Unlocking Value Through AR

I’m one of those guys that still gets the Sunday newspaper. It is a comfortable habit that I enjoy, as my father before me, along with my morning coffee. The local and global stories, and even the ads. First the Sports section, then Business, World, and finally Arts & Entertainment—in that order. I still search out the comics as well. For me, the newspaper provides a real connection to my community, and the world. I do, however, fear that some day this idea of getting the Denver Post delivered right to my driveway may become a thing of the past. Ironically, hours before I sat down to write this, I saw a story in the July 29th business section that caught my eye. The story revealed that there is one, yes ONE, Blockbuster left in the country and located in Bend, Oregon. I had no idea there was even a store left. So, what will be the last traditional newspaper as we know it be? Is there a silver bullet that can save the newspaper industry and journalism as we know it?

I believe the answer is Augmented Reality (AR). 

In my quest to continuously learn, I recently attended an event hosted by Ad Club Colorado on AR. Mighty Fudge Studios out of Boulder, CO helped provide an overview on the current landscape. They covered the basics, comparing Virtual Reality (pushing/pulling your mind into another world) and Augmented Reality (changing what is right in front of you in your world), along with predictions on where future trends in the space are heading. 

One point was made particularly clear to me. There is a game changing twist coming and we, as marketers, better buckle up and get ready. In the near future, smart phones will come equipped with universal AR technology. 

What does this mean? Consumers will no longer need to go out of their way to download special AR apps that take up valuable space on their phone, and only allow them to see a few AR executions (remember when PokeMon Go was a thing and downloading the app was necessary?). I imagine that someday soon there will be a universal reader in phones that will allow our everyday lives to change. If you’ve seen the futuristic sci-fi thriller with Tom Cruise called Minority Report, this is getting us one closer to that future people!

If you have not already, go buy a bottle of 19 Crimes wine. In the world of virtual sameness, brands have often tried to differentiate with packaging, nothing new. 19 Crimes uses AR to take it to a new level—and it’s working. I bought a bottle of 19 Crimes for $11 at my local liquor store and didn’t even care what the wine would taste like. I wanted to get it for the packaging, and the “key” that it unlocked. The convict featured on the label is brought to life through AR. I was hooked immediately, and now want to collect more bottles. Now, realize this, I have yet to even taste the wine.

It appears I’m not alone: Recent research found that nearly 50% of shoppers would be more likely to buy from retailers that provide AR experiences. Other research has found that 40% of consumers would pay more for a product if they could experience it through augmented reality. Why? Because when done right, augmented reality elevates the customer experience. It is a vehicle to provide information, discounts, and enhanced product functionality. Companies that have picked up on this insight are reaping the rewards. Take a few examples of first movers who use augmented reality to solve consumer pain points:


Despite progress by these AR pioneers, there is no doubt that AR will continue to explode—and so will its content needs! 

I love envisioning how AR will find its way in restaurants, a space that is near and dear to my heart. Imagine future visits to a restaurant playing out something like this: You walk in and get seated at your table. You pull out your phone and hover it over the drink coaster at your table and almost effortlessly you are given options to learn more about your fast approaching dining experience. You are able to pull up a visual of what each menu item looks like, watch videos showing the ingredients sourced from local farms. You get to know the family that runs the farm in the video, the restaurant owners, and even view dietary information. All of this content is obtained with a simple smartphone hover and swipe over that coaster. Finally, the restaurant can make recommendations and serve up promo offers. That drink coaster—printed the same way it always has been—could become your ‘key’ to unlock a variety of information to guide you through your dining experience. A coaster is no longer a coaster. It will still need to be designed, of course, but in the future there will be demands for content that tells the restaurant’s story. This will not be simply a path to a website, this coaster will need to be customized with short, simple, and informative content. It will most likely even have levels of customization. More content will be needed, which means more opportunities for marketers to create the content. 

That restaurant coaster example brings us back to newspapers and magazines. The ability to provide ‘keys’ to unlock different layers of content could be the jolt the print industry needs to incentivize a younger generation to engage with the print medium in a revolutionary and engaging way. A print ad will be so much more than a two dimensional ad. Content is shifting from content that is 2D flat to content that is 3D, 360 degrees, augmented—and sometimes holographic. Print can now come to life and tell a story. Sunday mornings, coffee, your newspaper (and smartphone) will continue to be a tradition, but only as AR brings that experience to a new place.