Is Augmented Reality the Future of Digital Marketing?
Posted on June 21, 2012
Inspired by the Tomi Ahonen TED talk (below), I started to wonder what digital marketing will look like in a decade or so. Think back to 2002. Did anyone think that iPads and mobile phones would be the most powerful, strategy-dictating force in business? I remember receiving my first Audiovox cell phone in 2002. I thought it was cool that it had 6 MIDI ringtones to choose from. I used to be blown away by my Super Nintendo. Technology moves fast.
Assume that at a minimum consumer technology continues to advance at the same pace (Gordon Moore, et al. would argue it is accelerating). That means in 2022, we’ll be using technology that we can barely perceive today. Tomi Ahonen believes augmented reality will be “the 8th mass medium” and will drive consumer technology innovation of the next era. Watch the video. It’s really interesting. He discusses some of his credentials as well, in case you are wondering who he is.
Ahonen’s ideas sound pretty reasonable – dare I say, probable? Since capitalism is about selling and marketing (in many ways) drives sales, one would think that as augmented reality technology develops, one of the first business domains that adopt it would be marketing. Let me rephrase that: I believe augmented reality will likely be a big part of marketing over the next decade.
Marketing is evolving into an experiential field. It’s not just about information anymore. You used to be able to broadcast a radio commercial that introduced the main features of your product and promised quality. In most cases, that won’t cut it anymore. The competition has increased exponentially. So has the number of channels for information. So has to availability of information. As a result, today’s successful marketers are strategically helping eventual customers experience their products to emotionally motivate sales. Content marketing is a big part of that today. Customer involvement in product development is another. The point is that it’s all about the experience.
Augmented reality takes the notion of experience to a whole new level. It can simulate the experience that your reality will become, provided you purchase a certain product or service. The IKEA application that Ahonen describes is an excellent example. Look at your room through the lens of your mobile device and experience what that room looks/feels like with certain IKEA products placed in it. It isn’t hard to see how this experience differes from flipping through endless digital images of couches sitting on a white background – the more traditional “catalog” experience. This app makes it possible to simulate how their furniture products will affect your life. Catalogs just don’t do that well. It makes it so much easier for a possible customer to visualize their life, experiencing the IKEA product. This link has some more information on that app and IKEA’s mobile strategy, if you’re interested.
The IKEA example is already available technology (I’ve not tried it yet). That means augmented reality is already on the forward-looking, innovative marketer’s mind. As augmented technology evolves, expect platforms to emerge that are scalable, customizable, and extensible. Expect these experiences to integrate with current content delivery, CRM, and other engagement possibilities. Expect working with your customer before, during, and after the sale to get more complicated as a result. Finally, expect some pretty awesome new applications of technology to emerge from this concept. I know I’m excited to see what people come up with.