Augmented reality (AR for short) has been receiving a lot of attention lately (largely thanks to a certain game called Pokémon GO, which I’m sure you’ll all know), and whilst the technology isn’t exactly new, AR has been given a whole new lease of life thanks to what Pokemon GO’s developers Niantic have achieved.
However, the question, at least for those of us in creative marketing, remains – how far can we take AR? And does it have the staying power or the suitability to be incorporated into a marketing plan as something that is likely to deliver ROI?
The Evolution of AR
AR is by no means a recent invention – the emergence of AR came around in 1990s and augmenting the real-world is just a matter of supplementing it with computer generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data (according to the Wikipedia post https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augmented_reality).
Of course, 30 odd years ago, computers were only just becoming mainstream. Computer graphics were nowhere near where we are at now, and the availability of hardware was equally as limiting. Fast forward to 2016 though and that’s all changed and it is arguably only hardware limitations that are now holding back AR’s development.
The gaming industry is of course the stand out industry that we have to thank for AR’s progression and potential. One core theme that the gaming sector has always had at the forefront of its development is demonstrating an ever-improving closeness to reality. If we take first-person action games such as Call of Duty as an example, a pseudo-reality is formed firstly by creating a ‘real-looking’ world on screen, followed by allowing players to enact real-life actions within this real world environment.
However, whilst AR can bring your surroundings and imagination to life, it has always been fighting a battle it has arguably been losing, which is with human behavior – at the end of the day, taking your smartphone out, pointing it at your surroundings in order to get something back has been historically awkward and practically cumbersome. That’s not to mention that you must have the vendor’s native app on your hardware to activate the AR experience.
Pokemon GO – A success at last
That is why Pokemon GO has been hailed as a phenomenon for AR and as aforementioned, breathing new life into the technology. It has managed to blend that formula of combining the AR technology with a universally accepted brand and then making it a culturally acceptable thing to do – encouraging users to go out together and thus breaking that ‘awkwardness’ barrier.
However, there is a problem. Although Pokémon Go had achieved record numbers and gained mass market recognition, the statistics do already start to show a steady decline of active users. Is this a limitation of AR? Is there only so much AR can do, and does this suggest that AR ultimately does not have the durability, therefore making it only a fad that has been made popular, nay, carried by the Pokémon brand?
Potentially, but not necessarily so. It is a given that games and fads will come and go and the entertainment industry is of course heavily trend driven. It is these drifts in what is popular or unpopular that can result in disloyal consumers for games like Pokémon GO. For AR to be more than just a fad in creative marketing though, it means it will need to offer more value to the end user rather than just Pokémon collection bragging rights. Thus, AR will need to find that common ground between both entertainment and functionality for it to succeed.
So has AR done it yet?
If AR can achieve feats such as teenagers willingly leaving bedrooms, then surely the possibilities are now endless?
As mentioned earlier, AR has been around for a good few decades now and applications outside of gaming are wide and varied, which is why it is so exciting to watch. Talking from a marketing point of view, we have already seen a variety of companies using AR in their marketing campaigns and we’re sure plenty will be jumping on the bandwagon from now on.
Here are a couple of examples that you may have missed and we give a quick take on whether they have worked or not:
Using an Easter egg hunt as the format, Asda incorporated AR by putting up signage around their stores that would come to life by hovering your smartphone camera over signs, click here for a video. After initial success ASDA decided to adopt AR again for Halloween which provided their customers with an increasingly immersive shopping experience.
Asda are a prime example of where brands can use AR technology to engage with their consumers in new and exciting ways.
As a brand that targets itself at the family, the AR campaigns were a great unique and logical touchpoint to increase warmth towards the brand and make the shopping journey more experiential and engaging. I’d personally like to see this tied in with promotional activity and I’m sure this is where Asda can take AR to the next level for ROI to both consumers and itself.
Another brand that has presented AR to its consumers is Audi. Differing somewhat from entertainment, Audi provided their consumers with a functionality driven AR experience. Owners of the Audi A3 were given an AR owner’s manual app that allowed them to identify parts of their car by using the app and by simply hovering their phone camera over the part they wished to identify, Audi’s A3 consumers were able to pull up information on maintenance and how-to guides.
As an enthusiast of both cars and technology, I am convinced that Audi’s example is the way forward and Audi have shown a great example of how brands can utilise AR and give its consumers added value.
I would like to imagine them taking this further by perhaps using Pokemon GO’s example where pre-recorded technicians may pop up and show you how to fix basic problems or give guidance on routine maintenance.
How do we think AR will develop?
What if online clothing stores such as ASOS or Boohoo.com could give their customers the ability to virtually try on clothes (a virtual wardrobe) before they proceeded to order online? Not only would you be reducing perceived risk for consumers, but operational costs we can imagine would be greatly reduced.
What if you could project IKEA furniture into your homes and map out where they went and how they looked in the space you have? Again, similar to the clothing example above, it gives the audience better interaction digitally and operational costs on both sides of consumer and vendor are cut.
Leaning on IKEA again and taking Audi’s existing example, what if AR could help with the construction of your flat pack furniture? We’re imagining a world where AR can show you how to put things together, identify pieces, and guide you through the whole process.
The above mentioned variations here only give an insight into what augmented reality can really do for brands. Will your business soon incorporate augmented reality into its marketing efforts?