August 9, 2019

Things to know before you start that AR campaign.

Chris Brooks, Digital Producer


Marketers must know about and be ready to leverage emerging technologies such as augmented reality while being mindful of providing substantive placements that are part of a larger narrative.

Augmented Reality (AR) tools have been popping up all over. From sex toys to furniture, makeup to hamburgers, AR is the newest tool in a digital marketer’s toolbelt. We’ll discuss what this technology is, explore its history, and suggest ways in which to best leverage it.

So what is Augmented Reality?

To begin, let’s clear up one misconception. People tend to mix up Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), and often use the terms interchangeably. The technologies are slightly different and depend on the level of digital immersion. VR distinguishes itself by being a complete simulation of a real (or fantasy) environment in which the user can interact. You know it is VR when you’re using a headset that transports you to a new world and you need tools to interact with that world (such as haptic gloves).

With AR, the user still sees the real world, but they also experience additional digital elements overlaid on various objects within that world. AR experiences are generally handled with a smartphone or tablet and can be teamed up with other devices to increase the level of immersion.

The history of AR.

Though AR had been a concept since the 1960s, a viable augmented reality system would not be deployed until 1992 with the release of the Virtual Fixtures system developed at the U.S. Air Force’s Armstrong Laboratory. AR technology hit mainstream recognition in 2016 after the launch of Pokémon GO, one of the world’s leading mobile gaming applications. In its first 80 days since launch, the app accrued more than 550 million installs and $470 million in revenues.

Differentiating the types of Augmented Reality.

There are two primary flavors of Augmented Reality: marker-based and markerless. Triggered, or marker-based AR, is used in instances where we need to know precisely what the user is looking at, or where they’re located, or both. For example, we may ask a user to point their mobile device at a poster or allow GPS data to determine that they’re standing in the middle of a museum hall. In other instances, we just need to display 3D augmented reality models, which we can do without a marker, so we call it view-based or markerless AR.

Category Type Examples Characteristics
Triggered Marker-based: Paper Blippar Paper marker activates stimuli.
Marker-based: Object HP Reveal Most objects can be made into markers.
Location-based Pokémon Go Overlay of digital information on a map or live camera view. GPS may activate stimuli.
Complex Augmentation Google Maps AR Augmented dynamic view and pull internet information based on location, markers, or object recognition.
View-Based Indirect Augmentation Paint Tester Image of the real world augmented intelligently.
Non-specific Digital Augmentation BBC Civilisations AR Augmentation of any camera view regardless of location.

How can I effectively use AR as a marketing tool?

First, you’ve got to make your deployment of AR more than a gimmick. Since the tool is under the user’s control, there’s got to be a strong enough incentive to entice customers to make an effort to interact with the placement. If your AR tool boils down to a ‘novel’ way display a video or other digital media, you’re doing it wrong. Your challenge is to engage the user and provide real value for their efforts in their engagement with your brand. Here are some examples where using AR will yield great results:

  1. Trade shows. Have your users register using a custom app that will allow tradeshow vendors to transform the experience by smartly blending the physical with the digital. Check out this example from Echo Interaction Group.
  2. Live events. Leverage the fact that most people attending live events are going to have their phones out and pointed towards the action. Check out this great example from an Eminem concert.
  3. Gamification. Get users to keep coming back by turning your placement into a game, like this example from Trekk.
  4. As a pre-purchase tool. Get users to try your product before they buy, like in this example from Loreal.
  5. Sales-support tool. Put the tool into the hands of sales staff, like in this example from Lexus.

Growth potential.

The market for AR services has exploded over the last couple of years. A report by Deloitte reported that almost 90 percent of companies with annual revenues of $100 million to $1 billion are now leveraging AR or VR technology. Another poll conducted by the Purch Group revealed that 10 percent of marketers utilize AR, and 72 percent are planning to in the coming year.

So there you have it. When leveraged effectively, augmented reality can communicate your message on a deeper level by having your audience interact with it on their terms. When you’re ready to build your next AR campaign, or if you are interested in learning about digital best practices, contact us.


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