A deeper sense of immersion: the power of branded augmented reality

Mobile Marketing - Member Content

Casey Campbell, Managing Director, North America, at Gameloft, looks at the explosion in augmented reality activity, and at how brands are using it to create experiences their customers love. 

It’s easy to think of augmented reality (AR) as a modern-day phenomenon, but the truth is the first AR game, AR Quake, was actually released 20 years ago in 2000, with the first AR apps for smartphones following soon after. Augmented Reality is the world through an electronic lens, with digital images added in layers to combine the real world view with “floating elements” like measurements, directions, or even animated characters. 

Much of the world was introduced to AR through the Pokémon Go phenomenon, with smartphones giving players a virtual window to see the cute pocket monsters who appeared to be stalking our back yards. And over those 20 years since the release of AR Quake, AR apps and experiences have evolved beyond recognition, to the point where it’s easy for anyone immersed in an AR experience to forget all about the world around them. And it’s no exaggeration to say that during the current pandemic, as consumers seek out safer ways to try before they buy, AR has come of age.

AR should not be confused with VR (virtual reality). VR offers an even more immersive experience but requires additional equipment in the form of a VR headset, an expensive requirement that has hampered consumer take-up, though there are some interesting and effective industrial applications for the tech.

Lockdown hits
While the pandemic has obviously been bad for business as a whole, some sectors have benefitted from increased numbers of people being at home. Without the commute to and from the office, they have more time on their hands for leisure activities.

As a result, mobile gaming has exploded during the pandemic, with new players getting involved and, once they try it, finding they like it. There are so many games out there, there’s a genre for everyone. This means that as brands have experimented with gamified AR experiences – and we’ll look at some of these shortly – consumers have been more receptive to them than they might have been had they not dipped their toes in the gaming waters.  

Brands are turning to AR solutions as a way to replicate the experience of trying on things like clothes or make-up in store, or getting a feel for how a piece of furniture might look in their living room, but in a safer way, online, or via an app. By providing a gamified AR experience, brands are able to let the consumer interact with the product in a way that’s not only safe, but fun too. Gartner forecasts that by the end of this decade 100m consumers will use AR to buy things.

Branded AR
So let’s have a look at some of the ways that brands are using gamified AR to good effect….

Pucelle is an Indonesian beauty brand, well-known for its collection of mist cologne perfume sprays and popular with millennial consumers in Indonesia. We worked with the company on a gamified brand experience on Instagram to enable Pucelle to engage with its key audience in a way that would resonate with them.

We created an AR game where the consumer uses facial gestures to control and guide a Pucelle avatar as it runs through the city streets, avoiding obstacles and collecting points. The AR experience  caught the imagination of Pucelle’s Gen Z audience, keeping the Pucelle brand top of mind. 

You can see the game in action here.

Gameloft recently partnered with the confectionery brandKinder and created Applaydu, a free mobile app which brings Kinder toys to life through AR. It’s an edutainment playing experience dedicated to children aged 4-9, but is designed to be used by the whole family together.

Applaydu provides a safe environment for kids to create their own stories, playing with new worlds and 3D characters all made to stimulate their ability to learn new things. Thanks to our collaboration with the University of Oxford’s Department of Education during the app’s development, Applaydu is also optimized to help children develop their cognitive skills. It’s another way in which AR makes the seemingly impossible, possible, and creates a strong bond between the brand and its core audience.

There are many more examples of how AR is being used to gamify the shopping experience. Furniture retailer Ikea launched its Ikea Place app in 2017. This enabled consumers to visualise what thousands of Ikea products would look like in different rooms in their home, taking into account both the size of the product and of the room.

Toy maker LEGO has in-store AR kiosks designed to improve the shopping experience. Shoppers pick up a LEGO toy in its packaging and hold it in front of the kiosks to bring the toy to life in front of their eyes.

Nike is also doing interesting things with AR. Earlier this year, to launch its 2020 models it distributed copies of a 56-page ‘Create With Air Max’ magazine at its stores in Japan. The magazine was a celebration of Nike design, but also included several pages showing the outline of a sneaker and inviting readers to ‘Create your own Air Max in AR’. Users coloured in the sneaker on the page, then viewed it through an AR app on their phone to bring it to life. Nike’s Air Jordan 1 High Supreme HG sneakers, meanwhile, are a pair of Nike trainers that are only available as an Instagram AR filter.

Sunglass maker Goodr used AR to allow consumers to virtually try on its sunglasses before buying them, and reported a 32 per cent increase in conversion rates as a result. Meanwhile, bag retailer EBags used a browser-based AR experience to enable shoppers to browse its bags and suitcases from all angles, and reported a 112 per cent increase in conversion rates on mobile and an 81 per cent increase among those viewing on PCs.

In the QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) sector, Burger King created an AR experience for the MTV Video Music Awards in which consumers could see rapper Lil Yachty performing a song and then being awarded a Burger Fire Medallion by Burger King’s brand mascot, all on their smartphone.

Finally, proving that AR can work for any brand in any industry, pet and pet supplies retailer PetSmart used a Snapchat AR lens to power a quiz about reptiles, which morphed the user’s face into a reptile depending on the answers they gave. The AR experience was linked to an offer of a 40 per cent discount off the sale price of a pet reptile.

So it’s clear  that brands of all shapes, sizes and verticals are turning to AR to engage with consumers in a fun, interactive, and, crucially, effective way. In fact, research published in July by CommerceNext and Exponea found that more than 20 per cent of US retailers expected to deploy AR or VR on their company’s online store in June, compared to just 8 per cent in January.

And a study released on 17 September by AR analyst ARtillery Intelligence forecasts that mobile AR revenue, including both consumer and enterprise spending, will grow from $3.9bn in 2019 to $21.02bn in 2024.

Make no mistake, AR is here to stay. The smart brands are the ones that are experimenting with the technology now, working out what works best and, more importantly, delivering fun, engaging experiences that drive sales and build brand loyalty.

Implementing AR into your marketing and branding efforts can be pretty seamless working with an experienced partner. With 20 years of gaming experience, Gameloft for brands can take your objective, integrating gaming elements such as AR, and deliver the brand experience your consumers want. To get started, please get in touch today