It’s hard to believe that the music discovery app Shazam has been around for 10 years. 

Since it first appeared, it has taken prime real estate on users’ phones alongside the likes of Google Maps and WhatsApp.

Last December, Apple announced it had bought Shazam for a reported $400m. This has now led the EC to launch a formal investigation into the deal, due to concerns that Apple will have an unfair advantage through access to user data.

Putting this news aside, Apple’s potential takeover looks set to only increase Shazam’s investment in new technology, which has become all the more apparent in the past few years.

With brands of all kinds capitalising on the demand for visual content, the company has upped its game – branching out from audio recognition into a focus on visual technology. Even more recently, it announced the launch of a new AR platform to connect its audience to immersive and custom-brand visual content via the app.

I recently heard Shazam account director Hugo Marshall speak at Mindshare’s ‘Future of AR’ event all about how the company has been running successful campaigns in this space.

Here’s more on what he said, the benefits for brands and users alike, as well as more on the general demand for AR from consumers today.

A natural home for branded AR

According to Mindshare’s latest report on the topic, the demand for AR technology is growing, with 55% of users agreeing that it would be helpful to point their phone at an object to uncover additional information.

This is the general aim of Shazam’s AR technology, which acts as a gateway to connect users with valuable and entertaining content in-the-moment – either for sheer entertainment purposes, or to provide valuable information during or post purchase. 

Again, with Shazam already being a trusted name – one that’s recognisable to users as the ‘home of music discovery’ – it provides an appealing solution for brands wanting to reach a media-hungry audience. It also means that brands do not need to spend time and money acquiring new eyes and ears, as Shazam has a large audience with the existing app already downloaded onto their mobile phones.

Netflix was one of the first big brands to get on board with Shazam’s new AR capabilities (built by Zappar), specifically with its campaign to promote the new season of GLOW.

hugo marshall discussing shazam's ar tech 

The campaign allowed users to scan special codes through the Shazam app in order to make posters and other media come alive. There was also a special ‘Glow’ takeover in the app itself (involving specially-curated 80’s themed playlists), and users could also get involved in the action by snapping a photo of themselves to overlay Glow-like hairstyles and clothing. 

The value centred around ‘surprise and delight’, with Shazam able to introduce the show to a new and wider audience, as well as give fans a fun and immersive slice of entertainment. 

According to Marshall, the campaign effectively captured user attention, with AR experiences generating an average user engagement time of two minutes. With most users typically dipping in and out of Shazam to satisfy a specific need (rather than to spend time browsing) – this shows that there is tangible interest in AR.

Bringing packaging to life

While Netflix used Shazam’s visual technology to reach audiences at the consideration stage – i.e. to encourage them to watch its latest show – others have used it to provide value at various different points of the consumer journey.

Gin brand Bombay Sapphire partnered with Shazam to add AR elements into its physical product. This meant users could scan a special sticker or tag on bottles to make it come to life, with AR imagery and audio including blooming flowers and wildlife. Users could also discover videos detailing hidden recipes and other additional information relating to the product.

During his talk, Marshall spoke about the importance of UX within the AR experience, specifically the positioning of the code or sensor, as well as in-app instructions on how to access the imagery.

He cited one poor example of an AR code being placed on a large cereal box, which happened to include individual (packaged) miniatures inside. In this instance, parents would put the main box away and merely remove the miniatures to give to their kids, meaning that the AR experience was often forgotten about or missed.

In contrast, he explained how Bombay Sapphire wanted to make the AR-experience unmissable for consumers, with the hope that the tag would stay on the bottle even after purchase – and become a talking-point within a social context. 

Another brand to make use of connected packaging in this way is whisky brand Glenlivet. While it is perhaps not the type of company you’d expect to target Shazam’s audience, like Bombay Sapphire, it was keen to provide consumers with an easy, intuitive, and informative entry-point into AR.

Meanwhile, Shazam was also eager to showcase its own ability to create brand-centric campaigns, sacrificing its own distinct blue branding on tags to fit the sleeker image of Glenlivit.

shazam and glenlivet

This particular campaign also involves a gamification element, whereby users are ranked on how well they are able to decode the ingredients inside the bottle.

As the campaign is ongoing, and the official tasting notes won’t be released until the end of the year, Glenlivit is evidently hoping it will become a talking point among consumers and fans on social, as well as enhance the consumer experience post-purchase.

Setting consumer expectations 

While Shazam looks set to continue its success with AR – using the technology to help brands create and deliver compelling and interactive content – it’s an example that also highlights where brands could be heading in future. 

According to Mindshare, we could be moving away from using AR for ‘surprise and delight’ into more every day, functional purposes – i.e to make daily experiences smoother and more efficient.

As examples like Bombay Sapphire and Glenlivit become more commonly seen, there could be a growing expectation for products (and advertising) to become interactive at the mere touch of a camera button.

Of course, like with any type of content, there needs to be tangible value for consumers. But if brands are able to deliver this (as well as make UX slick and intuitive) – Shazam isn’t the only company likely to benefit from it in future.  

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