How to use Augmented Reality for PR

Augmented reality (AR): It may sound like something out of a sci-fi film, but the mysterious technology has been creeping steadily on to our smartphones and games systems over the last few years, and now it’s making its way into mainstream marketing campaigns.

While you don’t have to worry about the rise of the machines just yet, it’s a good idea to know what AR is and be aware of the potential benefits of it for PR.

So what is augmented reality?

Augmented reality (AR) is technology that enhances our view of the real world with computer graphics. Take Niantic’s Pokémon Go for example, which I talked about in a previous blog. The location-based augmented reality game requires players to use the GPS capability on their smartphones to locate, capture, battle, and train Pokémon, who appear on the screen as if they were in the same real world location as the player.

Pokémon Go was a huge money-spinner for Niantic. The combination of the iconic Pokémon characters and innovative use of AR led to more than 750 million downloads, making it the most profitable app of 2016. Naturally, this got Niantic tons of global coverage.

How are brands using AR in their marketing and PR campaigns?

If you’re keen to use AR to improve your customer’s brand experience, and get the attention of the media, you need to find an innovate way of using it. Here’s some inspiration from a few familiar brands:

Charlotte Tilbury enhances the in-store experience with AR

One of the best uses for AR is something called ‘rich brand augmentation’, which is effectively using it to superimpose products on to a customer, or their environment. For example, cosmetics brand Charlotte Tilbury installed an augmented reality mirror in their Westfield store to enable customers to experiment with make-up without having to try it on. Shoppers can stand in front of a mirror embedded with AR technology and see a virtual version of themselves reflected back, and can choose any one of 10 looks to be superimposed on to their face in the mirror. Eyeshadow, mascara, lipstick, and foundation are mapped to their features, so they can turn their head, look more closely, or close one eye to check out the eyeshadow. Customers can also save the looks and share them on social media.

The app and brand experience has got everyone talking. After all, a ‘magic mirror’ is a significant boost for anyone that’s not sure what make-up suits them.

Bringing the in-store experience to customers’ homes

In the autumn of 2017, Swedish furniture brand retailer IKEA launched an augmented reality app called IKEA Place. The app enables customers to point their phone at a space in their house and see how various items of IKEA furniture would look, and fit. It automatically scales products based on room dimensions, with 98% accuracy, and the technology is so precise, users can even see the texture of the fabric on the item of furniture.

When it was launched, the app immediately took off, because it was fun, innovative, and took the pain out of the furniture-buying experience. It was also mighty convenient: users could furnish their entire house without setting foot in an IKEA store.

IKEA was the first home furnishings brand to bring this technology to people, and the gamble paid off. The public loved it; as did the press. The app was universally praised, and IKEA’s credibility rocketed.

Adidas incorporates augmented reality into their product

Some brands have gone as far as to incorporate augmented reality into their products. For example, sportswear brand Adidas released a line of augmented reality trainers that enabled users to access a 3D-virtual world. It sounds bizarre but the range of Adidas Originals shoes were each printed with an AR code on the tongue. When users held the code up to their webcam, they gained access to an exclusive game-filled virtual world, which could be navigated using the trainers as a controller. Adidas released three themed AR games; one based on music, one on Star Wars and one on skating.

The trainers sold out and were so popular that Adidas created a range for children too.

The novelty factor worked well for Adidas. The trainers were branded as exclusive and sold out in days. The press attention helped whip people into a frenzy. It was a clever way to add value to the product and boost brand awareness.

Ready to AR your way into the press?

If you really want to wow your customers and the media, augmented reality is a great way to do it, and there are lots of creative ways you can use it to add value.

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