Isn’t it cool how in futuristic sci-fi movies like Terminator and Iron Man, gadgets can see live information about everything around them? Using this technology, people can identify and analyze their surrounding environment to help them make decisions. Well, this technology exists today and is called Augmented Reality (AR).
AR superimposes graphics, text, audio and other enhancements over the real world in real time. Right now, researchers and engineers are busy experimenting with different AR displays from a pair of glasses to the windshields on vehicles. There’s no need to wait, however, if you have a smartphone or a tablet. AR apps are available for download now from your favorite app stores. Two of my favorites are Layar and GeoGoogle.
With AR apps, your device’s camera, GPS and network connection will change how you see the world. To illustrate, picture yourself walking down a sidewalk. You point your smartphone down the street. The view through your camera is now overlaid with useful and fun information, depending on the app. For example, you might see an icon on top of a building 500 feet from you that indicates that it’s a restaurant. With one click, you’ll see everything you need to know such as the menu and user reviews. Next door, you might see another icon indicating that this place of business is hiring or that the apartment on the second floor is for rent. Parked on the street, the app might recognize a brand of automobile and direct you to more information about its specs and where you can purchase it. The possibilities to enhancements on what we see, hear, and feel are limitless.
Although AR is still in its infancy, this technology’s potential to be a useful tool makes it quite relevant to the future of mobile marketing. In fact, one study indicates that AR technology will generate $2 million this year but jump to as much as $714 million annually by 2014 – mostly from subscription-based services, advertising and app downloads.
Some early AR marketing efforts such as the Volkswagen Beetle – “Juiced Up” and Starbucks Magic Cup campaigns have been criticized as publicity stunts that don’t help sell the products. In the Beetle’s case, it was inconvenient for people to have to travel to a certain part of the city to see the AR in action. As for Starbucks, they’re not in the business of selling cups.
So, as you begin to consider using AR as a viable marketing tool, resist the urge to turn it into a publicity stunt and rather make it line up with your long-term marketing goals. Also, make it fun, easy and rewarding enough for people to want to share it with all their friends. These are the qualities that make for a successful AR marketing campaign.