What’s AR marketing, should you care? A case study of Pokémon GO and the effects and benefits of AR marketing


If this term doesn’t sound new to you, you probably are keeping tabs with technology, or you read a lot of science fiction. For now, augmented reality (AR) is still mostly a novelty, and its newness alone contributes to its ability to surpass print, online, and television advertisements in terms of shock-factor.

Augmented reality (AR) comes with such ideas as using new technology to influence how we dress, what products we use, and the advertising we see on a daily basis are all experimentations in the combined world of digital marketing and AR. The field is still relatively new and doesn’t have a lot of competition currently. However, with digital marketing on the rise, it is becoming more of a campaign strategy.

Augmented reality (AR) marketing takes the reins from virtual reality platforms to create a new, interactive consumer experience. The has grown popularity right now, its growth is expected to reach $117.4 billion by 2022.

As little as five years ago, consumers knew little or nothing about this marketing tool. But AR has become a marketing strategy that businesses need to become educated on.


So, what exactly is AR?

AR involves using computer-generated images to enhance the real world around you. While it seems like a futuristic concept, and the movies sometimes portray it as such, it has actually been with us for quite some time. Some of the first forms of AR included the controls on the dome of fighter jets. They showed the pilots temperature, airspeed, and eventually obstacles and targets while flying.

With time, the technology has advanced so much that a pilot basically just needs to read his controls to fly the plane.

Before we commence, you should see where AR differs from VR. It is quite suicidal to interchange both.


Difference between AR and Virtual Reality (VR)

Just so that we have a mutual understanding here, AR and virtual reality (VR) are two completely different concepts. AR is computer-generated images added to your experience of the world around you. VR is computer-generated images that take over your visual field, and you are able to interact with them in a way that mimics the natural world. VR requires special glasses to block out the normal vision, which makes the computer-generated images seem like reality.

Advantages of being first to use AR Marketing

1. Because it is a new field, it allows room for creativity. We have seen some unique takes on the technology, which also makes them more memorable.

2. There is also room to make a name as a company by designing a campaign that everyone will remember.

3. It encourages engagement between the consumer and the company, creating a relationship that is more interactive than other forms of advertisement. In the world of marketing, interaction typically leads to more sales for businesses. An Application that allows customers to interact with products before purchasing them give potential buyers more confidence.

4. AR combines entertainment with practical use to bring a whole new level of engagement with digital marketing campaigns.

Now let’s visualise what we’ve been talking about. Let’s see what Pokémon Go made of AT.


Pokémon GO: An AR Case Study

Pokémon GO is an augmented reality smartphone game based on the immensely popular animated series, Pokémon. Since its launch in July of 2016, the application has become a critical and cultural phenomenon, lifting Nintendo’s market value by $7.1 billion and has surpassed the ranks of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat in the Google Play and Apple App stores.

Pokémon GO is paving the way for AR marketing. Historically, consumers have been slow and hesitant to adopt new marketing technologies pushed heavily out of the gate – take, for example, QR codes. What Pokémon GO has been able to do is personalise a new marketing technology so much so that consumers do not realise they are being marketed too.

This is promising news to marketers because, as augmented reality continues to grow at a staggering pace over the next couple of years – to an expected $4 billion by 2018 — consumers will be more primed for future implementations of marketing through AR.

Using augmented reality HUD (heads-up display), Pokémon GO users can capture digital Pokémon around their communities, collect items found at “Pokéstops”, and battle other users at community “gyms”. Both Pokéstops and gyms were pre-determined – public spaces such as parks, landmarks, and churches – upon release of the app. Some small businesses were also included in the Pokéstops mix, which has significantly increased foot traffic and sales to their locations. As a result, more small businesses are now looking to become Pokéstop and capitalise on the popularity of the app.

At one point in July 2016, Pokémon GO opened up a request form for businesses to become Pokéstops, but it has since been removed. Many have suggested that Nintendo is acting strategically, given the impending release of advertising opportunities on the application. In the meantime, non-Pokestop businesses are using strategies such as discounts to attract players of the game.


The effect of Pokémon GO AR on advertising industry

Presently, there are limited paid opportunities on Pokémon GO, but new opportunities will be released soon. Marketers only have the ability to use “lures” – an in-app purchase that costs $1/piece – to attract Pokémon to a Pokéstop and entice all users of the game. Lures offer existing Pokéstop businesses the opportunity to drive even more foot traffic to their locations. Aside from “lures,” businesses have found creative ways to infuse Pokémon GO likeness – things like discounts and content strategies – to drive organic traffic.

Nevertheless, Niantic – the Google-owned developer behind Pokémon GO – is reportedly releasing sponsored locations that will be available soon, with McDonald’s rumoured to have the first go. Moreover, it has been reported that businesses will be charged on a cost-per-visit basis, similar to the cost-per-click used in Google’s paid search platforms.

Marketers may be executing Pokémon GO campaigns over the course of the next few months, but it is important to note that usage and excitement over the app could wane.

Also, marketing on the application may not align with all client business strategies, which should be a consideration before pursuing a campaign as well. Using them on these brands might be like dressing a horse in a shirt.

However, Brands ranging from Manchester United to Ikea to FX to Burger King to the Gorillaz have all experimented with the medium, indicating just some of the possible use cases. Snapchat and Facebook have rolled out several AR lenses and features, both of which are still very early in their development.

Pokemon Go has shown that the medium can be popularised, easily accessed by consumers (unlike AR’s cumbersome cousin VR), and there are monetisation options.

It has inspired mobile titles like Snatch, a real-world prize stealing game, that shares some DNA with Pokemon Go, and at MWC, virtual reality headsets lay limbless as marketers ran about in full business attire trying to snatch a Koffing or a Kedabra.

The bottom line, however, is that Pokémon GO has potentially set a bigger stage for augmented reality and given us a glimpse into a more robust digital marketing future which you should be a part of.