Now, many are incorporating another big trend into the mix – augmented reality.
By blending digital elements with real world events, AR further enables brands to bring experiences to life (as well as to create campaigns at scale).
Here’s five recent examples (Editor’s note: there is a more recent article from 2019 featuring more examples of branded AR), and reasons why they work.
Coca-Cola’s World Cup experience
Coca-Cola is a long-term partner of the FIFA World Cup, having created a number of memorable marketing campaigns, and appearing in stadium advertising at events since 1950.
This year, the brand celebrated the start of the 2018 World Cup with a football-themed augmented reality experience outside of Zurich’s main train station in Switzerland.
It gave passers-by the chance to demonstrate their own football skills, using AR technology to make participants feel like they were playing alongside Switzerland’s very own Xherdan Shaqiri.
Afterwards, players could take a photo with Shaqiri, plus enter a competition to win a FIFA World Cup Official Match Ball.
With the majority of consumers used to interacting with AR on a much smaller scale (e.g. playing Pokemon Go on mobile), the large screens and life-size effects looked to be far more impactful.
By creating a fully-immersive experience, involving a high-profile and timely event, Coca-Cola ensured passers-by would notice the campaign and want to get involved in the action.
City Social’s Mirage menu
Apart from Instagram-worthy surroundings, innovative use of technology is not something you expect to encounter when going out for dinner. However, London-based restaurant City Social is aiming to change that with the launch of its AR drinks menu.
There are 12 cocktails on the ‘Mirage’ menu, described as ‘a timeline of artistic styles throughout the ages’. In order to experience the AR, customers are encouraged to download the corresponding app at the point of booking, which they can then access by pointing their camera at a coaster that accompanies their chosen cocktail.
Depending on the drink, customers will see art-related animations spring to life, including dancing flapper girls and Mayan gods.
It’s certainly an innovative concept, and possibly one of the first examples of ‘drinkable tech’ in action. Of course, there is the question of whether it feels too gimmicky, with the campaign in danger of overshadowing City Social’s authentic reputation.
On the other hand, with visitors already likely to Instagram their cocktail – regardless of AR – it seems like a clever way to make the experience even more memorable, without involving too much hassle or disruption.
Felix’s ‘Up to Mischief’ campaign
While AR often involves interactive elements, with people actively playing or participating, the technology can also be utilised to merely surprise and delight passing consumers.
Pet food brand Felix aimed to do just this with its ‘Up to Mischief’ campaign in London’s Waterloo Station. The premise being that Waterloo is one of the city’s busiest and most stressful places, meaning it’d be the perfect place for the playful Felix to entertain travellers.
A 3D version of Felix the cat was projected onto the stations’s 40-metre screen, walking around and ‘interacting’ with commuters. Reacting to people in real-time, Felix was seen trailing behind passers-by and jumping onto ticket machines.
Unlike Coca-Cola’s example, which disrupts regular behaviour to make people stop and take part, Felix’s campaign is clever in its subtlety. With its fun and quirky use of AR, the brand was able to create a memorable experience as people went about their everyday lives, which in turn helped to forge an understated yet emotional connection with consumers.
Reports suggest that there was a 18.7% engagement rate online, and a 7% increase in brand consideration after the campaign.
Eminem’s Coachella performance
Can music artists be classed as ‘brands’? Some (e.g. Beyonce) perhaps more than others, but others are certainly trying to ramp up their own marketing efforts. Take Eminem, for example, who launched his own AR app ahead of his performance at this year’s Coachella festival in California.
The premise was rather clever. Instead of fighting against the audience experiencing the show through their mobile phones, Eminem embraced it by giving them something to make his performance all the more memorable.
The Eminem AR app contained exclusive extras for festival-goers, plus live visuals during his performance including a large-scale Eminem, branded masks, and other lyric-related animations over the stage.
Taking the ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ mind-set, Eminem is one of the first examples of AR in music, showing the extent to which the technology is infiltrating a multitude of industries (of course, Shazam has also integrated AR technology).
Macallan Whisky’s gallery tour
Another reasons brands are using augmented reality is due to its ability to enhance storytelling.
One example is Macallan Whisky, which launched an AR activation at a New York art gallery, in conjunction with its AR app that can also be used in bars and at home, in order for fans to learn about the whiskey-making process.
In the art gallery, visitors could immerse themselves in various interactive art pieces depicting American and European oak forests, where Macallan sources the wood for its whisky casks.
The premise is based on the notion that whiskey fans are already invested – both in the drink and their brand of choice. As a result, they are more likely to want to learn about the history of the drink (and the origins of the brand), as opposed to being swayed to buy it.
On the back of its New York success, Macallan now has plans to take its AR installation to galleries elsewhere in the US, proving the technology’s ability to better connect consumers with the brands they love.