Pokémon Go landed in our mobile world in July 2016, and the augmented reality game changed the way we look at our smartphone screens. Since then, Pokémon Go has logged some 750 million downloads and it’s still drawing about 65 million active users monthly.
By almost any measure, Niantic’s numbers amount to a year of success. But have mobile advertisers capitalized on the augmented reality technology that Pokémon G0 represents? And if brand marketers’ approach to AR has hit a pause in the months following Pokémon Go’s arrival, then what comes next?
Location intelligence and augmented reality
On the one hand, there has been no serious game-oriented competition for Niantic, and there’s been nothing that marketing could call a definitive brand breakthrough in the augmented reality advertising space. On the other hand, developers are creating platforms that will allow brands to create their own augmented reality experience without having to onboard a whole team of AR experts. Organizations such as GoMeta are putting accessible AR tools in brands’ and marketers’ hands, right now. Other platforms such as Motive.io are working on similar location-powered AR approaches.
Location unlocks the potential of AR in ways many of us hadn’t fully imagined one year ago. For example, at South by Southwest this year, Taco Bell deployed the “Taco Crunch Challenge” augmented reality game. Using their smartphones, mobile consumers collected ingredients for a taco recipe on the company’s menu. The items appeared onscreen when players entered venues around Austin. Collecting them all created a voucher, good for a real taco at a real Taco Bell restaurant in the city.
For mobile advertisers, this is just the beginning of the AR story. At the heart of the future of augmented reality is not simply the beat of fantastic new technology; the power behind the evolution of AR will be the people that come together to experience it and the brands that create moments that are meaningful enough for consumers to share.
Immersive brand experiences
While coupons and the like represent a 1.0 tactic, rewarded ads are increasingly effective in the mobile-gaming space, but a massive needle-mover for AR-savvy brands will be the actualization of rewards that bring together individuals and communities.
We saw the effect of people getting together last summer, as groups of Pokémon Go players charged around their neighborhoods, scooping up rewards from parks and coffee shops. It’s not just about winning, in these scenarios, it’s also about positive experiences that stem from the communities that form around brand engagements. This is all part of the big idea, the crucial detail at the core of what will be augmented reality success stories to come. It’s not about what the technology can do; it’s about what the consumer gets to do with the experiences that technology creates.
About one year ago, shortly after Pokémon Go captured our imaginations, I wrote about empathy and cultural immersion when it comes to virtual reality. The narrative today is that location intelligence is a prime pathway to the context that captures those concepts of empathy and cultural immersion.
Augmented reality makes brands more tangible to consumers — and valuable in the real world. When users can “touch,” “hold,” and interact with mobile creative, that’s AR opening the door to active participation with the experiences served.
That’s immersion, and that’s the future of mobile marketing’s augmented reality opportunity.