AR marketing growing

Augmented Reality (AR), trailed as the next big thing for 2010, may not have quite arrived yet, but it is on its way. A growing number of companies are using different approaches to enhance consumers’ experience and interaction with brands, products and music in new ways. Often they can win prizes.

What is changing?

Ralph Lauren shops in London and New York recently ‘disappeared’ only to reappear with spectacular models, followed by a 4D experience of a polo pony rushing out of the building facade, and demolishing it in the process. The area was then wafted with perfume to provide the fourth dimension. While not quite AR as such, it is an example of the way high impact digitial realities can transform advertising and create new experiences.

Watch makers Boucheron and Tissot and sunglasses company Rayban have all used a version of AR to help customers to try on their products – for fun or with a view to buying. Tissot installed their AR experiment in Selfridges department store window in London: sales rose 85%. A more practical ‘try it for size approach’ is UPS helping customers compare their package with the company’s mailing box range to choose the best fit.

Audi teamed up with Layar to provide selected consumers in selected cities in Russia with an AR look at the new car ‘in situ’, on the street. Ben and Jerry’s have used AR to create ‘Moovision’ -overlaid information displayed on to people’s phones triggered by information embedded in the packaging. AR is increasingly being used on mobiles to provide overlay information about locations or how to find the nearest loo or station.

Music fans can download specific icons or labels, print them off then by using their webcams, use the icons to create tunes or videos. Rock the Cheez competition, from Wise Food, works in a similar way and the most popular video will win its creator $2600 worth of music equipment.

Why is this important?

One forecast suggests AR marketing spend is to rise to $350 million by 2014, up from $6 million in 2008. Another suggests that mobile phone AR apps- of all kinds – income will hit $2.2 billion by 2015.

Although many of the applications are a little ‘clunky’ at present, requiring downloads, print-offs etc, that will change rapidly. Also AR is going increasingly mobile. Layar, founded 12 months ago as a high end smart phone app, has just signed a deal with a mainstream mobile maker – one of the top 3 – and the assumption is that it will be an integral app on a range of phones.

As consumers, and especially young consumers, move away from mainstream TV finding ways to get their attention at the computer is increasingly important. AR marketing provides one route – albeit sometimes to deepen the relationship with existing consumers rather than necessarily expand the reach.

As online shopping becomes ever more widespread, so the ability to try things on effectively is likely to increase sales and reduce returns. At present, virtual clothes look a bit like the stick on paper clothes you used to get for children’s paper dolls. But that will change. For now, just being able to try on a pair of earrings, a watch, sunglasses or ordinary glasses to better effect is a good start.

Providing customers with personalised versions of information embedded in packaging may be coming to a store near you via your phone soon.

See also our earlier trend alert, Putting the FUN in FUNctional from July 2008

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