Augmented reality and brands: a game changer or just another marketing gimmick?

Augmented reality is often sold as a world changing technology. However, most examples we see are to shift products. So UXB asks the question: is augmented reality a game changer or just another marketing gimmick?

Augmented reality is described as:

A live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. - Wikipedia.

Merging humans and technology is not exactly a new idea, with movies having portrayed the convergence of man and machine for years

But how are brands implementing this technology to give their audience and consumers a new experience? Is augmented reality being used to further the engagement of a brand, or is it just being implemented as a marketing gimmick. We look at four recent examples of augmented reality for brands to decipher if it is worth keeping an eye out.

Marvel AR

First up is Marvel AR, a new app launched by major comic book publishing company, Marvel Comics, earlier this year. As you can see in the video below, the app is designed to deliver extra content whilst reading.

This is a great display of the technology as it allows the reader to receive original sketches, animations, voice overs and insights from the creators all on the page, viewed through your smartphone. There is also the additional touch of making it full screen. Far beyond a marketing gimmick, the Marvel AR app allows a visual product to come alive and is a great way for geeks to have even more fun.

ASOS catalogue

ASOS is one of the go-to online fashion stores for 18-34 year olds. The company has seen huge success since launching 12 years ago by selling branded clothes as well as their own range. For a company that has been helped so much by digital, it only seems natural they would try and innovate their print catalogue. Which they did with AR app, Blippar.

Unlike the IKEA catalogue (coming up next), this augmented app not only gives extra content, but the ability to shop on the go using just the catalogue and their smartphone. Not just a marketing gimmick, the implementation of Blippar is a welcome addition.

IKEA catalogue

The IKEA 2013 catalogue has been given the augmented treatment as readers can use their smartphone to unlock extra content.

Similar to the Marvel AR and ASOS Blippar app, users are prompted to use their smartphone to hover over pages to discover videos, interactive experiences and photo galleries. However, unlike the comic book version, there really isn't a need to have a physical version of the catalogue when an online or tablet version would do.

Good to get ideas, but just seems unnecessary addition from the marketing team.

Starbucks Cup Magic

Starbucks, the coffee company that appears on nearly every corner in every major city, released their own augmented reality campaign, Cup Magic, at the tail end of 2011.

Again, another app that is purely a marketing campaign that we can't picture bringing any real ROI to the company. However, it does look like a fun way to waste some time whilst having a flat white. They also had one for Valentines Day to share with your loved one.

The UXB view

Obviously, these four examples barely even begin to unravel the deep and complex conversation of augmented reality. Also, it would be interesting to discuss how far we are into augmented reality without realising. SatNavs and Google Maps place our location on a screen and lay out our directions.

However, we believe that content is king and if that isn't good, regardless of how you implement it, it won't work.

If, like Marvel, you are delivering original content in a creative way, augmented reality can be an innovative way to engage your audience and bring an exciting new angle to your product. If, like Starbucks, you want to use it for a brush away piece of fun to get your content to go slightly more viral, then it might be an expensive way to do so.