How Augmented Reality Could Revolutionize Marketing and Social Impact

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Pokémon GO was the first breakthrough app to popularize augmented reality (AR) and has generated over 500 million sponsored site visits, illustrating the medium’s massive location-based marketing potential. The mobile Pokémon game entices users to a physical location with the lure of PokéStops and Gyms that offer gamers useful in-app items and Pokémon training centers, which can only be found onsite. An example of how Pokémon GO’s sponsored sites work is illustrated in the app maker Niantic Inc.’s recent partnership with Starbucks. Coffee shops feature PokéStops and Gyms and offer a special Pokémon GO Frappuccino. In essence, AR is bringing the digital world to life and has amazing potential to attract consumer foot traffic to specific locations.

Another example of AR marketing is the music discovery application Shazam’s partnership with beverage maker Beam Santory, Inc. Shazam’s visual recognition software will allow users to play a memory game when they scan a barcode on Hornitos and Sauza tequilas, which the global spirits company hopes will distinguish them from the competition during the upcoming Cinco de Mayo festivities.

Industry experts are excited about the marketing potential of AR technologies to boost profits, but how can you couple this new medium with your purpose-driven mission?

Here are a couple of ways your brand could use AR to marry profit with purpose:

Game for good: Augmented reality opens up amazing opportunities to create novel entertainment experiences, especially in the mobile gaming space. Since its release in July 2016 Pokémon GO has been downloaded 650 million times, incentivized users to walk a collective 8.7 billion-plus kilometers and spend millions of dollars on in-app purchases. The scale and engagement awakens great potential for location-based advertising opportunities that, if consciously crafted, could open up enormous potential for electronic contributions through daily acts of consumption.

A proxy example of a purpose-driven AR app is the the Wild Warriors game. The free multi-level game offers users in-app products that can advance gameplay and offers real information about the wildlife avatars in the game. In addition to increasing awareness, Wild Warriors donates 10 percent to wildlife conservation, ultimately coupling profit with purpose.

While Wild Warriors is not currently an AR game it could be. What’s more, Wild Warriors could scale contributions by partnering with location specific companies, like coffee shops, restaurants or retail stores, where gamers could get exclusive characters or items. In turn, the store could boost donations by making a contribution whenever site-specific actions were taken. In essence, augmented reality games that link online actions with real world impact and partner with site-specific brand offerings present developers and businesses with a great opportunity to engage consumers by creating a meaningful emotional connection with the game and their store, which will ultimately increase user engagement and purchases.

Awareness and Promotions: The location-based implications of virtual reality speak to the platform’s ability to bring people out of their homes to unique places like historic monuments and nature preserves. Visiting a real place can ignite consumer awareness about pressing issues they might not otherwise have been attuned to. Meanwhile, companies can sponsor a place-specific action or experience and reward app users with promotions.

Imagine a water-based Pokémon that was only available at a beach cleanup and once you caught the Pokémon you would receive 10 percent off a reusable water bottle. This would not only bring people outside to a volunteer activity and increase awareness about ocean pollution, but also promote a product that would help reduce plastic waste. Ultimately, by bringing people closer to real world issues you can awaken understanding about global and cultural challenges, inspire consumers to take action while also offering exclusive product or service purchasing incentives. Augmented reality has the potential to not only scale impact and profits but also leverage connections between large numbers of consumers and invite them to become partners working together in the name of social transformation, which will also increase their desire to share your brand’s story with their social networks.

Marketers and brands are making a lot of noise about how augmented reality will inspire creative, addictive and novel entertainment options. Marrying purpose, profit and innovation in this evolving medium is an excellent way to distinguish your brand from the competition as a forwarding thinking force for good.

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Written by

CEO We First Inc, author NYT's bestseller We First, strategic corporate consultant and trainer, father, Australian, optimist.

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