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How to Use AR In Campaigns: The Ultimate Guide to Augmented Reality Marketing

Design | Development | Marketing | Unsorted - 23rd March 2020
By Marek Hasa

Augmented reality (AR) has the potential to boost your marketing campaign by making the target audience more engaged and emotionally connected to your brand. 

Would you like to learn how to make the most out of AR in your campaign? How to integrate the process of AR development in your campaign planning? How to pick the right technology, how much resources should you allocate, and what common mistakes should you definitely avoid when working with AR?

Then this extensive guide is precisely for you. We will cover:

  • How can AR boost your marketing communication?
  • What types of AR experiences should you consider?
  • How to choose the right technology for your AR development?
  • 5 mistakes to avoid when using AR in marketing
  • Why is this the perfect time to make use of AR?
  • Step by step guide to implementing AR in your campaign
  • Our AR development case studies

And here are the key take-aways: 

  • AR has tremendous potential for making your target group engaged with and immersed in your campaign.
  • You cannot rely on AR’s novelty effect. The technology must be smoothly embedded in the whole campaign plan if you want to avoid wasting resources.
  • WebAR has recently made AR in marketing more affordable – this is the perfect time to use AR in your campaign.

How can AR boost your marketing communication?

Before we answer this question, let’s just quickly cover the difference between virtual and augmented reality to make sure we are all on the same page. 

In short, virtual reality (VR) brings a user to a brand new digital world. An example would be a simulated walk through a virtual 3D castle. Contrarily, augmented reality (AR) brings artificial elements to a real environment.

AR layers virtual objects onto users’ reality – think of Snapchat or Messenger photo filters. Both technologies allow you to design interactions with the virtual world, or virtual elements in the real world.

We all know the concept of face filters. Instagram, Messenger and Snapchat keep adding new ones regularly. Source: https://twitter.com/instagram/status/875393592365338624

The most well-known AR-based digital product is definitely the Pokémon Go mobile game which launched in 2016 and became an instant sensation. Pokémon Go definitely proved the enormous potential of AR for the gaming industry. But can brands and campaigns also benefit from the technology?

The famous Pokémon Go AR game conquered the world very fast but its popularity then decreased rapidly. Source: https://www.svetandroida.cz/media/2019/10/pokemon-go-xiaomi-1024×576.jpg

The short answer is YES, they most definitely can! Otherwise we won’t be writing this extensive guide to AR development for marketing campaigns.

According to Deloitte, more than 90% of companies with $100+ million annual revenue leverage AR and VR in their marketing efforts. But how can we be sure they are not just pumping money into the most recent, “coolest” technologies available?

Well, we can’t be sure – many of their campaigns have probably flushed the AR-dedicated money down the toilet by only using it as a trendy, novel element. However, if AR is applied in a smart, well thought-through way, it can greatly boost your campaign’s interactivity, creativity, and immersiveness.

AR has many different applications in marketing. Retailers often use it to make in-store navigation more engaging and convenient. Source: https://cdn.dmnews.com/files/base/acbm/dmn/image/2018/01/960w/ar2_1363459.jpg

Your product or message becomes more tangible, and this in turn makes your target audience more emotionally connected to the brand. To back this up with numbers, a 2018 study found a 20+% increase in interaction rates and a 33% increase in click-through rates when AR was part of a communication campaign.

What types of AR experiences should you consider?

When using AR in your marketing campaign, you can really make the most out of your team’s creativity. The chance to create new virtual elements and bring them to the real world opens up an endless amount of possibilities.

However, you should try to sort your team’s ideas for interactive AR experiences into three main categories. This will come in handy when planning the AR development itself.

World effects

Let’s start with world effects. This type of AR is all about virtual objects becoming part of the real world, and usually also interacting with our reality. World effects are a great choice if you are bringing certain imaginary objects or creatures to life.

An example of an AR world effect – a 3D illustration of a flight’s progress by Boeing. Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCst8ndF0rw

Two great examples of world effects are our AR-based mobile game for Kofola, and our AR development project for Universal Pictures – both will be described in more detail later in the case study section.

