Trendjackers as ever, we've already discussed Pokémon a plenty on the Econ blog.

What can brands learn from Nintendo's digital transformation? And what does it mean for augmented reality (AR)?

But now I've caught up with Zappar co-founder and CEO Caspar Thykier, to give him his right to reply on the future for AR in the light of the gaming sensation.

Brands shouldn't get too carried away

Caspar is refreshingly pragmatic about augmented reality (AR) and Pokémon GO. The game doesn't change the landscape for AR, merely shows how fun the technology can be.

"Some people are saying ‘finally AR is having it’s moment’," he says, "but I’m not sure I necessarily agree with that statement. AR has been around for an awfully long time, it just depends what your benchmark is for what you think the right use case is.

"There are plenty of different use cases which have been proven over many years, quite frankly.

"It’s lovely to see things like Snapchat FaceSwap and now Pokémon GO give it that different, mass-market consumer appeal but a lot of that has got to do with the fact that they haven’t raised it in consumer’s minds as ‘AR’. It’s just a fun thing to do."

pokemon go

Caspar goes further and points out that any new interest in AR on the back of the Nintendo phenomenon is par for the course in the hype machine of marketing and advertising.

"Just this week, where people wanted to be the Uber of X, you probably can’t go to a VC presentation now without somebody mentioning Pokémon GO.

"My background is in advertising, we worked on the Guinness Surfer campaign. I distinctly remember after that campaign came out, other clients - who were never going to make a campaign like that, because it wasn’t in their brand essence - would all go, ‘how could we do our version of Guiness Surfer?’

"And I think that’s what you’ll find now. You'll get people whose brands don’t fit culturally, but they want to do it, [a large scale AR game]."

guinness surfer

However, the Zappar co-founder isn't looking the gift horse of publicity in the face, but is merely setting expectations.

"The great news is, people are talking about Pokémon GO. The thing to temper is - it’s not an easy thing to achieve.

"There are so many things that have slotted into place to form the way Niantic have gone about it, with the brand and the underlying system they’ve already spent a lot of money exploring. It’s not easily replicable."

But AR campaigns can provide a sense of discovery

Whilst the scale and sophistication of Pokémon GO may be off limits, AR can still provide discovery and wonder, by targeting the increasingly personal smartphone.

"What’s AR’s role in marcomms or in outreach for a digital strategy?" Caspar asks. "Where ZapCodes (real-world triggers for AR) help us is that brands have real estate across print, packaging, online - and AR can help you control that through the device that means the most to people.

"And [the question for AR creative is] how do we make a connection between the two - a point of discovery that will delight and turn into intention to purchase or a social share?

Pokémon GO is driving gamers on to the streets and sees them visiting many locations designated as 'gyms' to fight their monster proteges. I asked Caspar if this dynamic is something that could drive consumers to stores, using AR more broadly.

He cited a recent Zappar campaign for its impact on sales.

"We did a campaign in South Africa with Engen, a petroleum company. The marketing director had come from McDonalds so was someone who was used to consumer-facing marketing.

"Part of Engen's challenge was that the price of petrol is set by the government in SA, so how else can they entice people to forecourts? What are the other value-add promotions they can do to get people to spend more money?

"We printed our codes on the fly on the till receipts, if you spent a certain amount of money. If you scanned that till receipt you got a little driving game, relevant to the occasion.

"You could enter your score in a high score table by giving your details and then someone at the end of the week won a swag bag of goodies, such as a laptop, headphones etc.

The results were impressive..

"Over the eight week campaign Engen attributed an 11% uplift in sales around that activity, versus the previous year.

"Going into that campaign, you think 'how many people can be bothered to keep a till receipt?' The ability to make something as dumb as a receipt into something that’s interactive and people will share is a really interesting example of changing behaviour with the use of AR on existing real estate."

And AR experiences will become better integrated

Caspar gave a vision of a branded AR experience in the not-too distant future, one characterised by fewer hurdles for the user.

"Because of the way mobile will develop, more use of deep linking, the Android Instant App development - taking away the friction - all these things will impact adoption and you’ll see more experiences of something appearing in the camera view either in AR or VR"

This idea of brand AR not needing an app download is compelling. Caspar continues, "Yeah, you could be on the web, hit a link that could download effectively that part of the app and take you straight to the experience and that’s why we’ve built our ZapWorks authoring platform to work with that future in mind." 

"Our long term vision is to democratise AR. How do you make it a mass-market proposition, not only for end users but for content creators?

"The thing we’ve tried to build is a platform that understands the canvas of mobile and tablet and can allow the next gen. of digital creatives to build short form experiences that are good quality with a high level of expression and immersion and game play and be able to publish that immediately. 

"Part of our roadmap will include the ability for anyone to do a face swap or 360 video, or create a mixed reality experience - take all these things and put them into one tool that anyone can access - this will be the evolution of our business. 

AR and VR should be part of brand thinking (at least)

I asked Caspar if Pokémon GO had generated more new business enquiries for Zappar.

"Definitely," he replied, "over the last five years, since snapchat and all the noise about VR and Google Cardboard and now Pokémon GO - it gives people permission, let’s people feel there’s more adoption.

"...I think we are at the stage [because of support from big tech companies] that within marketing departments, people should be thinking about possible uses of AR and VR, the sense that you don’t only look at you phone, but you can see through it. 

"But remember a lot of big companies have only just come to terms with having a website. A lot of companies aren’t set up internally to do AR and VR.

"The bigger the corp, the more legacy software and infrastructure - it’s hard for them to move at this pace."

Ben Davis

Published 19 July, 2016 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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