The latest cultural phenomenon that is Pokémon Go has resulted in augmented reality technology bubbling to the top of marketers’ minds. Seeing a fantastically successful iteration of AR take off naturally makes others wonder if the technology could be a good fit for their brands – especially if the company seeks to catch younger consumers’ and millennials’ fleeting attention.
Apart from mobile gaming apps, a slew of major brands have already begun implementing augmented or virtual reality features into their year-round mobile marketing goals.
Mobile-savvy McDonald’s: To celebrate the blockbuster release of The Angry Birds Movie this past spring, McDonald’s encouraged mobile gaming enthusiasts to use their smartphones to scan codes displayed on various meal packaging, including Big Mac boxes. This would prompt an augmented reality mini-game featuring Angry Birds characters to appear on individuals’ mobile devices. Not only did this capitalize on the worldwide popularity of the original Angry Birds game, but it also enabled McDonald’s customers to experience augmented reality with relatively low barriers to entry. No purchase – besides the meal – was necessary, and no extra app downloads were required in order to play the game.
This major marketing push came on the heels of the restaurant chain’s recent AR innovations in Sweden. Swedish customers could download a new mobile app and purchase a Happy Meal – which arrived with a cardboard virtual reality headset – to watch an exclusive 360-degree video of the national ski team. By moving away from the expected Happy Meal accompaniments, such as branded toys, and towards unexpected new experiences stemming from the AR realm, McDonald’s was able to one-up its competitors and reestablish its brand as an innovator in the mobile space.
Consequently, brands in the food and beverage or retail industries can use augmented reality to fuel product sales and sway consumers from purchasing items from a competitor.
MLB’s mobile home run: Major League Baseball’s recent foray into virtual reality showcases how marketers with a more experiential angle can take advantage of the latest mobile technologies. The company sought to fuel more Ballpark app downloads by creating a special VR experience for game-goers that enabled them to leverage cardboard viewers to sidle in more closely on the action.
The virtual reality videos allowed fans to grab exclusive looks at players’ off-field routines coupled with footage leading up to live games. While the clips were not designed to drive immediate purchases within the baseball stadium, they were able to enhance attendees’ experiences in a way that would be difficult to top with 2-D videos or images.
The MLB example proves that marketers more focused on selling experiences may be able to unlock a mobile marketing holy grail with augmented reality. While AR and VR can certainly be leveraged as add-ons to a physical product purchase, some of their best implementations come in the form of complementary activations to actual experiences.
If a brand is still unsure whether investing in virtual reality will lead to optimal ROI, other – and similar – options are available. For example, the advent of 360-degree video has shown marketers that cardboard viewers and fancy VR headsets are not necessary for consumers to have a wholly immersive viewing experience. Even major publishers, such as Meredith Corporation and Huffington Post, are hopping aboard the 360-degree video bandwagon.
The technology also reigns supreme among hospitality and travel brands wanting to show off their resorts and on-site amenities. If a consumer considering staying at a Hilton hotel is able to enjoy a 360-degree video showcasing the grounds, rooms and pool area, he or she will be much more likely to book the stay at Hilton instead of a competitor with stationary photos and no videos on its site.
Ultimately, mobile video strategies must be at the forefront of brands’ marketing initiatives this year. While the specific activations will differ from industry to industry, there is no doubt that video will retain its top spot as a must-have mobile advertising tool of 2016.
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