In an increasingly digital, ephemeral world, tangibility still has power. And MEA Mobile's photo printing app Printicular is profiting from that.
Printicular, which allows users to print photos from either their phones or their accounts with Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox and others, calls itself the "world’s fastest growing photo printing app". The photos can be delivered anywhere worldwide or, for those who live in the US, picked up from a local Walgreens.
"Last week the iPhone app went top #40 in the USA for photo and video. In October last year the iPad version went top #10 for the same category," says MEA Mobile chief executive Rod Macfarlane. "We also just hit a major milestone of 50,000 prints ordered in a single day by our customers."
Printicular was also mentioned in a recent Harvard Business Review piece about the strategic importance of APIs, which gave the example of Walgreens opening up its photo printing and pharmacies to the outside world.
"Riding on the inputs of such third-party developers and their popular applications, Walgreens enhanced overall customer engagement with its retail stores. In fact, its revenues per customer for people who interacted with it in its stores and via the web and mobile devices were six times those generated by people who just shopped at its stores."
Given the rise of visual culture and the increasing focus on real-life branded activations, Printicular isn't the only app profiting from this trend. Auckland-based digital company Interlike also converts real-life experiences into digital content through its Live Instagram Printer, which was introduced by Australian company Social Playground a year ago to several countries including the UK, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
The printer lets anyone with a smartphone Instagram and print their photo by using an event hashtag. And it aims to drive brand buzz online by encouraging people to tag their Instagrams at branded activations.
Audi New Zealand and Veuve Clicquot claimed to be the first brands in New Zealand to use the Instagram printer by Social Playground at the Clicquot in the Snow event last year. Partygoers could print their snaps when they used a custom hashtag, in an effort to drive engagement with both brands.
Fiona Woolley, head of marketing for Audi in New Zealand, says using such tools "is being driven by the need for brands to produce authentic, inspiring and relevant content in collaboration with their customers". Audi has a big focus on activation globally, she says, and she found the Instagram printer was a good fit because "innovation, performance and technology are at the heart of the Audi brand". She says it has found experiential advertising to be a good way to connect with fans both digitally and in the flesh.
Pepsi and Sofitel have also used the printer. Interlike has also worked with the Internet Party, Schick, Metro magazine and 2degrees, and is setting its sights on the Russian market.
There are also a range of photobooth operators trying to bridge the gap between the online and the offline. Smile Dealers is all about bringing events to life and then allowing punters to share their experiences digitally. And, as founder Nick Ferry says: "Our guiding principle is people share what they like, so we focus on creating content that’s about guests enjoying your brand and event that will make their mates jealous."
"The big thing a brand can really nail is a sense of authenticity, so it’s seen by the consumer as a facilitator or partner in the great experience they are having, not just someone trying to sell to them. That’s easier said than done. Having your event talked about is an important factor in getting cut through. Social amplification is one way, but brands should think about what works best for their event and target market. PR, word of mouth and traditional media channels are important too ... In the digital realm, the holy grail is having consumers create user-generated stories about the brand ... With brand managers constantly under pressure to justify the return on their spend, we add value by helping increase the reach of their experience. Instead of saying, ‘we engaged with 250 opinion leaders at this event’ a brand manager can say, ‘we engaged with 250 opinion leaders and they shared branded photos and status updates with 25,000 of their friends’."