The Foam Eaters 2 – an AR-based mobile game we developed for the “Czech Coca-Cola”. We will talk more about this project at the very end of this guide.

For Kofola, we developed a game which challenges users to catch virtual Foam Eaters flying around the real environment after scanning the logo of the company. The Universal project was all about bringing the famous dancing and finger-snapping hand to life after pointing the phone at the DVD of the Addams Family movie.

A world effect might be marker-based or surface-based. The former means that the virtual object is bound to a specific point in the real 3D environment. The example below shows an effect which is tied to the wine bottle label.

Contrarily, a surface-based world effect means the virtual object or creature is moving on a specific surface, such as a table or the floor. The video below shows an Australian toy store’s campaign activating young visitors with an AR-based Easter Egg Hunt. By scanning the game stickers found on the floor, children could “summon” virtual animals that were then running around them on a specific surface.

As you can see, world effects are perfect for designing a gamified experience for your target group. They allow you to get really creative, design your own playful virtual elements and bring them to life with varying levels of interactivity.

For instance, in 2018, Google Maps introduced virtual companions guiding you from A to B in a playful manner.

A fox navigating you from A to B with Google Maps. Source: https://cdn.searchenginejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/augmented-reality-google-maps.jpg

Another example of a surface-based AR experience is the very popular IKEA Place app – one of the pioneers among very practical applications of AR. The concept is quite simple: You can choose an item (usually a piece of furniture) from the catalogue and place it into your house to see how well it fits and matches with the rest of the room.

Filters

We are so used to fun photo filters being part of our everyday digital conversations that most people do not even think of them as a type of AR.

Snapchat is basically built around photo filters. Source: https://www.kindpng.com/picc/m/385-3851031_popular-snapchat-filters-2019-hd-png-download.png

Whether you personally are a big fan of photo filters or not, you have to acknowledge their popularity and ability to make people entertained and engaged, and to encourage interaction with one another.

The app first scans your face and then applies the filter on it. Source: https://miro.medium.com/max/1049/1*sb15wyBefpw2PhF6um5pbg.jpeg

If your campaign strategy is primarily social media-based, adding a custom filter to it might benefit its levels of engagement and entertainment.

Filters will also be a great choice for you if your plan is to bring your target audience an innovative, practical tool that will help them choose the right product without visiting a physical store. One of the most well-known examples is L’Oréal’s MakeUp Genius app from 2014 which offered a super-convenient try-on of most of the brand’s products.

Although we are most familiar with face filters, other applications might be developed too. A good example is the Wanna Kicks app from 2019 which allows you to try on a wide variety of sneakers from your home.

Another filter application might be so called hyper-reality in stores and malls. This type of AR is often used for engaging and immersive navigation around a specific real environment.

This supermarket app offers a convenient and engaging navigation towards products of your choice. Source: https://cdn.searchenginejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/augmented-reality-supermarket.jpeg

Making OOH ads fun again – that’s another goal for which an AR filter might be an excellent choice. All you need to do is create a fun and brand-relevant concept that will attract attention, design a custom animated filter and record the surroundings. The outcome of this process might be as crazy and heart-racing as this zombie attack in the streets of Vienna.

You can also work with OOH ads without installing anything in the streets. Just use the ads of your competitors. Last year, Burger King pushed the frontiers of its ever-lasting rival battle with McDonald’s by encouraging people to burn down McD ads with their AR app.

Portals

This type of AR allows you to take your target audience on a journey to discover a whole new world. When the experience is triggered, the user can look around and navigate through a virtual environment with their smartphone handled in the real world.

PortalAR is an AR app developed as part of the #ScotlandIsNow campaign, promoting Scotland among foreign students, tourists, entrepreneurs and investors. It opens up a portal which allows you to explore a number of different parts of the country and learn more about its landmarks, culture, and business potential.

How to choose the right technology for your AR development?

Alright, so you already have a better understanding of the different types of AR experiences. Let’s talk tech now! You will need to answer two main questions: What platform is most suitable for your AR development plans? And what is the ideal AR experience trigger for your campaign? 

Choosing the right platform

Your AR experience can be web browser-, app-, or social media-based. 

