Augmented Reality (AR) has become a hot topic in marketing conversations. Advertising opportunities with AR are worth $1.09bn already. Brands are dreaming of hype and virality similar to apps like Pokemon GO.
If you are an agency or brand marketer, you probably thought it is great moment to look into Augmented Reality experiences. But how to create successful marketing campaigns with AR that stand out, engage users and drive revenue?
Augmented Reality in marketing: a billion dollar market
Marketers are usually among the first to adopt new technologies. Finding new ways to delight and attract customers is key to their success. No wonder that Augmented Reality tech also piqued their interest.
The global Augmented Reality market for marketing & advertising is now worth more than $1.09 billion. That is actually almost twice the value of other applications of AR, such as gaming.
Does that sound surprising? After all, we all remember that summer fling we had with Pikachu.
Yet the numbers don’t lie. There’s a lot of money in integrating Augmented Reality —and related solutions, such as image recognition— into your agency’s marketing tech arsenal.
When done right, Augmented Reality can help you create effective, interactive digital experiences and promotional campaigns for your clients that drive engagement. (See some successful advertising campaigns with AR here.)
Advice to agencies when planning an Augmented Reality campaign
Some agencies are already living and breathing AR. Others may have just started looking into the opportunities. We want to help those agencies and marketers who are new to this tech.
What you will learn:
- Useful tips how to create better projects with Augmented Reality
- What to keep in mind before planning or pitching a concept to a client
- Some general do-s and don’t-s
- Great examples of AR campaigns done right
Tip #1: Carefully consider your options before picking the right tech
Some people might be tempted to buy a hip convertible when what they actually would need is a practical family van. As Augmented Reality sneaks into marketing conversations, clients will probably start knocking on your door asking for you to build the “next Pokémon GO” and stuff it with dozens of fancy features, hoping that it will “go viral” overnight.
Don’t pick a technology like AR just to jump on the bandwagon.
Always look into the potential alternatives before pitching or choosing a specific solution. There’s lots of options out there. For example, tech like image recognition and AR are brothers and sisters, but they may serve different use cases.
For example, image recognition lets you create a campaign where your clients’ customers can scan a product package to go to the brand’s website to see reviews or videos. Or, you can create interactive ads in magazines, leading to purchase pages.
How is that different from AR? When a user scans an image with their phone, Augmented Reality superimposes the digital content (3D models, buttons etc.) onto the camera image of the real-world object.
Therefore, Augmented Reality adds to the experience whenever it is actually important to see the content as part of the environment.
Think experiences like IKEA’s famous catalog app that let you try how a couch would fit into your living room.
Or the clever outdoor campaign by National Health Service UK, where users could see the effect of blood donation by pointing the phone at their skin.
Of course, the same goes for combining your experience with additional functionalities, such as geolocation, optical character recognition to understand texts, barcode scanning, etc.
Always think about the holistic customer experience at first and what purpose it would actually serve, before stuffing it with features.
Tip #2: Focus on a simple, straightforward concept
One clever idea can make the experience more memorable, without forcing the users to think too much. This is especially true in case of marketing campaigns.
See the example of Mandiri with WWF. They created a simple gamified experience for the bank’s clients with Augmented Reality.
Imagine a family sitting down at home after lunch. The family points a tablet or phone at mom or dad’s bank card to launch a fun branded game. They can feed virtual rhinos, similar to taking care of your long-lost ‘tamagotchi’, and make donations while enjoying the game.
The campaign did not try to overcomplicate things or send people on a week-long quest. It was meant to provide a simple, fun way to bring a global issue closer to people and create a way of monetization without being perceived as pushy.
Tip #3: Give proper instructions and call-to-actions
When done right, Augmented Reality experiences and scanning apps trigger an ‘Aha!’ moment.
Have you watched campaign videos featuring people who see AR for the first time? Their faces light up as if someone just got them a huge box of donuts for their birthday.
Just look at Lewis from Unbox Therapy watching his photo come to life with Prynt for the first time, and you’ll get what we mean:
But you need to guide your audience to that moment, and if your target customers are less tech-savvy, they might need extra help.
If you take a careful look, agencies typically include instructions on their campaign collaterals, even when it comes to ‘controlled’ environments such as a shopping mall.
See the text on the banner where people had to stand to see animals walking around them in National Geographic’s famous gig.
When it comes to scanning product packaging, print material or magazines, users are on their own. Therefore, it is even more important to guide them and pique their interest.
You can mention the campaign in communication channels, and/or include clear call-to-actions. Glamour magazine used tiny icons and messages to encourage people to scan the apparel photos to visit the brands’ online stores.
Tip #4: Try to make the Augmented Reality experience useful, not just fun
Please bear in mind that being ‘fun’ is not always enough to succeed. Moreover, you should definitely steer away from being perceived as ‘gimmicky’.
