Why Augmented Reality Is the Next Frontier for Branded Content
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Although virtual reality (VR) is catching a lot of buzz, brands may find that augmented reality (AR) has far more applications for their content. Why? Because unlike VR, which provides an entertaining experience that removes consumers from reality, AR brings utility and context to the real world. AR technology acts as a useful layer of information on top of the user’s everyday experience. Inserting themselves into this information layer enables marketers to achieve one of branded content’s key goals: providing value — whether that be highly-relevant information to help consumers navigate their environment or to assist in making real world purchases (see the Ikea example below).
Why AR Is Likely to See Wider Consumer Adoption Than VR
In a noisy world where consumers are inundated with information, AR enables people to interact with content that is most relevant to where they are or what they’re doing. AR apps collect valuable data about the user, taking into account their location, camera feed, user profile, and behaviors. Capturing information about the user’s behavior and environment, processing it, and providing contextual information gives an individual a situational advantage.
Augmented reality is also easy for consumers to access (on their ever-present mobile devices), conducive to frequent use (Pokémon Go is a prime example), and relatively inexpensive to produce. Additionally, technology has advanced to where we are increasingly able to discern a user’s context and make information valuable in a granular form.
Technology: Parsing Data to Discern Context
To execute AR effectively, brands will need to continue to invest in audience data management, as well as the ability to parse and understand data at a granular level and in real time. Brands will need to be able to ingest the data provided by the AR app and mobile device and determine user intentions. Cloud data storage as well as analytics tools will be central to these efforts.
How Brands Are Using Augmented Reality
1. Provide Utility to Consumers
Many brands are using AR technology to allow users to test or visualize products. Ikea, for example, launched a furniture-placing app in 2013 which lets users view what a piece of Ikea furniture might look like in their home. Similarly, L’Oréal Paris created an app that allows consumers to try on different makeup and hairstyles using a Snapchat-like filter.
2. Reveal Contextual Insights
In conjunction with the release of Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures — a movie that tells the real-life story of three African American women who worked at NASA as “human computers” — IBM released the app “Outthink Hidden.” Outthink Hidden reveals the stories of several women who impacted the STEM space. The app plays on the hidden theme of the movie by revealing these women’s stories in select cities and locations. Not only does the app reveal a piece of history, but it also reveals the role IBM technology played in many of these groundbreaking moments, tying the brand to an inspiring narrative.
3. Gamify a Space
Pokémon Go isn’t the only Augmented Reality game that’s been a hit with consumers. Cedar Point, an Ohio-based theme park, created “The Battle for Cedar Point,” an app that places users into different roller coaster-themed clans to compete with one another throughout the park. Players earn points for their clan when they scan different areas of the park with their smartphone. The app encourages users to explore the park and share their clan’s successes on social media. Now in its second year, the app has added trivia and mini-games to provide more ways for clans to earn points.