When deciding which of these options is the most suitable for your campaign, you should consider the communication touch points you are planning to introduce, the technological capabilities of your target audience, the time and place where people will most likely be confronted with your AR elements, and the way they should interact with them.

WebAR

The term WebAR describes AR experiences that are accessible through a common mobile web browser, without the need to download and install any special app. In our opinion, this technology is a game-changer in the field of AR marketing as it diminishes one of the main barriers to interacting with AR elements of a campaign – the fact that people hate downloading new apps.

Although opting for WebAR inevitably brings certain technological limitations, you will still be able to get creative with simple animations, videos, basic interactivity, and target image detection. A great tool for web-based AR development is the 8thWall SDK.

App AR

Choosing the app approach will untie the hands of your creative team. You will still be limited by the current technological advancements of AR but your possibilities will get much broader compared to WebAR.

IKEA created one of the most well-known AR apps – IKEA Place. Source: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/UudV1VdFtuQ/maxresdefault.jpg

Think of advanced interactions, mind-blowing graphics, or a playful interface designed fully in line with the overarching campaign. 

For this type of AR development, you will get to choose from a rich variety of frameworks such as ARKit, ARCore, Vuforia 9 or Unity 3D SDK. Our mobile app developers in London will be happy to come up with the most suitable technological solution for your AR campaign.

AR for social media

Are you working on a new social media campaign which could benefit from an AR element? Do you think that AR might spice things up nicely but you don’t want to make it one of your fundamental tactics and spend too much resources on AR development?

Then you might want to go for a custom camera filter. This will naturally largely limit your possibilities, however, a filter might still add a very nice engaging touch to your social media communications. 

Custom photo filter of Ben & Jerry’s. Source: https://www.adweek.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/benandjerrys-marshmellow-CONTENT-2017.png

There’s been a ton of successful filters developed for social media campaigns before. And the platforms are actively encouraging advertisers to create more. For example, Snapchat AR Lens offers a convenient, easy-to-use web builder of filters made of customizable pre-defined elements.

The convenient Snapchat AR Lens editor. Source: https://venturebeat.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/snaplwb1.jpg?fit=1496%2C748&strip=all

Triggers and interactions with the environment

This part of your AR development planning is all about getting in the shoes of your target audience and deep-diving into the use cases of your AR experience. 

Where, when, and how should people interact with your AR? What is the best way of intertwining the AR element with the rest of your campaign? 

As we’ve already covered, world effects can be either marker-based (locked to a specific point in the real environment), or surface-based (moving along a detected surface in the real environment). This should be mainly based on the practicalities of the target use situations.

But how should the AR experiences start? What will be the turn on button? 

Many AR campaigns use image-tracking. The experience is triggered once the user captures a specific element in the real environment. Mind that this doesn’t need to be a QR code, it can also be your product, for instance.

Part of a typical image-tracking AR workflow. Source: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Daniel_Wagner6/publication/216813818/figure/fig1/AS:305807443939328@1449921584357/Basic-workflow-of-an-AR-application-using-fiducial-marker-tracking_Q640.jpg

An alternative approach is location-tracking. The experience starts as soon as the user moves to a certain place in the real environment. Mind that the user first needs to allow tracking their location in settings to make this work. And for some user segments, sharing their location is a no-go.

5 mistakes to avoid when using AR in marketing

AR clearly offers a great opportunity for marketers to boost the engagement rates of their campaigns. 

However, as it is with many exciting, emerging technologies, AR experiences can also drain a large part of the budget if they are poorly integrated in the overarching communication plan.

Before you start with your AR development for marketing, make sure to go through our list of the most common pitfalls

1. Don’t rely on novelty

Yes, AR is still a very cool technology with great potential for creativity. But it is far from new

Making AR development part of your plan will not instantly make your campaign innovative and effective. You will need to figure out how to integrate AR in your campaign in the smartest way possible. The main goal is to create meaningful connections between you and the target audience, and to generate strong brand engagement.

2. Don’t jump right into AR development

Make sure you get a solid understanding of the technology and its capabilities and limitations before you delve into designing and developing your AR experiences. You will avoid wasted resources.

