Whenever anyone in marketing starts talking about augmented reality, most people dismiss the idea as being too far-fetched or argue that the technology actually gets in the way of the message. Although that may have been true in the past, our comfort level with our personal technologies is so complete now that it’s much more feasible.

Augmented reality sounds very 23rd century, but it is simply using technology to superimpose computer-generated content (images and sounds) over a live view of the world. The version you’re probably most familiar with is when you watch football on TV and they “draw in” the first-down line.

Marketers are beginning to weave augmented reality into how they engage their audiences, and it’s something you might want to consider as well. Here are a few examples worth checking out.

Ikea: The 2014 Ikea catalog uses augmented reality to allow you to put virtual furniture from the catalog into your home. You download Ikea’s app on your smartphone or tablet. Then, you just scan the pages that have the furniture you want to “test drive” in your home. You then put the catalog in the specific spot in your room and then choose which piece of furniture you’d like to appear there.

Bon Jovi: When concertgoers download an app and then use their smart device to hover over certain spots in the concert program, a whole new world comes to life. Music starts to play, a guitar-toting soldier begins to march, go-go dancers appear and the Bon Jovi heart logo pumps to the beat. Within four months of launching the new app, it had been downloaded a half million times. Fans can interact with the content by tapping, swiping, listening and watching.

Volvo: When Volvo executives launched their new S60, they decided they really wanted to capture a younger than usual audience, so they create a YouTube masthead that let users play an augmented reality driving game with their phones. Inside the game, there were spots where the users could click for more information. The game drove a 293 percent increase in traffic to volvocars.com.
Think augmented reality is only for big brands? Then get yourself over to Jordan Creek Town Center. Central Iowa’s very own Simpson College is using augmented reality in its latest marketing efforts. In the mall, a large banner for Simpson hangs from the ceiling. Tablet and smartphone users can quickly download an app to their device. Once they do that, they can point their device at the banner and it comes alive with music, images and the “Simpson success” campaign message. At the end, the viewer can touch the screen to be taken to a special landing page with more information.

From a marketing perspective, augmented reality gives Simpson marketing personnel incredible opportunities and flexibility. They can leave the banner up and change out the video remotely whenever they want to. 

Think this is out of your budget? The Simpson team did extensive research and actually found a free tool that allowed them to create the augmented reality elements of their banner.

Don’t get me wrong – that doesn’t make it free. It took significant resources to learn how to use the augmented reality tool and to create all of the elements that went into it.   

But the biggest investment to bringing augmented reality to your marketing is that you’re going to have to think big, like the team at Simpson did. You’re going to have to embrace the idea that marketing isn’t just about getting your facts and features in front of your target audience.  

First, you have to earn their attention and interest. That’s the marketing reality.