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October 24, 2023

Augmented Reality – look into our marketing crystal ball

Tim Price
Head of Video & Motion Graphics
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Using augmented reality in your marketing activities

Welcome back to the second blog in our three-part series on Augmented Reality (AR). In our first segment, we introduced AR technology and explored its potential impact on our lives over the coming years.

But the technology already exists. And so, this poses an opportunity today.

Any brand who considers themselves a true tech pioneer, who is looking to distinguish themselves from their industry competitors, or is ready to forge an unrivalled relationship with millennial and Gen-Z customers, should consider grasping the opportunity AR presents for marketing and customer engagement, today.

Preparing for launch

When it comes to experiential marketing, there’s no better vehicle for delivering an unforgettable brand experience than AR. As mentioned in our previous blog, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination – but there is one decision you’ll need to make early on: how you’ll deliver the experience to your viewers.

For those looking to get started today, there are two methods of AR access to choose from: by building an app, or using WebAR.

For many, apps are the option of choice. In-app augmented reality enables you to control the entire experience from end-to-end, maximising elements such as branding.

Take Pokémon Go, for example. The combination of technology, art and culture to form a real-life treasure hunt was arguably one of the most successful experiential campaigns to date.

During its peak, as many as 20% of Pokémon Go players were using the app every day, and by March 2019 it had been downloaded more than 1 billion times. Those are some vast numbers.

The ease of use was a key factor in the app’s success – and it’s worth noting, there’s no doubt that downloads would have been significantly lower had the app required specialist technology, i.e. had it required additional headwear like ‘Snapchat Spectacles’-type tech to play. But every one of us has a smartphone in our pocket at all times, leaving a near-zero barrier to taking part.

The other option for creating an AR experience is to use WebAR.

Sometimes referred to as WebXR due to its ability to support AR, VR and MXR (Mixed Reality) functionality, WebAR allows you to use an AR experience directly within your browser – without having to download an app.

Most smartphones are WebAR-enabled, making it arguably even easier to access than downloading an app. However, you may have less control over some elements of the design.

So how do you choose the right platform for your audience? At P+S, we believe it comes down to your intent.

If you’re looking to integrate an AR experience into your website, maximise the ‘wow factor’ of your marketing materials or offer an AR experience in real-world locations, WebAR is a great choice. It removes barriers and offers instant access for anyone using a compatible device – without the need for having to stop and download an app.

However, if you’re looking to run a more complex experience – a game, or a more developed user interface like map overlays – then launching an app offers an excellent self-contained, immersive experience with unlimited customisation options. And you’ll have the added benefit of being able to update and push new content without disruption to your other content and materials.

Predicting the future

Apart from creating the next gaming sensation, how can augmented reality actually be applied for brand marketing purposes?

For those businesses promoting a product, it could be as simple as creating the ability for customers to ‘see’ a 3D visualisation of your merchandise face-to-face – all from the comfort of their own sofa.

IKEA have recently begun offering just this, enabling customers to view furniture in their homes before ever making a purchase. And with COVID-19 set to disrupt the store experience the foreseeable future, now has never been a better time to offer virtual product experiences.

For those businesses who offer a service rather than a physical product, this is an opportunity to think laterally about marketing.

Let’s take an airline, for example. While enabling customers to view a Boeing 747 in their own living room isn’t necessarily offering value, they could offer an augmented ‘map’ of airline routes across the sky instead.

Or, they could look closer at the in-airport experience. In larger international airports, offering an augmented map that leads customers from the security gates to the airline’s private lounge, or straight to their flight gate, would be a breath of fresh air.

Architectural firms can use AR to show their projects to a client in real-time. Financial services can demonstrate abstract concepts in a more tangible visualised form. And what’s more, the data shows that AR visualisations improve B2B buyer confidence, and help to speed up sales cycles.

Let’s seal the deal and get engaged

From marketing, to product visualisation, to making invisible concepts visible, the AR experience creates higher levels of engagement, increases conversions, and offers a powerful branding opportunity. When done well, it’s inherently social media friendly, shareable and creates a powerful lasting impact.

But that’s not the limit of what AR will bring to brands.

Our next blog, and final instalment of our AR series, is coming soon - stay tuned.

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