Reading this extensive guide is a good starting point but you should definitely invest more time and effort into acquiring a good overview of all the different approaches and AR technologies available. Or at least reach out to experts who will give you good advice.

3. Don’t divert attention away from your message

AR is a very captivating and immersive technology. It might very well take all the precious attention of your target audience away from the core of your campaign. Make sure you prevent that.

Your AR campaign elements should be in line with the main message that you want to convey. The AR shouldn’t create too much of a wow effect – this means that your target audience shouldn’t be so amazed by your use of AR technology that they cannot process your communication. Make sure it’s still about the message, not the medium.

4. Don’t be inauthentic or antisocial

If your brand personality is traditional and serious, creating a fun AR experience will most likely be a terrible move. Don’t use the technology in a way which doesn’t correspond with your target audience and the nature of your brand and product.

Make sure you carefully consider the sharing options and other social prompts as part of your AR development. This technology has a great potential for encouraging people to share your content. Make the most out of it by designing the AR experiences as social from the start.

5. Don’t build AR experiences for the latest iPhones

This pitfall is especially relevant if you decide to build an AR app. Sure, your creative team can come up with truly breathtaking concepts if you’re working with an app. However, it is crucial to consider the performance of your target audience’s phones.

Make sure your app and the AR experiences it offers are inclusive. This means that all (or at least 98%) of your target segment can run the app and enjoy the AR interaction without any technical issues. Otherwise you will make people disappointed, or perhaps even annoyed and mad, which is certainly not what your marketing goals are, right?

Why is this the perfect time to make use of AR?

Are you still hesitating to invest in AR development? These are the three main reasons why we are convinced that this is the perfect time to make AR part of your marketing campaign.

Increasing expectations of your target audience

The constant battle for attention is getting increasingly tough in the world of marketing. A well-resonating core message is often not enough. A compelling storyline also doesn’t always do the trick, neither does precise and original creative execution.

People seek meaningful, immersive interactions with brands. Offer your target audience mutual engagement, an innovative, unexpected exchange of ideas and actions via an emerging technology – AR.

Better performance of their phones and browsers

AR technology has been with us for many years already. However, it wasn’t until recently when the performance of an average smartphone reached a level which allows you to truly leverage the full potential of AR in your campaign. Better performing smartphones unlocked all abilities of AR apps for marketing campaigns.

The same goes for web-based AR. Browsers now enable much better quality and speed of AR effects – and these are two key conditions of effective design and development of AR experiences.

WebAR makes AR so much more convenient

For a long time, the necessity of downloading and installing a new app just for the purpose of a one-time AR interaction with a brand’s campaign was a deal-breaker for many companies. And it made all the sense in the world. People generally tend to avoid downloading new apps as much as they can – the incentive for installing it would need to be very large.

Luckily, a hero arrived to save the show – WebAR, especially its current possibilities, are a great alternative to AR apps. Without asking your target audience to go through the hassle of downloading an app, this technology still allows you to come up with very creative concepts boosting the interactivity and engagement of your campaign. Moreover, the AR development process is simpler, faster and cheaper if you opt for a web-based solution.

Step-by-step guide to implementing AR in your campaign

Let’s summarize the key decision points you will need to go through when implementing AR in your campaign. Here’s our overview of the process of AR development for marketing:

1. Is AR for you?

There’s no shame in answering “no” to this crucial question. Although AR has already proven itself in a variety of conditions, it still remains a rather fun, loosen-up technology

Make sure you carefully consider if the use of AR goes well with your brand identity, and whether or not it will facilitate a meaningful interaction and connection between the brand and the campaign’s target audience.

2. Concept creation

The most creative step of the journey. Ideally, the concept for your AR experiences should come from the overall campaign idea, not the other way around. 

Get together with your creative team and come up with an engaging concept suitable for a technology which allows you to bring virtual objects and places to the real world.

3. Interactions and content

So you already have your creative concept, great! Now let’s design all interactions a user will have with the AR experience. What will they be able to do, and how? Make sure the interactions are not too complicated, and that the whole AR experience is easily shareable.

And what exactly will be the content of your AR experience? Beautifully crafted virtual objects work the best of course but you should be realistic in terms of scope and quality even before you get to the next point of our process – working with the budget.

