Stirling Grodner, Social Media Coordinator @KPItarget
Augmented Reality, or AR, is the technology to use cameras to capture the surroundings and simultaneously adding to or altering the image in some way. Popularized with Snapchat filters and games like Pokemon Go!, AR has continued to get more interactive and marketing teams are finding ways to use it for varied purposes.
Originally developed in 1968, AR has gained more large scale adaptation with the development and evolution of smartphone cameras and AR technology, culminating with its first commercial usage by BMW in 2008 to bring their print ad to life.
One of the first major large scale applications of the technology was the Air, Land & Sea AR installation in 2011 by National Geographic, bringing a virtual petting zoo of dinosaurs and endangered animals to malls in major cities. Since then, AR usage has exploded in usage to add delight to marketing campaigns, improve customer experience of products, and solve pain points for consumers.
So how can marketers successfully use AR in campaigns? Here are some tenets to keep in mind for AR activations in marketing campaigns, pulled from real life uses of the technology.
Don’t get me wrong, AR is so cool. But to create an AR activation that achieves its objectives and is widely used by the desired audience, brands can’t get carried away with how cool the technology is. The most important thing is to use AR to serve a purpose for the customer, to avoid using the technology to simply be gimmicky.
For example, Panera’s new AR ad units show nutritional information when pointed at various menu items. This is an ad campaign that uses the cutting edge technology but also adds value for customers wanting to know more about the product they might be getting. AR can be well incorporated into ads if using it has some sort of pay-off for the consumer: this encourages customers to engage with advertising rather than passively viewing it.
With each year, e-commerce takes up more space in the marketplace. With recent widespread adoption of free shipping, and even same day delivery, the edge that IRL shopping has over online shopping is slowly being chipped away. One big benefit shopping in person still claims though is the ability to try things on. AR takes aim at this as well.
Sephora’s mobile app allows customers to “try on” lipsticks with AR, so consumers can test many colors from home, without the messy makeup wipe. Warby Parker uses Apple’s face mapping technology to allow people to see what their new glasses could look like on their face in real time, testing each style out on an active face, an upgrade from the simple pictures that placed your desired glasses on a static picture of your face.
Of course, especially with Sephora’s usage, what customers see in AR may not match the IRL experience of trying the product on exactly, and companies will want to design products with this potential discrepancy in mind. It probably helps to have the customer service team prepped and on board accordingly too.
This technology will also be useful as it develops to include clothing sizing, to see how clothes will realistically fit your body, without leaving the house. (Malls may literally go extinct.)
Another industry where AR has been widely adopted for in-app usage is in interior design. Retailers such as Wayfair, Houzz, and IKEA allow users to visualize furniture directly in the room with AR. Unlike fashion, AR does more than match the in-store experience, it actually improves upon it. Without being an ad campaign, this technology directly helps companies sell more products, putting customers at ease that their new product will fit in their room just the way they had in mind.
A well developed and useful in-app AR usage can fuel app downloads, increasing customer loyalty and allowing brands to capture valuable customer information to optimize and personalize marketing.
Capture the spirit of the season with a whimsical activation like Coke does, turning its limited edition polar bear cans into a winter wonderland. Activations like this, which have no specific purpose, should be used sparingly, but paired with holidays or special events, can drive interest in limited edition products.
AR isn’t the only technology that can be used to create a killer ad campaign. Paired with geolocation, AR filters can direct consumers to nearby products, as Jägermeister does with their Darke Spirits campaign. Mobile ads embolden consumers to “find the Darke Spirit,” directing them to the nearest bar selling Jägermeister, where they are then able to point their smartphone at a Jägermeister bottle to conjure a ghostly apparition.
Jägermeister also smartly uses a contest incentive to encourage customers to share an image of the ghostly spirit on social media. Combining AR with other marketing tactics to develop a cohesive campaign is more effective than using the technology alone. This activation also gets bonus points for capturing seasonal sentiment around Halloween.
As National Geographic did with their early use of AR, brands can also use AR technology to support a social cause. Adidas used AR to raise awareness about environmental sustainability by dropping shoppers at their Paris store into a trash filled ocean. They also gameified this activation, allowing customers to clean up the ocean debris.
By allowing customers to immerse themselves into a social problem, Adidas makes a visceral point about environmental sustainability while also promoting their shoes made of recycled plastic. When a cause-driven campaign is well paired to a product and brand values, the use of AR can enhance it, rather than coming off as gimmicky.
Outside of marketing, the technology is being used for learning and communication. For example, Google Sky Map allows users to point phones toward the night sky, and the constellations in view will appear on the screen. Similarly, with Google Translate users can direct their smartphone toward written signage in another language, and the translation will appear on the screen.
These applications can give marketers ideas for new ways to provide value with their AR campaigns. As we’ve seen, some of the most successful AR campaigns meld marketing objectives with other value added offerings.
Tech companies are looking to move AR off the smartphone and into glasses, with multiple companies racing to bring a user friendly and stylish model to market. Snapchat has already released their camera glasses, Spectacles, and although they did not incorporate AR, patents show that AR enabled camera glasses are next in this trajectory.
This could potentially have even more usages to improve customer experience and solve pain points, as well as creating virtual billboards in real time for a unique marketing opportunity targeted toward these users.
If you’d like to chat more about AR in marketing, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org