Augmented Reality: The Hottest Thing Marketers Don't Want

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, September 18, 2017

Last week, all of our Snapchat bitmoji became 3D with the launch of some new “World Lenses.” At best they’re entertaining and, admittedly, kind of fun. And while these new lenses are a great step forward for Snapchat’s Bitmoji, we shouldn’t expect marketers to set aside a healthy 2018 budget for AR…just yet. Why? 

We recently surveyed over 600 marketers across industries, roles, and levels to find out what agency “digital” marketing capabilities and media trends are most important. We asked them to prioritize (out of a list of over 40) the capabilities they felt are the biggest drivers for their business. Things that popped to the top include digital strategy, content strategy, CRM, and customer experience (CX). 

When asked what they plan to spend more money on in 2018, marketers emphasized emerging media and innovation as their top pick. However, at every cut of our data, their lowest priority (whether analyzed via business alignment, spending, c-suite-only execs, or industry) is augmented, virtual, and/or mixed reality. 



At first, this was a bit surprising given their planned investments on emerging media. But the thing is, most marketers have yet to see real business-driving applications of any immersive-type media outside of a few exceptions—like visualizing furniture in your home. Let’s face it, most marketers’ introduction to AR has been either Pokémon GO or Snapchat lenses. Meanwhile, VR is still a clunky user-experience for the masses, and mixed-reality has yet to prove itself outside its conceptual stage. So grouping AR, VR and MR together doesn’t make sense because they’re different user experiences and maturing at different speeds. 

In fact, because of its growing accessibility and ease of use, AR seems to be much better poised than ever to leapfrog VR in the marketing landscape. Having to buy a separate headset that people aren’t going to carry around (let alone wear in random public settings) isn’t a recipe for mass usage. In contrast, AR is embedded directly into the very hardware that’s practically attached to us at every moment of every day—our smartphones. 

Last week’s iPhone X announcement shined an even bigger light on Apple’s ARKit, revealed earlier in 2017 at the Worldwide Developers Conference. With the device’s faster processer, new gyro accelerometer and calibrated camera, the new flagship iPhone is literally optimized for AR. 

As the likes of Apple, Facebook, and Google lean heavily into augmented reality and embrace the developer community with open and easy access, you can bet AR will evolve beyond its superficial applications into more practical business solutions. 

And with eMarketer forecasting close to 50 million AR users in the US next year, augmented reality is very relevant for brands fighting the daily share battle. So as marketers finalize their budgets for 2018, they should plan to spend more on augmented reality initiatives because it will have a business-driving impact on both their digital and CX strategies—two things that we know are top priorities for them. It just requires designing AR for utility rather than entertainment. Dog ears and dancing hotdogs, anyone?


3 comments about "Augmented Reality: The Hottest Thing Marketers Don't Want ".
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  1. Tom Faulkner from EMA, September 19, 2017 at 10:30 a.m.

    Interesting perspective, Mike, and you mentioned, marketers haven’t seen many business-driving applications except for a few ideas like visualizing furniture in one’s home. My mind immediately thought of the fashion industry, but then I found this article from Forbes offering more ideas. (See link below.)

    I realize, ideas are one thing, proven results are another, however, this makes me wonder if marketing experts are focusing too much on the novelty of the tools and not on their creative application.

  2. Patrick Stroh from Brunner / data science, analytics, September 21, 2017 at 9:39 a.m.

    The "tech savvy" component of marketing continues to deepen and accelerate.  This is yet another platform which requires yet another expansion of skills among marketers, with all the attendant strategic implications of "splintering channels."  Learn it, build it, or outsource it.  The latter increases the likelihood of disintermediation, building it is even harder (for most marketing companies), which leaves ... learn it.  The channel silos continue to fall/blur/get complicated, and the requirements for bright, agile, tech-savvy marketers continues to accelerate.

  3. David Jones from Invisible Toys, April 27, 2018 at 5:10 a.m.

    I want to stoppedl on the examples of marketing companies, I don't  agree with you, there are many areas where AR technology applies world brands (Nike, Coca- Cola, Loreal) in their practice and this is enjoyed by the whole world. I agree that their success was before the introduction of AR technology . But my opinion, if you choose the right idea for the application and understand the specifics of AR technology  then your business is waiting for success. If you are interested, I can advise a useful guide on how to use the augmented reality in marketing -

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