Here’s what marketers need to know about the feel-good hit of the summer.

Augmented reality is the hot new technology on the block—but what does that mean for tech-savvy marketers? With the instant, frenzied popularity of Pokémon Go and consumers’ lasting infatuation with Snapchat filters, AR has emerged as a veritable tactic for immersive marketing. But in order to avoid going the way of Google Glass, product engineers and marketers alike must consider how, specifically, this technology can truly enhance the consumer journey.

Get the Lay of the Land

Before racing to add a half-baked AR gimmick to your brand’s next rollout, it’s important to identify when and how AR can most improve your consumer’s brand interaction. According to an excellent primer from the Harvard Business Review, if an AR experience is just a one-off episode, it has the potential to distract your customer and draw their focus away from your brand or product and onto the novelty of the technology. Only when AR is seamlessly integrated into the customer journey does it have “the capacity to positively impact purchase activities and have a more far-reaching influence.”

How is AR Different than VR?

Virtual reality is about creating a completely new reality, while augmented reality is about enhancing what already exists. “When the virtual is well fitted with the physical and interacts with it, that’s when AR magic happens,” says Ana Javornik in the Harvard Business Review. “AR intertwines virtual elements that might be missing in a specific situation within physical reality.” This ability to create an enhanced version of one’s reality is perhaps what makes users so enamored of Snapchat’s sophisticated — albeit goofy — AR filters. They offer a fanciful escape, while remaining somehow within the realm of possibility.

To Augment Or Not to Augment?

How can you tell if AR will add real value to your brand? “Simply overlaying something virtual on a phone screen doesn’t always cut it and can appear gimmicky,” says Javornik. “Having an ad pop up on your smartphone camera view from scanning a brand’s logo might be fun, but people would tire of it pretty quickly.” Marketers have to ask: Are consumers really going to walk down the street holding their tablets or smartphones in the air? Is there an obvious advantage to scanning while shopping?

The answer at this point is probably no, because the perceived value of these actions is not significant enough to trigger behavioral change. This means that marketers will need to get creative about if and how they take advantage of AR — is a try-before-you-buy approach best for your brand? Can you integrate VR into a cultural event or educational environment? Could AR replace travel guidebooks? Whatever it might be for your brand, be sure to do your homework first.

Longneck and Thunderfoot offer thought leadership services to turn your company executives’ opinions and insights into authoritative content that starts meaningful sales conversations. Learn more about thought leadership here.

Author Hilary Krutt

A graduate of Dartmouth College, Hilary joined L&T after several years in the publishing industry at Simon & Schuster. As a member of the editorial board for the Off the Shelf book blog, her writing has been featured on the Huffington Post, among other major publications. At L&T, Hilary manages content quality and production, collaborating directly with writers, content managers, and clients to ensure every piece we write hits the mark every time. In her free time, Hilary is an avid reader and live music enthusiast. She hails from Boston but currently calls Brooklyn home.

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