4. Budget

This is a key phase of every campaign planning. First and foremost, you should decide with your team on the most comfortable budget zone – the resources you are willing to allocate to AR development while taking into account the creative concept you came up with and the added value it will bring to the campaign.

The total cost of AR development will depend on a number of factors: the type of the AR experience, the quality and number of models, the type and length of animations, and the type of interactions. These factors can always be adjusted based on your optimal budget zone.

To give you an idea of the cost of AR development, let’s take a look at these three general indications: A custom face filter will cost you £3.000+, a more creative AR experience will range between £5.000 and £10.000, and a very complex AR app such as a mini-game will require £10.000+.

5. Finding the right partners for AR development

Another very important part of your journey. Make sure you find skilled and experienced professionals who will not only conduct your AR development but will also guide you through the whole process and advise you to pick the most suitable solution.

Our app developers from London have the skills and experience needed to create beautiful AR experiences, both app-based and with WebAR. If you are interested in teaming up, or if you just want to ask a couple of questions regarding the potential of AR for your campaign, don’t hesitate to contact us.

6. Ideal solution – technology, platform, and dev. process

If done successfully, step 5 will also ensure that you succeed with step 6. In other words, your AR development partner should ideally advise you on the most suitable technology, platform, and development process for your particular project.

Things to consider here include whether the AR experience will be app-, web-, or social media-based, if the trigger will be an image- or location-tracker, and if your world effects will be surface- or marker-based. We covered all of these dilemmas in the sections above.

7. Implement, test & launch!

Alright, that’s it, you are ready to bring your first AR baby to life! The demandingness of the process of AR development might vary according to the complexity of your AR experiences and other factors too.

Make sure you enjoy the whole journey towards the end product. But before you run the campaign and share your AR experiences with the world, test everything thoroughly – every detail matters with AR!

Our AR development case studies

Congratulations, after reading this elaborate guide to AR marketing, you can consider yourself an expert!

Let’s wrap things up with two of our AR case studies to demonstrate that we are also experts on AR development for marketing campaigns.

Universal Pictures: WebAR for Addams Family

Universal was looking for a partner to offer the fans of Addams Family an extra dose of engagement with the show. The new animated movie was about to be released on DVD. The goal was to offer people a convenient, easy-to-trigger interaction with this new product.

“The Thing” dancing to the Addams Family theme song – picture of an AR experience designed and developed by us.

The chosen virtual element was the show’s character “The Thing” which we made dancing to the popular theme song of the Addams family. First, we needed to design the interactions and content, and decide on the trigger and ending of the AR experience. Then we designed the character’s 3D model.

The baby steps of our 3D animation process for this campaign.

The world effect we created could be initiated by scanning the DVD. We used the 8thWall technology for WebAR which offers great image-tracking quality. After playing the AR animation, users were invited to join the movie’s community on Facebook.

Although this AR experience was a rather minor element of the overall campaign for the launch of the DVD, it resonated very well with the target audience.

Kofola: The Foam Eaters 2 AR game

We teamed up with advertising agency WMC|Grey to create a summer campaign for a beverage brand which is best known as the “Czech Coca-Cola”. The objective was to engage and entertain the large fan base including both adults and kids with a mobile game supported by a series of TV ads.

We helped the agency to design the game mechanics and contributed to the tender-winning pitch. After winning the project, we provided WMC|Grey with technical guidance during the whole AR development process and brought the AR-based mobile game to life.

The concept was very entertaining. People were encouraged to order a draft Kofola in a pub and scan the brand’s logo to summon so-called Foam Eaters – beautifully designed creatures flying around your glass and stealing your foam. The goal was obviously to catch them all! The game included many different levels and special hunting gear unlocked with more progress made.

This is how the mobile game works – pretty straightforward, right?

The mobile game was a great success among the target audience. People were excitedly sharing it on social media and some users spend incredible amounts of time playing it. A meaningful interaction and connection with the Kofola brand was achieved.

And we are ready to do the same magic for you – if you’re interested in AR development for marketing campaigns, get in touch!

Marek Hasa
Written by
Marek Hasa
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