By Andrew Davison, a digital media and social marketing specialist at Ziggurat Brands, London
Augmented reality for those unaware is enhancing a real life view of something with additional, digitally generated input. Augmented reality in a passive form has been around for some time, with one of its first uses being to project the ‘first down’ lines on television broadcasts of American football. Recent advances in mobile internet technology have turned people’s smartphones into the gateway to this new reality and allowed users to have control over the enhancements. It is this development that has spawned a new wave of software and services.
This is great but what are the opportunities for brands? For starters they can differentiate their product from the competition in new way as augmented reality solves a big problem, it bridges the gap between data and real life. People can access a wealth of information that they need to make a purchasing decision by simply pointing their smartphone at the product. What’s more the phone is uniquely linked to the person using it so data from online social profiles can be used to craft special offers and information customised to that customer’s individual preferences. Brands currently have limited space to communicate points of difference and with no awareness of who’s looking many are now clutter their packaging with a badge for every ecological and health concern going in attempt to please all consumers. Augmented reality provides a valuable and contextualised extra dimension for packaging designers to play with.
Google Goggles is a great example of what is possible. By downloading the Google Mobile Search app users can opt to search by taking a picture of any known landmark, painting, book or even bottle of wine and it will bring up search results related to it. While this isn’t the perfect solution it is a big step in the right direction despite current limitations. Google, the king of search, has its whole business geared for creating tools to solve data problems and therefore it is safe to assume this software is going to develop further. While still in the prototype stage the TED video below shows an experimental augmented reality device using projection as its display medium (skip forward to 5:07 to show the device being used in store).
Furthermore augmented reality is an opportunity for brands to make their own digital marketing activities more effective. As it stands there is a noticeable disconnect between a brand’s packaging and their digital marketing efforts. A URL is now common place on the back of most packs but what incentive is there for the consumer to visit? Even if they do visit, or better yet stumble upon the site before they’ve gone shopping, the value to the brand is limited because the engagement takes place away from the supermarket where the purchasing decisions are made. Videos and interactive features that would once have been hidden away on a website can now be brought to life on the packaging itself using technology the consumer already has.
One industry likely to benefit from this is children’s toys and a brilliant example can be seen in the video below. Lego has installed ‘augmented reality kiosks’ at their stores worldwide (see: http://bit.ly/dXP7kN). When any piece of Lego packaging is held up to the camera a 3D view of the completed model comes to life allowing the customer to explore the model from all angles. This is groundbreaking for Lego and indeed for toy makers everywhere. Being able to picture the finished model is important for creating purchasing intent with toys but including 2D pictures on the front of the pack only does so much, particularly for children with active imaginations and a taste for watching films and playing computer games in HD. Augmented reality brings toy packaging up to this level and allows for real and meaningful engagement. Torben Nielsen, Director of 3D technology from the LEGO Group’s Digital Development Department, says “[Augmented Reality] helps consumers get a better impression of our products… we can excite and inform our customers on a new level.”
The children’s food industry will also benefit. With a restrictive regulatory environment surrounding children’s food advertising on TV, packaging has to work even harder to attract attention from kids and parents on heavily crowded shelves. Children respond well to colours, characters and stories and away from the TV the packaging itself can only do so much. One category where this is particularly true is cereal. Leo Burnett created the likes of Tony the Tiger a character that has captured the imagination of generations of children while cereal box toys have helped create brand loyalty for years. Augmented reality can breathe new life into these characters and make the packs themselves the collectable item as well as the access point to highly engaging, branded worlds. The example below from Nestle is a great example of what is already possible.
So what’s holding things back? Well a number of things, not least the disjointed nature of the hardware and software needed to create an integrated experience. Marketing experiences such as the one above have to take place on a computer complete with a webcam and if they did migrate in store they would require users to own a smartphone and download a special app (time consuming) or retailers to install specialised viewing kiosks (prohibitively expensive and space consuming). The video below presents a possible solution to this problem by using specialised glasses but I’ll leave it to you to decide how viable or even desirable such technology would actually be.
About the author
Andrew Davison is a digital media and social marketing enthusiast. He also loves technology and gets excited when brands use all three to do interesting things. He can be found with an opinion on everything on Twitter at @AndrewJDavison and also writes for his own blog. By day he works as a digital marketer for Ziggurat Brands, an award winning brand design agency that works for PepsiCo, Tetley TATA Beverages, Daniels Group, Kallo Foods. Commercial Estates Group, Yo Sushi and Jamie Oliver Enterprises.