewStudio on Vimeo.