Commentary

Using Augmented Reality To Drive Social Success

Pokémon Go, with more than 20 million daily active users in the U.S. alone by Wednesday, is “much more than a game,” a Wall Street Journal article tells us: “it’s the future of how we’re going to interact with computers." More than that, Joanna Stern writes, AR “connects us to others and our environment in a way no technology has before.”

It takes social to an augmented level, in other words.

We asked a few sources to comment on whether Pokémon Go is indeed the breakthrough moment for augmented reality, as many observers are suggesting, and how brands can use AR to drive their own successes. Here are their edited responses.

Katy Keim, CMO, Lithium Technologies
It’s not uncommon for brands to jump on trends like this, and many have been toying with AR since its inception. However, it’s expensive to experiment. Brands are hesitant to invest and create standalone applications that may or may not have much staying power. Pokémon Go represents a unique opportunity because it showcases massive popularity and successfully achieved the ultimate blend of gamification and geolocation. It offers all kinds of new possibilities.

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We’ve studied gamification and have seen that it’s one of the most proven ways to engage a community and keep them coming back. Pokémon already had a cult following among Millennials and Gen Z so, with Pokémon Go, there’s huge potential for brands to reach this massive consumer base. And brands can actually take advantage of the physical spaces within the game with opportunities like pop-up stores and special deals. 

Smart brands will extend this through their social channels by organically tapping into the substantial buzz already surrounding the game. For example, brands can engage with and leverage the pictures players share of their Pokémon in brand-centric settings, exposing their reach exponentially without looking like they’re trying too hard. And with this demographic, that can make all the difference. But ultimately, we’d be challenging brands: “How do you make your own community ‘go’”?

Jeff Piazza, co-founder and UX director, Behavior Design
Is this really the breakthrough moment for AR?Yes and no. While the mass exposure to the AR medium is undeniable, the retention over time will answer that question.

Creating a branded experience that capitalizes on consumer enthusiasm for causal mobile games is the first step toward building greater awareness. The current popularity stems from a combination of several technologies coupled with a recognizable, yet slightly nostalgic, brand. A fresh perspective on the world is therefore created by this strong connection between the mobile device, social brand and physical space.

This winning formula will undoubtedly spark a deluge of AR apps that will flood the market. A great experience here will pave the way for future compelling content to emerge and be adapted as part of our common interaction with technology.

Here are three ways brands can use augmented reality to drive success:

  • Drive local business by offering incentives based on scavenger-hunt goals presented over social media channels.
  • Display digital images of products in a physical environment. AR can allow you to see how that new couch could look in your living room.
  • Learn more about the details of a physical product when looking at it through an AR mobile app. Get all of the details before making the purchase.

Evan Wray, VP and co-founder of Swyft Media
There’s been a significant global shift in the way brands and advertisers interact with consumers, especially highly sought-after Millennials or Gen Z, who are increasingly mobile-first, or mobile only. In other words, they are doing the majority of their content consumption on mobile devices like smartphones or tablets.

This created a domino effect, where we’ve seen teens and tweens become increasingly "banner blind" to traditional "desktop" advertising (disruptive banners, pop-ups, screen takeovers) that don’t resonate well, especially within their highly utilized and personalized mobile environment. Because of this, brands then had to get creative in their approach. The solution has been to explore alternative forms of engagement that enhance instead of interrupt the on-screen user experience.

Pokémon Go is a perfect example. It’s become an overnight phenomenon by combining the digital world with the real world in an organic, natural and, most importantly, fun way. The opportunity for integrated brand engagement within this environment is more than apparent. Whether it means AR has crossed a certain threshold remains to be seen, but there’s no question this coincides with a larger trend of brands learning how to successfully leverage new technology to create an engaging experience for their target audience.

Brand marketing in mobile is shifting to deep brand integrations as part of user experiences, and Pokémon Go is one great example.

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