16/04/2020

Opinion piece: The use of AR in marketing

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21.04.2020, by Rosie Slayter

Shiny-new-toy or sustainable marketing tool?

If you have been paying attention to our recent articles this month, or even in the past couple of months you may have noticed a topic popping up here and there…That topic is augmented reality (AR), specifically augmented reality in marketing. AR has exploded into many varying industries in recent years, with its beginnings dating all the way back to Morton Heilig’s Sensorama in the 50’s.

The Sensorama

It first got its start in marketing when BMW released the very first piece of augmented reality marketing ever (see below). It was an AR enhanced print flyer that was simple in design, but sent waves through the industry at the time. Now AR is used by some of the biggest brands in the world, such as Coca Cola, McDonald’s, The Walt Disney Company, IKEA and many more.

One of my favourite examples of AR as an experiential marketing tool is Coca Cola’s collaboration with WWF, the Arctic Home campaign. This is one of my favourites because of what it proved AR could really achieve for brands and because I’m a sucker for emotional marketing. This campaign launched in 2013, pulled on everyone’s heartstrings and brought a seemingly distant but very important issue right to the feet of consumers. Through the use of AR, consumers were engulfed in the world of the polar bears. This built a close connection that fueled their empathy.

When the ice started to break and the mother polar was separated from her young cub, it hit close to home. This is because it was happening right in front of the consumers’ eyes, they could see themselves there, but couldn’t do anything to stop it. Not only that, but they could also relate to this feeling of separation. A lot of people know and empathize with the pain of separating from a family member. 

What Coca Cola and WWF did was leverage AR and immerse consumers in a pressing social issue and because of it, they were able to create powerful emotional responses. AR, in this case, was able to amplify feelings of an emotional connection by transporting them to this distant reality. This campaign was the perfect combination of innovative technology, emotional branding and marketing. The emotions triggered and memories made by  this experience are sure to last!

While it is so fun to leverage AR in marketing like this, huge public stunts might not be the most sustainable marketing tool. For some brands, it may be more feasible to implement AR into print marketing. However, there is actually quite a lot of debate over whether or not AR in marketing is sustainable at all. 

The argument against AR

The argument against AR in marketing is that it has shiny-new-toy syndrome and won’t last. It is argued that it is simply a gimmick and doesn’t achieve long-term objectives. This is true for some, but for those it’s likely because they don’t understand AR marketing enough to be able to successfully implement it. This is not necessarily their fault because AR in marketing is still so new, there’s still a lot of not known. Brands who are successfully using it are simply believing in its potential, taking a chance and going with it.

Final thoughts

I myself have full faith in AR as a sustainable marketing tool, I believe that the possibilities are endless and the advantages are significant. I think AR ultimately checks all the boxes for me both as a marketer and as a consumer.

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