Researched and written by Terry D. Williams Ph.D., Director of Research & Insights
Consider the following marketing strategies using augmented reality (AR):
1. On his way out of a theatre an avowed horror movie aficionado checks out a poster for an upcoming slasher movie. He holds his AR-equipped mobile device over a poster and a grisly scene, along with hair-raising music, pops up on his device.
2. It’s the day of the Big Game and a millennial is perusing different brands of beer. She holds her AR-equipped mobile device over a bottle of Heineken and a club with people her age dancing to hip-hop comes to life on her device.
3. Before leaving the store, a traveling salesman notices a Starbuck’s cup festooned with rose-colored hearts on the counter. He holds his AR-equipped device over the cup and hearts flutter like butterflies on his screen.
Impressive? Not according to Jes Scholz at the Search Engine Journal who believes the “wow” factor, which initially draws people in, wears off in the long run. In the above examples, the augmented object doesn’t enhance the real-world environment, but is only projected onto it. Such marketing will have little impact for the amount invested. For AR to be successful, one must do more than place virtual characters into real environments. Something functional must be created. Something the audience will actually be able to do with the product.
Scholz reported that a Purdue University study compared a print version and an augmented reality version of the same car ad. The print ad retained 82% of the factual information while the AR ad kept only 59%. She said that using AR impeded communication because the focus was on the technology rather than the message. Not only is the AR technology a distraction, it undermines the efficacy of the app.
What about those companies that seem to have gotten the message about marketing in a way that shows functional value for their products? Chad Recchia of Forbes lists three companies: Snapchat, IKEA and L’Oreal that possess this cachet. In addition to providing functional value, these AR apps afford users the convenience of virtually testing the usability of the product in the comfort of their homes.
With its advent in 2015, Snapchat was the first social media company to successfully bring AR features to its user base. Lenses (i.e. filters that respond to a user’s facial movements, adding sounds and interactive motion effects to video selfies) has become the company’s most popular feature. The lenses have made it easier for companies like Taco Bell to sponsor Snapchat. More importantly, Scholz reports that the technology behind lenses can be turned into a virtual “try-on” such as testing that bold red lipstick with Sephora or creating custom-fit glasses based on a 3D scan of your face with Topology Eyewear.
IKEA has IKEA Place, an app allowing customers to virtually place furniture inside their home. The app allows users to capture and share photos of virtually-placed furniture. L’Oreal has developed AR apps such as Genius and Style My Hair which allow users to virtually try-on makeup and hair styles on selfie-taken photos.
While using AR as a marketing strategy is relatively new, the idea of providing a product that has functional value is not. To be successful, marketing a product with AR must move beyond the “wow” factor and show how it can enhance the life of the consumer.