Marketing & Augmented Reality (AR): A Hot Trend

Have you heard about Augmented Reality (AR)? If you have not yet, you soon will as it will be showing up in a place you probably will least expect, your Starbucks coffee cup.  While you sip your latte at Starbucks this holiday season, you will be able to use your Smartphone to interact with the coffee cup and other items in the store.

Check out the YouTube video from Starbucks outlining this initiative:

Before I get into the details of Starbucks, I want to try to explain Augmented Reality.  I find the following definition from the article ‘7 things you should know about Augmented Reality’ (Educause Learning Initiative) quite helpful:

The goal of augmented reality is to add information and meaning to a real object or place. Unlike virtual reality, augmented reality does not create a simulation of reality.  Instead, it takes a real object or space as the foundation and incorporates technologies that add contextual data to deepen a person’s understanding of the subject. 

The applications for Augmented Reality are diverse from medical, manufacturing & repair, entertainment, fashion, navigation, advertising to so much more.  I have attached a YouTube video that demonstrates some of the uses of AR – it is fascinating:

You can even design a business card that when scanned by a Smartphone or other device with an AR app displays your avatar.  You can have an elevator pitch on your business card.  This is a sure way that the person you met at the cocktail party last week will be able to put a face to your name.

One recent example of Augmented Reality in marketing is Rihanna singing on the tin of Nivea Creme.  It is like having a personal performance in the palm of your hand.

The reason I think that Augmented Reality is now becoming more common for marketing applications is the Smartphone.  Smartphones have been further developed and can support an array of apps.  In addition, more people own a Smartphone.

Starbucks is a good example of a company embracing Smartphone technology and the increased use of Smartphones by their customers.  Starbucks is no longer just a coffee purveyor.  This has been made clear with their recent rebranding – removing Starbucks Coffee from the logo and updating its tagline to It’s bigger than coffee.  I truly believe that they are trying to lead the way with social media and Smartphone technologies to enhance the customer experience.  Since rebranding, they launched initiatives encompassing PR codes, Smartphone payments and now Augmented Reality.  I also want to point out that Starbucks is dabbling in gamification.  They have gamified their AR experience, offering a chance to qualify for a prize to all those who activate the five characters that come to life with the AR app.

I think that in 2012 we are going to see a lot of activity in the area of Augmented Reality, especially when it comes to marketing.  As companies continue to look for new ways to interact with their customers, Augmented Reality is going to become more of a marketing reality.


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