Experiential marketing is all about creating experiences involving brands and consumers. These experiences are now being extended by the use of augmented (AR) and virtual reality(VR)technology, taking the idea of experiential marketing to a whole new level. Here are eight  what you need to know.

The mobile factor 

AR has become more important with the spread of mobile. AR is the use of technology to show ‘live’ pictures, as if you were experiencing them. VR is where the pictures are imaginary, for example, in video games. Both technologies have become more mainstream as smartphones become more ubiquitous, and have greater power to manage the AR experience. Creating mobile-enabled AR is relatively straightforward, and it seems likely to continue to spread.

AR at events

AR is useful at events to increase access to your brand. AR means that users can experience your brand without you having to take a huge amount of ‘kit’ to events such as conferences or trade shows. This is particularly useful when your product is too big to travel, because it means that potential customers can still get the full ‘experience’. In other words, it provides a quick and easy way to show what using the product is like. 

Location, location, location

VR and AR are especially good for showcasing locations. Both allow customers to experience locations, as well as products—or even products in a particular location. You can, for example, show how the product could be used in a particular place or way. Not unexpectedly, this has really taken off in B2C marketing, especially for the travel and entertainment industries, but it also has applications in B2B.

Solution centricity 

AR is at its best when it solves a customer problem that prevents a purchase. Examples from the B2C world include DIY and furniture brands IKEA and Home Depot, whose apps now allow customers to see what furniture or paint colours will look like in their own home. This avoids the perils of buying something, only to find that you do not like it. Timberland has created an app that allows customers to see what they will look like in particular clothes, to avoid having to try them on. In the B2B space, brands will need to find ways to stand out by using augmented reality in the same kind of way: to solve very real problems that may be preventing purchases.

The story still matters 

However, AR does not substitute for a story. At the moment, AR is still new enough to be the story itself. However, that stage will not last long, even in B2B. Brands need to be thinking about how they can use AR and VR to enhance and expand their story-telling and connect more effectively with their customers. These technologies offer potential to make the story more immersive—and therefore make a stronger emotional link. 

Resonance with audience

Brands’ use of AR has to work for their audience. It is no use trying augmented reality technology just for the sake of it. It has to work for your audience, because experiential marketing is all about the experience, not the advertising. For example, Pepsi’s London bus stop campaign, where a bus stop was ‘augmented’ to show weird and wonderful things like flying saucers and elephants heading towards people waiting for the bus, worked because Pepsi consumers appreciated the joke.

Igniting imagination

AR and VR allows customers to experience potential as well as actual products. Sometimes brands want to show customers what might be possible in the future, or what is in development. Signing customers up in advance has been an important way to fund a number of recent concepts well before anything was available to show. Tesla cars, for example, have used this approach to develop some concept cars. AR gives these potential buyers a much better idea of how the product will look.

Building communities

AR  can be a useful way to build communities. Back in 2012, Taco Bell introduced AR-linked packaging. Scanning the packaging with the Taco Bell app took users to social media content that was related to the product. They could then interact with other social media users to comment on the brand. This sounds fairly basic now, but it does show how AR can be used to start to build communities around brands, both B2C and B2B. This can be particularly helpful in enabling peer-to-peer conversations.

The longer view

Use cases for AR will be co-created by multiple stakeholders, in an eco-system-like environment. How have you participated? 


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