Augmented Reality (AR)

It’s been around for a while but we’re hearing more and more about augmented reality or ‘AR’ as it is often abbreviated to.  So what exactly is augmented reality, how does it work and how might it affect the way that you communicate with your customers?  Read on to find out more…

What is augmented reality?

Wikipedia describes augmented reality 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.’ 

A shorter – and perhaps simpler – description is provided by Oxford dictionaries. It refers to augmented reality as ‘a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.’

Augmented reality is different from virtual reality, where the real world is replaced with a simulated one.

How does it work?

The reasonably new technology of augmented reality blurs the line between what’s real and what’s computer-generated by enhancing what we see, hear, feel and smell.  The basic concept behind AR is to superimpose graphics, audio and other sensory enhancements over a real-world environment in real time.

Perhaps the best way of understanding augmented reality is to experience the technology in action.  You may have already done so without realising it – particularly if you are an IKEA customer.  The Swedish furniture giant’s 2013 catalogue app was the most downloaded branded app of 2012 and featured an augmented reality viewer that allowed readers to use their tablet or smartphone to visualise furniture from its catalogue in 3D, along with related video and digital content.

A recent Business Insider article highlighted some recent clever AR campaigns that achieved what many organisations strive for: They created a positive ‘buzz’ around the brand.  A couple of our favourite examples are highlighted below:

Ford shows off some of the features of its Grand C-Max via an outdoor AR campaign that offers the next best thing to actually test driving the vehicle.

Food processing company, Heinz, uses augmented reality technology from blippar to allow customers to access a virtual cookbook by scanning their Heinz ketchup bottle. All of the different recipes used ketchup as their “secret ingredient”.

How can I use AR to communicate with my audience?

As smartphones and tablets are becoming increasingly sophisticated and their use more prevalent, augmented reality offers organisations another opportunity to bring their brands and products to life for prospective customers.  AR is therefore likely to secure a place in many companies’ advertising budgets in the future. It is estimated that the market for augmented reality in the US will reach $350 million in 2014, compared to $6 million in 2008.

As with many types of technology, there is always the risk that some will use augmented reality incorrectly, or in a ‘gimmicky’ fashion.  When used properly, however, AR has huge potential as part of an organisation’s marketing efforts. By its very nature, it allows individuals to interact with the brand and its products or services.

Augmented reality also offers new opportunities for non-commercial purposes, such as educational or charity campaigns.

Two very different examples below show how a charity has used AR to highlight the serious issue of domestic violence, while National Geographic embraced the technology to introduce members of the public to ancient dinosaurs.

Non-profit domestic abuse campaign

National Geographic’s live augmented reality campaign

If you would like some assistance with your organisation’s communication activities, please get in touch.

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Offshore Europe 2013 – it’s just around the corner

Make your stand space visually appealing.

Make your stand space visually appealing.

Offshore Europe 2013 is just around the corner but don’t let yourself be driven around the bend by leaving everything until the last minute.

The secret to making the most of exhibitions, events and trade shows is to be prepared.  Time spent now is time saved later – and costs can be more easily controlled if you have the luxury of time to play with.

The very first question to ask yourself is whether the event is right for your organisation? Stand space at major events is priced at a premium – and these events can be very worthwhile if you exploit their potential – but make sure it makes sense for you to be there.  Don’t feel pressured just because your competitors are exhibiting.  Remember you can always ‘walk’ the event instead.

Once you’ve made the decision to exhibit, your next priority is to secure the best possible site within your budget.  If you are a regular event exhibitor, chances are you’ll be given first refusal for the space you occupied last time. If the event is a new one for your organisation, get in early to try to give yourself as many options as possible. Bear in mind that a small stand with good footfall might be a better investment than a larger one that no-one passes.   It may sound obvious but paying for the stand space is only the start of the exhibition spend – you may also need to purchase or hire furniture, audio visual equipment, literature and giveaways so don’t blow the budget at the outset!

Once the space is secured, you can turn your thoughts to stand layout and design.  Never underestimate the importance of getting these two aspects right.  An uninspiring or tired-looking stand sends out the wrong message about your organisation and its products or services.  If you can’t be bothered to make an effort when trying to attract new business, then potential customers aren’t going to trust you to go the extra mile for them.  Work on making your stand space visually appealing, open and accessible and this will translate into increased visitors – and potential new sales leads.

Similar principles apply to your stand literature and giveaways: Put some thought into these at the outset and make sure you spend your budget on well designed literature and promotional products that people will read or use!  We’ve all heard tales about cupboards full of leftover giveaways – but equally you don’t want to run out of brochures halfway through an event.  Think through your targets for the event – how many leads are you expecting to generate? You’ll also need to brief your colleagues on the exhibition stand, so they are clear about who makes a suitable recipient and who is a timewaster.

Preparation for an exhibition doesn’t just refer to organising your stand and the associated marketing materials, you also need to promote your attendance and stand number to your target audience in advance.  This might include an electronic or physical mailshot to existing and potential clients, or something as simple as including an extra line in your email signature, stating your stand number and the event title and date.  Remember also to make full use of the publicity opportunities on offer from the event organisers, such as the exhibitors’ manual, trade show website and any event newsletters.  At the event itself, there may also be a press office on-site that you can target with any newsworthy announcements.  (Yet another aspect of the preparation is to ensure that you’ve thought about topics for press releases in advance and briefed your public relations agency accordingly!).

Seems like a lot to think about? Innes Associates has been working with clients to maximise the benefit they get from exhibitions, including Offshore Europe, for years.  If you’d like support with any aspect of your next event, drop us a line. We’d love to help you to prepare for success.