Augmented Reality is often touted as a user-friendly and efficient way to bring brands to consumers. However, due to the shock value of the still nascent technology and the engagement of a well-designed experience, AR can also be a great way to bring consumers into your brand.
Augmented Experiences – Not Augmented Ads
Augmented Reality (AR) technology uses digital elements superimposed over a user’s live camera feed. Because most modern smartphones can run most AR experiences, just about everyone has access to AR content. That’s a powerful tool for companies looking to grow their brands.
“Currently, for brands using AR to sell goods, it is quite common to use the technology to digitally place real-world items in the user’s environment. While this is a good application of the technology, brands would be mistaken to stop just there. With a bit more imagination AR can be used to create an experience that has a much more emotional impact on the user.”
Because AR relies on the view of the user’s physical surroundings, including the objects, people, and settings that are meaningful to them, AR experiences are inherently personal in a way that no other medium is. This is helpful because a strong brand isn’t just about “stuff” either. Bridging physical and digital experiences can help to convey values that aren’t just material.
Often, the most successful branded activations aren’t about selling things at all. Rather, experiential AR is about communicating with people on a personal level by letting them explore the world around them through the window of augmented reality.
Experience Something New
Because AR is an emerging technology, we can limit ourselves by thinking about it as strictly a way to experience futuristic applications. AR can also allow users to put themselves in the past or experience another place as it is today. For brands that have long histories or a far reach, this can be a surprisingly impactful way to engage your community.
Step Into a Memory
Martin was an iconic sitcom that ran from 1992 to 1997. The show opened to cast members posing and dancing infront of solid color backgrounds and their names in the show’s memorable font. This unique and memorable piece of television history was begging to get an AR twist.
In 2022, the surviving cast members reunited on BET+ to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the show’s premiere. At the event, visitors had access to a screen where they could dance and pose to have the magic of AR place them into the show’s familiar opening. They could then keep and share the clips, or edit them together to make their own show openings.
Fans of the series were already excited to be at the reunion, which was its own piece of Martin history. However, the AR experience allowed them to be more than viewers of an event. They were able to participate in the show’s history in a unique and memorable way.
Visit Miami Without Leaving Home
“Priceless” is a promotional initiative for MasterCard holders, giving them access to membership perks including online experiences. These experiences are increasingly taking place in Augmented Reality.
MasterCard recently worked with ROSE and 8th Wall to create an AR tour of artwork in Miami’s Design District. In this window to another world experience, the user’s phone became their ticket to a guided tour of the renowned art installations.
Touchscreen navigation even allowed Priceless members to move around the artwork to see them from any angle in their 360-degree virtual view just as they would if touring the Design District in person. A plane ticket to the same experience in person would have been a hefty gift from MasterCard and a hefty commitment from card holders, but the AR experience was achievable for both.
See Yourself Differently
In the Martin example, the background was all that was augmented and the people stayed the same. However, AR filters and lenses – the joy of modern social media – can help viewers see themselves in new ways as well.
Using AR for social media marketing is also a good business strategy. Social media users use the platform to share their lives with their friends as well as to share in the lives of their friends. A well-designed AR experience can bring viewers into your brand but viewers are also more likely to share their experiences with their own followings.
Enter the Maddenverse
Clothing company Steve Madden already has a strong conventional social media strategy, which encourages customers to tag the company in social media posts that feature themselves wearing Steve Madden apparel. The company can then feature these customers’ user-generated content on its own social media platforms and website, both of which provide purchase options.
In 2021, the company decided to get more immersive in their social media campaigns and launched “the Maddenverse.” For one activation, the company worked with ROSE to produce an AR filter for Instagram that turned user selfies into avatars of Steve Madden models. Users were again encouraged to share the images and tag the company’s profile.
Like the Martin experience, this Maddenverse activation didn’t cost any money for users or make any money for the company. That wasn’t the point. Rather, the experience allowed fans to express their brand support in a new and fun way, growing their loyalty to the brand while also encouraging them to put the brand in front of their own social media followings.
In just one week, almost 18,000 people used the filter to create personalized AR images of themselves in the Maddenverse. The users sharing those images resulted in a total 675,000 impressions in the first week. This illustrates the kind of scale that using AR for social media marketing can achieve when users are encouraged to share their creations with others.
Give Your Audience Whatever They Want
Customers aren’t just customers anymore. They can be your audience, but they can also be creators working in a sort of partnership as casual ambassadors for your brand. This has huge potential, but it will only work if you cultivate a meaningful relationship with them.
Experiential AR and using AR on social media can help to remind your audience why they’re passionate about your brand and it can allow them to express that passion to others. But it may mean rethinking what you want to give your community and what your community wants from your brand, other than just a purchasable product.
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