Pleasure and usefulness should go hand in hand. As Harvard Business Review pointed out:
“The real mission for commercial AR is integrating the technology so that it enhances the customer experience — makes it easier, more fun, and more convenient.”
For example, scanning a product package to see a 3D animation pop up can be delightful and surprising at first, but the excitement may quickly wear off if the idea does not serve any meaningful purpose.
Combining AR with an educational value may be a good choice. Ben & Jerry’s AR ice cream lids matched the playful brand image pretty well, while they educated the customers about locally sourced ingredients.
Mandiri’s “saving rhinos” game was not simply fun either, but it also made people feel better about themselves by supporting a good cause.
3D animations can also be considered ‘useful’ if the experience helps people decide, for example, visualize a product before buying, see Vespa’s AR ‘showroom’ app.
To provide real value, learn as much about your client’s target audience as possible. Focus on how AR can improve specific stages of their customer journey. As SkyWord Content Standard put it:
“As a marketer, find a situation where the only solution to the problem is an augmented reality app. With that mind-set, you’ll be ahead of the curve instead of following a trend.”
For example, fashion retailer New Look launched an AR campaign for students. Young shoppers could scan their New Look Student Card with their phone to unlock surprising offers, interact with apparel, and share it all in social media.
Students are short on cash, but they love to express themselves through their looks. New Look combined features to let them save money and get creative at the same time. Bingo!
Tip #5: Stay true to the brand image when creating an AR experience
Obviously, being true to a brand’s values is the cornerstone of good marketing. You and your clients should keep this in mind when experimenting with new experiences, such as Augmented Reality, too.
If your brand personality is ‘fun’ and ‘youthful’, you may come up with something crazy like Pepsi’s famous AR-powered sci-fi bus shelters.
If you are a premium brand, like Burberry, you might want to combine your AR experience with a more classy feel, see the Kisses campaign created for their beauty line.
Consider tech like AR and image recognition part of a ‘toolbox’ that serves your brand experience, and not the other way around
Tip #6: Design the experience according to the location or context
In their article about AR do-s and don’t-s, consulting company SeeMore Interactive used the alarming example of Red Bull’s subway ad ‘fail’ back in 2011.
The energy drink brand’s experience heavily relied on QR code scanning in a low connectivity area, leading to potential disappointment and threatening engagement rates.
It is very important to understand where and how users will be interacting with your content.
Will they be out on the street, at home, or inside a shopping mall? Will they be in a rush? What’s the best moment to make them stop for a sec and try the experience? How far will users stand from the banners or products they scan? Will they be willing to use mobile data or should they connect to a hotspot?
And the list goes on.
Luckily, modern technical solutions can tackle difficulties such as tricky light conditions, no connectivity or distance from the object, so you don’t need to worry about potential glitches.
But what about the creative concept itself, how is that related to the context of the experience?
We believe that the best AR campaigns take advantage of their physical environments.
Grand Visual’s “Angels Will Fall” experience for Lynx/AXE allowed passers-by to relive the commercial seen on TV and have their own sexy angel delivered to them straight from the sky. They used the gigantic space wisely and picking one of the busiest train stations in London was smart: after all, people usually want to kill time while waiting for the departure.
Another example: online retailer NET-A-PORTER created fake storefronts on a high street, adding a twist to the concept of ‘window shopping’. Scanning the ‘displayed’ items, passers-by could reveal catwalk videos, 360 degree product models and order the items they liked.
Tip #7: Create a Proof of Concept and test the experience
This advice may sound self-explanatory, but testing your experience before launching it for the masses is very important.
Even if the best AR and recognition solutions are 98% reliable, tests can help you make sure that users understand the concept. You can observe whether they can find out how to use the experience without making an effort, and whether it resonates with them (remember what we said about the Aha! moment).
As for pitching an idea to clients, we usually experienced that “seeing is believing” when it comes to AR.
Creating a simple Proof of Concept to demonstrate your idea is easy and cheap, thanks to free trial options and demo apps.
Tip #8: Track interactions
Winning an assignment and making your ideas become a reality feels great.
Still, at the end of the day, “Return on Investment” is what really counts to marketers —and to their managers.
Obviously, success and ROI can be interpreted in different ways. Ingenious campaigns may land you earned media coverage that contributes to the brand value and can be translated into money saved on PR.
But there are other metrics as well, such as engagement —time spent in an app or viewing the experience, number of interactions, shares etc.— and monetization, e.g. click through-s to a purchase page or video.
If you take a look at successful AR campaigns, you’ll see that most agencies put an effort into analytics and actually achieved attractive numbers.
The “hype factor” may let you sell an idea once, but proving profitability will help you win the race.
Image credits: Ben & Jerry’s, Condé Nast, Engine Creative / New Look, Grand Visual / Unilever Lynx, National Geographic, National Health Service UK, NET-A-PORTER, Roadshow Films, Tap2C, Vespa. Video copyrights belong to the respective content owners.