Is Your Brand Leveraging Augmented Reality?

I listened to a very interesting presentation earlier this week from AMA on the topic of Augmented Reality (AR) from Michelle Calloway and Allen Cass of the Reno-based graphic design company Total Creative Solutions (TCS). According to Calloway and Cass, AR is a video-enhanced view of a physical real-world. Virtual elements merge with real life through mobile technology, and create an interactive experience where “James Bond could walk out of a movie poster, where buildings turn into dragons, and where pieces of paper could open up like a book.” AR offers a solution for your brand’s message to stand out among the estimated 3,000+ marketing messages we receive each day.

Where Does Augmented Reality Fit In?

From LEGO, to IKEA, to National Geographic, many companies are utilizing AR to help tell their stories and bring their products to life. To better illustrate, below is an example of how National Geographic staged a PR event using AR to bring awareness to the National Geographic Channel:

Initially, I was a little unsure about this new technology, how seamlessly it can be applied to one’s business, and how much it’s actually catching on. But in the past two days alone I’ve seen a few articles cross my radar, which suggest that AR is more than just a trend, and something that is likely to stick around for awhile. Take these headlines into consideration:

  1. Why Brands Are Already Looking at Google Glass, and Why Apple Should Be Worried: Experts say product could kill smartphones, alter marketing landscape for years to come (AdWeek, 2/21/12)
  2. How Augmented-Reality Content Might Actually Work (Mashable, 2/21/13)
  3. Filling In Vacant Urban Lots With Augmented Reality Supermarkets: Those people wandering through the abandoned places in China aren’t crazy, they’re shopping on their phones (CoExist, 2/20/13)

I first really paid attention to the term “Augmented Reality” with the 2009 release of the movie Avatar, when a promotional campaign was rolled out that introduced the concept of AR by linking promotional products to AR campaigns. Today the use of this technology has matured a bit, as in the example from the last story cited above where in China, the country’s biggest food e-commerce site is turning vacant lots into virtual stores with the use of AR: very interesting.

Will Augmented Reality Catch On?

According to Tomi Ahonen, consultant and author of 12 best-selling books on mobile, “this is no longer a niche market, this is starting to be a real mass market today.” As he explains in the below TEDx talk entitled “Augmented Reality – The 8th Mass Medium,” mobile media consumption began in 1997 and surpassed 1 billion users by 2011. AR consumption began in 2009, and Ahonen predicts that adoption rates will surpass that of mobile media consumption. He estimates that one billion people will consume AR media by the end of 2020, which is twice the number of those reading newspapers today:

Practical Application

Some of the best uses I’ve seen of AR include application to retail products, such as the ability for a sunglasses or clothing store to enable customers to “virtually” try on different types of sunglasses or outfits without actually having to physically put them on, or in medicine, where doctors can utilize AR to better explain a product or procedure in 3D.

According to this American Marketing Association report published on February 14th entitled “Virtual Shopping: What Augmented Reality Means for Retailers,” the author suggests that marketers wanting to experiment with AR should take a basic approach: “You can do these little, simple things that have potentially quite wide exposure,” according to one CEO of a company that provides a mobile augmented reality-based platform for furniture. “Then things go viral because it brings those products into people’s homes without them ever buying it. You will also start to see patterns in how people are using the technology.”

In conclusion, AR is definitely a technology worth paying close attention to. The options and applications for how it can be utilized are literally endless. It will be fun to see how brands find ways to apply this to their business, and how it will be utilized as a tool for increasing brand awareness and profit.

Now it’s your turn! How are you using AR for your business? What examples of AR have you come across that have really stood out? What AR campaigns do you think have been most successful and why?

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