AR is back on the scene. Not that it ever really went away, but this time, it’s back with an augmented bang as it enjoys something of a moment, away from its often overshadowing VR sister.

Cementing its role as far more than a fun gimmick, NASA Space Station crew members have been testing out AR tech to carry out repairs in outer space, surgeons are using it to transform spinal surgeries, and on a slightly less grandiose scale, scientists have been creating an app in a bid to rid us of our spider phobias once and for all. Money well spent, I’m sure most would agree.

But in brand land, the mobile in our pocket has never been such a powerful portal to unlocking new worlds, bridging the borders between digital and physical realms to bring customers deeper into your brand’s world. And the stats don’t lie either: 50% of consumers have better brand recall after engaging with AR experiences, with increased purchase intent to boot.

The wildly successful and hotly discussed Gucci x The North Face collaboration with Niantic earlier this year, is an exciting taste of the possibilities to come. Celebrating the spirit of exploration, the partnership saw customers lured to special Gucci pin locations in the real world, to find in-game items for their digital avatars, in the imaginary – a double helping of digital and IRL game-play, as the two crossed neatly over into the other.

It’s something Schuh has mastered this month too, as they follow in Gucci’s scavenging footsteps with the launch of their Schuh Sneaker Hunt, in an effort to entice customers back to the high street with hidden, treasure-hunt style rewards.

The beauty of this is that AR becomes the real sweet spot where digital and analogue realms happily coexist, creating a new space for brand campaigns to come to life in unexpected ways; from virtual scavenger hunts that lead customers to physical places, to gamified product drops, or enhanced experiences that educate on new products or initiatives.

AR veteran and master of the camera Snapchat has of course done all of the above. By geo-mapping entire streets, their Local Lenses technology uses IRL places as a virtual stage for interactivity.

Snap’s City Painter gave users the chance to get creative and spray-paint Carnaby Street in London awash with digital art, and its collaboration with Los Angeles County Museum of Art saw it bring the brilliant minds of artists and technologists together to create virtual monuments that reveal hidden stories from behind the lens of user’s phones, celebrating the city’s cultural heritage and history.

LACMA X
LACMA x Snapchat Monumental Perspectives highlights new perspectives and stories across LA

The power of fan involvement  

Taking things back a few years, Zara’s AR Shop the Look campaign which was brought to life in 120 stores saw the brand strip out window displays and ditch their mannequins, replacing them with gateways to interactive, virtual worlds.

At the scan of a QR code, models appeared fashioning the brand’s latest collection as they turned the shopfloor into their own virtual runways. A tap of a button later and these outfits could then be bought directly from Zara’s app. A fun sprinkling of engagement, with a little added context on how the clothes would hang on the body, but the missing golden ticket to success here was true personalised context for the customer.

If Zara had given them the chance to transform into their own digital doubles to try the clothes on for size themselves – as the brand’s co-created models, in their own relatable body shapes – then they might have just achieved a small dose of customer euphoria. Because if you’re a regular to Zara, you’ll know that this is the ideal try-before-you-buy for those overflowing lunchtime fitting room queues – yours, an ever-frustrated, serial clothes returner.

Zara only scratched the surface of the possibilities for bringing fans deeper into the worlds of fashion brands. As official innovation partner to New York Fashion Week, Yahoo Ryot Lab shows them how it’s done, seeking to democratise the often exclusive nature of catwalk shows, with plans to deliver a three-part AR campaign with British fashion designer Christian Cowan.

From an interactive invitation to the SS22 show delivered as a hyper-realistic 360° hologram of the man himself, to bringing digital experiences to life at the show, all the way through to embedded clothing tag codes in-store where Cowan will come to life once more to share his inspiration behind the collection. A neat invitation of fan involvement, teasing the collection before it even reaches the shelves.

Christopher Cowan x Yahoo Ryot Labs x NYFW does AR, transporting the designer to his fans through the power of hologram technology

AR portals unlock brand rewards

Defying geography, augmented reality also has the power to deliver serendipitous moments of joy, in unexpected places. Whilst Doritos’ forays into NFTs earlier this year left a somewhat perplexing, non-existent taste in many a mouth, their new ‘Make Your Play’ campaign is definitely more music to our ears.

Interactive posters that popped up across UK cities for those curious enough to scan, revealed a play button, with a canny, but not as tasty, resemblance to a Doritos chip, encouraging you to place it in your surroundings to unlock their portal to a new world. Animated 3D objects and music content burst to life, giving avid music fans the chance to enter a competition to win tickets for festivals, events and discounted tickets.

The real winner of the show, however, undoubtedly goes to sporting underdog Reebok. For the inner-city youth of New York that struggle to access sports facilities, the brand’s latest Courting Greatness campaign dismantles the barriers to bring the sport to them.

Rewriting the basketball court into their customers’ world, Reebok is inspiring players to create their own makeshift court anywhere, anyhow, using whatever materials they have to hand. By mapping the dimensions onto the floor using an AR overlay, budding basketball players can move from the bench to centre court with the helping hand of Reebok. A true celebration of sport for all, of any ability, and the perfect demonstration of how you can bring your customers deep into your world, whilst still in their own.

As part of the campaign, Reebok is also tapping up local artists in US cities to establish the brand’s own playable courts. But where they could really wrack up some serious customer points, is by rewarding the brand’s highest hoop scorers, to unlock rewards and receive the ultimate in brand invitations – to join Reebok basketball teams on their own playable courts to play for the champion title. AR with the purpose, uniting players through a shared passion for sport.

Reebok Courting Greatness campaign, which coincides with the launch of their Question Mid “Iverson Four” trainer

The future

While Apple and Facebook battle it out for the title of AR king, you can place firm bets on the tech becoming even more sophisticated over the next few years. And with lightning-fast 5G on the horizon, the ability to unlock experiences in-real time brings with it unimaginable possibilities.

As brands flirt with transforming entire spaces into branded landscapes ripe for game-play, we can expect this on a far greater scale for the ultimate in customer immersion.

Interested in exploring digital experiences like Augmented Reality Portals for your brand? We can create AR Portals, and also offer Digital Experience Consultancy to help you find the best options for your brand. Get in touch to discuss today.

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