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What Augmented Reality Means for the Marketing & Media World

Lauren Eichmann

Augmented Reality December IssueWhile Augmented Reality (AR) has existed for more than 15 years, it is now just getting some buzz with the progression of mobile phones and their corresponding applications, video cameras and GPS units.

The media is even jumping on board, with Esquire Magazine promoting how users can experience additional content by purchasing its December Augmented Reality issue.

Yet according to Gartner’s 2009 Hype Cycle of Emerging Technologies, AR still has a long way to go. It will be between five and ten years until mainstream adoption. In the meantime, it’s well on its way toward the “peak of inflated expectations” – when everyone’s excited and wants to participate in the trend, but no one quite knows what to do with it.

Google Trends for Augmented Reality

Marketers and Augmented Reality

Similar to the Gartner report, an AdAge reporter states that too many brands are jumping on to the AR hype by producing gimmicky products. “It's critical that brands and marketers start using this opportunity to connect with consumers through utility-based AR instead of gimmicks,” Matthew Szymczyk writes.

In his article, Szymczyk goes on to say that AR is interesting because it’s “a technology that can create innovative and sustained engagement between a brand and its target consumer” when done correctly.

For marketers looking to better understand how AR can be used, the AugmentPro AR blog also gives a nice overview of recent developments. For now, the use of AR seems to fall in three categories:

  • Brand Enhancement (positioning a product or service as “cutting-edge”)
  • Functional Use (e.g. How to install a Samsung LED TV Series 7 at home)
  • Product Push (e.g. Home Depot AR gift card)

Several iPhone apps already have picked up on the AR trend, such as those outlined in Mashable’s article of 10 amazing Augmented Reality iPhone apps. In it, Amy-Mae Elliott describes 10 apps that made their cut, ranging from those that are extremely functional, to those geared for educational purposes, to those that are “just plain fun.”

Indeed, a 2009 ABI Research study says mobile devices will help serve as a catalyst to AR growth, catapulting revenue associated with Augmented Reality from around $6 million in 2008 to more than $350 million in 2014.

If your mobile device can track where you are, individuals will be constantly pushed different content based on their location (from advertisers, journalists, other users, government agencies etc.). Users can opt to pay for content (such as a tour guide of a national landmark), or receive free advice (i.e. from the media).

The main challenge of AR adoption will be to customize the content for each individual using it. It’s the battle of producing meaningful content vs. just distributing advertising.

If you’re a marketer, you may do well to start learning about this technology and thinking about its potential for your company.

Media and Augmented Reality

While Esquire Magazine may have received the most press for its AR issue, it wasn’t the first to play around with Augmented Reality. Popular Science also featured AR in its July issue about the future of energy, as did InStyle Magazine with a December issue that boasted its cover of Taylor Swift “could come to life” -- with Swift delivering AR users a special holiday message.

So how can the media effectively use AR to its benefit? Similar to the marketing challenge of using Augmented Reality, the challenge here will be to deliver additional content of relevance to readers -- while still making it easy and fun to access.

In his Ode to Journalism blog, Roger Williams University journalism professor Michael Scully comments on the Esquire Magazine use of AR: “For now, the technology is gimmicky BUT it does represent a first step towards true integrated media. Imagine, for example, if other media groups started doing this? Newspapers could put these little barcode icons in the Sports Sections where readers can see play-by-play highlights from the game, for example.”

With magazines being some of the early media adopters of AR, it’s safe to say that they’re trying to obtain new readership through such technology. It’s yet another outlet to distribute content and connect with readers for more of a news ‘experience.’

Just as reporters and marketers alike had to learn about the latest social media tools to identify sources and communicate news, so will they have to learn how to successfully adopt AR into their communications strategy.