What Pokémon Go can Teach Brands about Augmented Reality

What Pokémon Go can Teach Brands about Augmented Reality

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Brands should keep a close eye on Pokémon Go as a sign of what may be coming their way.

The entire world seems to be going crazy for Pokémon Go. For those not caught up: this remake of the classic 90s game makes players go around using their smartphone to find Pokémon in various real world locations. This overlay of a virtual and physical gaming experience brings the thrill of Pokémon hunting to a new level and is bringing millions of players into the augmented reality (or AR) world (not to be confused with Virtual Reality, as we have explained in a previous article). As MADJOR, we believe that Pokémon Go could act as a strong catalyst for a rejuvenated interest from brands in augmented reality.

Discussions about AR aren’t new. With their geo-localization and image capture functionalities, smartphones made possible in theory large-scale AR business models and brand experiences. Since the early days of smartphone democratization, brands have been attracted by the possibilities of AR. Early players such as Layar sold a compelling vision of an “All AR” world where people would just hold their phone against an apartment building to instantly see information about flats for sale or against a road to get live traffic conditions.

Early ambitions, however, crashed against a lack of maturity on two levels:

  • Technical: not all early generations smartphones could handle AR experiences smoothly from the standpoint of pure processing power, battery life or data;
  • Consumer behavior: AR perfectly illustrates how technology evolutions alone are nothing if they are not matched by a corresponding evolution in mindsets and behavior. AR, like all new technologies, needs to fit into rituals and allow people to develop habits. Few consumers until now had any experiences with AR and what little they knew about the technology was mostly focused on negative aspects of privacy invasion (the Google Glass “creepy factor”).

If we consider the well-known “Hype Cycle” model, AR went through the traditional stages of early exuberance followed by massive disillusionment. We believe that Pokémon Go could be the first sign of AR gradually entering its productivity plateau. Our thinking on this revolves around a few key points.

  • The right point of entry: early visions of AR were characteristic of overhyped technologies with grand plans of “AR everything” best represented by the Google Glass project (which was ultimately halted by Google in early 2015). Technologies can’t be all things to all people from the start. They need the right point of entry to get people on board and prove their value. Gaming has in the past often served as such an entry point and in this particular case no game offers a better fit with AR than Pokémon Go. AR may have found its killer application that will turn it from an abstract vision for the future to a compelling value proposition right now.
  • Building a habit: Pokémon Go’s massive popularity means that millions of people will develop the habit of using AR in their everyday lives. They will learn how to interact with AR experiences, which will allow for the technology to very naturally expand beyond gaming to other areas such as shopping, services and communications.
  • Maturing technology: the early technological constraints of AR experiences are being lifted. The vast majority of smartphones on the market have the processing power to smoothly handle most AR experiences, the battery problem (while still present) is being solved and increasing penetration of 4G network has addressed the data part of the equation.

Looking beyond virtual monster hunting, we can broaden our gaze to imagine some of the AR brand experiences of tomorrow. From marketing to services and commerce, AR’s potential could be seen across many areas.

  • Product contextualization:  A common pain point associated with fashion ecommerce is the inability to know what matches what, crucial when adding items to your wardrobe.  An AR assistant could allow you to project new products directly against your existing outfits, easily choosing the color or design that best fits.
  • Out of home advertising:  With banners, billboards, and screens, there is a limit to how engaging current outdoor advertising can be.  However, imagine looking through your phone and seeing your favorite celebrity right there in front of you and speaking directly to you.  With little to no physical ad space required, brands can bring real-life celebrity endorsements to the outside world.  The content of the ad can even change depending on the location, with the celebrity interacting with her unique surroundings.
  • Showroom personalization:  Physical stores, while providing actual products to touch and feel, are usually unable to provide the level of variety and customization that can be found online.  However with an AR app connected to your brand account, a dedicated section of the showroom can be converted into a “recommendation” section based on the customers’ online browsing history, filling real-world shelves with a virtual product selection.
  • Design previewing:  How often do you walk by a construction site and wonder: what on earth is being built there?  Imagine if you could just look through your phone and see a virtual rendering of the finished building or structure.  Using AR for this purpose can help not only in community awareness for construction projects, but can also be used by property developers to show different design options and sell leases.
  • Educational enrichment: Educational vacationing is a booming industry right now, and travel companies are constantly looking to improve their offerings.  However, an issue arises in that many travel/hospitality companies have no control over the off-premise experience.  With AR technology, however, brands can create and overlay content on key points of interest, improving the travelers’ educational experience and keeping them engaged with the brand all throughout the trip.

Things obviously will not happen overnight, but brands should keep a close eye on Pokémon Go as a sign of what may be coming their way.