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Augmented reality moves beyond gimmick to drive brand utility

Initial augmented reality efforts have tended toward the gimmicky but as marketers gain confidence in the technology, their strategies are starting to veer toward greater utility and interactivity.

Augmented reality can really give a campaign that wow factor to engage consumers in a fun and exciting way, but marketers need to shy away from using the technology without a meaningful purpose for users. While many brands are still in the experimental phase, some are beginning to commit to more sophisticated implementations.

?Augmented reality is still very much in the experimental bucket for most brands, and most of the implementations so far are still gimmicky,? said John D. Fauller, chief operating officer of Snipp Interactive, Inc., Washington.

?We're starting to see more focused brand building campaigns using A/R and eventually will start seeing truly utility applications using A/R - that?s when you know it's officially here to stay,? he said.

Augmented reality trends
Most brands are playing with augmented reality in limited and small scale ways, trying to get a better understanding of what works with consumers and a handle on the different use cases for the technology, per Mr. Fauller.

However, fewer marketers are using augmented reality just for a gimmick, and more are using it for utility, in a way that is associated with the functionality of the brand.

Eventually, Mr. Fauller expects more programs to eventually break out of the mobile silo to support other media.

The executive advises marketers against using augmented reality to let users simply view a dancing creature and encourages them to use it in a creative but practical way.

?At its core, AR provides all types of information such as location, heading, visual, audio and acceleration data, and opens an avenue for real-time feedback,? Mr. Fauller said. ?You're starting to see a profusion of different ways in which A/R can being used, and a true blurring of the lines of what actually constitutes A/R ? which to me is exactly what A/R is about in the first place.?

Annie Weinberger, general manager at Aurasma, also sees marketers using augmented reality in more sophisticated and complex ways.

Since consumers are becoming used to augmented reality, they expect to see something new and unique.

Marketers should therefore leverage the technology to make it more interactive with multiple click-throughs.

Ms. Weinberger also noticed that augmented reality was being used in different forms, such as product slideshows, special offers, competition entries, instructional tutorials, quizzes and puzzles.

Another good use of augmented reality is for retailers to let consumers try on products virtually. The feature can provide a 360-degree image that lets consumers immerse themselves in the experience.

Augmented reality winners
A number of marketers stand out for successfully using augmented reality as a part of their campaigns.

IKEA did a great job of including augmented reality in the company?s 2014 catalog. The feature lets consumers see how a piece of furniture would look in their own house (see story). 

Snipp?s Mr. Fauller pointed to a few brands that were successfully implementing augmented reality features.

British supermarket chain Asda Stores created a fun Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt app to encourage downloads.

The app included an interactive experience that let consumers meet the Easter Bunny through augmented reality.

Another good use of augmented reality was in the Lexus in Kuwait campaign. Consumers could get a 360- degree view of the interior of the company? new F Sport.
Aurasma's Ms. Weinberger pointed to singer Bon Jovi as an example of a great augmented reality execution.

Bon Jovi embedded augmented reality into the band?s mobile application. When users point the feature at the band?s latest album artwork, an augmented reality experience would pop up.

The augmented reality feature kept changing depending on the day.

?This was exciting and fun for fans, and it kept them interacting with the album on a regular basis to find new content,? Ms. Weinberger said. ?It demonstrated an excellent use of the technology?s cloud update capabilities, keeping users engaged with both the app and the album."

Holiday campaigns
During the chaos of the holiday season, it is important for a marketer stand out in a crowd.

Aurasma's Ms. Weinberger thinks that augmented reality is a great way to do that.

?Because there?s so much noise during the busy holiday season, marketers need to stand out and really differentiate themselves,? she said. ?One great way to do that is through the use of AR, which can connect physical gift items with relevant digital offerings."

Snipp?s Mr. Fauller agrees that augmented reality will play a big role this holiday season.

?AR is an iterative technology, which allows brands to continue use of their existing mobile assets right alongside or even within newer AR initiatives,? he said. 

?Expect to see lots of Christmas themed characters and graphics and icons, but hopefully also some applications that will last beyond just this season and get talked about for months to come afterwards,? he said.

Ms. Weinberger thinks that augmented reality will become more common in marketing campaigns during the holiday season and throughout the year.

?Augmented reality is really becoming much more prevalent in the marketplace, and consumers are adopting quickly,? she said.

?At the same time, this rapid adoption is driving informed consumers to expect more fulfilling augmented reality experiences. Marketers are responding quickly with better AR executions to meet these mounting customer expectations.?

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York