If you’re a serious marketer, it’s almost a certainty that you’re fielding questions related to the emerging field of Augmented Reality … and if you’re not today, you will be tomorrow.
There are plenty of articles that go into the various flavors and nuances of the technology, so we’ll leave that be so we can focus on a more interesting and impactful topic: the intersection of experiential marketing and augmented reality.
When you think about it, AR is really just a new dimension of experiential marketing. Whether it's through a phone, goggles or something more custom, being immersed in a digital world is the new experiential frontier.
As with all emerging tech, however, it can be intimidating for marketers to dip their toes into untested waters. If that sounds like you, then you’ve come to the right place. BFG’s multi-decade experiential discipline has been rich territory for being early in the AR space. Below, we share three key learnings that are distilled down from years of AR and Experiential work for the likes of LG, 19 Crimes and Mello Yello.
Event Marketing and AR Terminology
Just like in previous stages in the digital revolution, AR introduces a whole new vocabulary for marketers to familiarize themselves with. Here are just a few that should be in your toolbox if you’re ready to jump in.
Markered AR: An Augmented Reality experience that is triggered when a camera identifies a given object (anything from a QR Code to a human face). Often these experiences are relative to the marker image, i.e. scanning a brand logo may cause digital birds to fly around the logo.
Markerless AR: An Augmented Reality experience that does not require image recognition to be triggered. These experiences might require the camera “sensing” floors, walls, ceilings, etc. to give a more realistic, immersive feeling to the audience.
Room-Scale AR: An Augmented Reality experience that is confined to the space that the audience is placed in. Rather than a flat experience, the audience is immersed in an environment that enhances all aspects of the given room. Note: “World-Scale AR” is a related term that denotes no physical or geographic boundaries for an experience (Think: Pokemon Go).
The entire vocabulary of the field would take far too long to list here, so if you love geeking out on this stuff like we do, check out the AR subreddit where you’ll quickly get up to speed with the newest terms.
What drives AR Cost?
Obviously we would all love to let our creativity run wild in this new frontier of digital experience, but as marketers, we are almost always constrained by budgetary realities. What is difficult with AR is that cost factors are not terribly intuitive. World-Scale AR is not necessarily more expensive to develop than Room-Scale AR, for example.
Many things can drive cost up for AR activations: gamified interactions, multi-user involvement, high-res image detection, GPS integration … the list is growing every day.
When you pair AR with Experiential Marketing, things get doubly challenging. Does your activation need a strong wifi connection? How can someone take a selfie for sharing if they’re using their phone for the experience? Will people download an app for a single use case?
Despite all of this uncertainty, these variables combine to make a one thing abundantly clear: You should build with partners who think in the long-term. AR Startups are popping up everywhere, but be wary of shops that may not be around in two years. You don’t want to invest six figures on a whizz-bang program now, only to have to start from scratch next time.
AR Beyond the Event
While it’s tempting to focus on the in-person experience, the expense of the build and the digital nature of AR means that brands aren’t limited to just the footprint of whatever booth or canopy they’re stationed in. Consider structuring a tiered experience: one for those in-person, and one for people who can’t attend for one reason or another.
Extending doesn’t just mean geographically, either. Often your in-person activation is limited to a given window of time, but the digital experience doesn’t have to be stuck in a single Saturday. Plan accordingly, and the impact from the investment can carry on long after the day-of excitement.
Finally, think about extending the analytics all the way to ROI. Many AR experiences to-date have been little more than first-mover novelties. An audience may gain awareness because of the shiny experience they had, but the brand often loses any visibility into marketing attribution. By extending the AR experience into your CRM pipeline, you should be able to track how the initial AR experience impacts consideration, intent, and ultimately purchase through the sales funnel.
In summation, don’t think of AR and Experiential Marketing as two separate disciplines. Think of Augmented Reality as the next frontier of Experiential Marketing, and as opening up a treasure trove of superpowers for brands who invest in this frontier. At the end of the day, though, the key to unlocking the rewards is to find a partner who talks the talk, walks the walk, and (most importantly), you can trust to think in your long-term best interest.