Augmented Reality: Are Indian marketers ready for it?

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Move over Virtual Reality (VR). It’s time for Augmented Reality (AR) that’s the new buzz word for marketers. As an ‘experience’ tool, while AR gives a more real feel to users/customers, it is an expensive tool that is keeping marketers away from adopting it.

So what exactly is AR and how is it different from VR? Putting it simply, VR is all about an ‘experience’ in the digital world. Whereas, AR is about having digital elements in the real world. The simultaneous mix of real and virtual worlds makes the entire gamut of marketing activities come alive.

For example, Mahindra used the technology at the Auto Expo in New Delhi this year, to launch its Mahindra XUV500. People could virtually experience a cheetah by their side, including petting the wild animal. By standing on the area marked on the floor, a big screen over the XUV showed a cheetah walking in and standing next to the visitor. It was a visual treat for visitors. When the image was captured, it showed the visitor with the car and the cheetah with a watermark on the image saying ‘Me with the cheetah! XUV500.’

Another example is the Titan HSE app on Facebook, where users could virtually try out the light-powered watches with the help of real light captured through web cam.

According to Somprabh K Singh, Senior Marketing Manager, Titan, “AR enables consumers to get an offline shopping experience in the online medium, or helps to enhance their offline shopping experience.”

With a total spend of around 25 lakh, the campaign received 50,000 downloads of the application over a period of eight weeks, and the cumulative time spent by users on the app amounted to a year.

Carlton D'Silva, Chief Creative Officer, Hungama Digital Media

Carlton D'Silva, Chief Creative Officer, Hungama Digital Media

Meanwhile, Carlton D’Silva, Chief Executive Officer, Hungama Digital Media, the digital agency behind the Mahindra XUV500 campaign feels that AR allows brands to get an immediate reaction from the audience.

The agency has earlier developed an AR campaign (You Click, Allu Arjun Dance) for 7UP too where users could make Telugu movie star Allu Arjun, the then mascot of the beverage brand, dance as per their choice on.

McDonald’s is another player, which has tried out AR when it launched McFlurry in India. McDonald’s would video record any customer in the store and load the recording onto a TV screen within the store. The customer could then view himself/herself along with a McFlurry, which gave an impression that the customer was a part of the TVC being played in the store.

Rajesh Kumar Maini, General Manager – Corporate Communication, McDonald’s India (North & East), says, “Our consumers, especially the younger lot are more inclined towards the total experience they have at McDonald’s. AR was one such innovation that we experimented with, which helped us engage them and create ‘I’m Lovin’ It’ moments.”

According to Satwick Saxena, Business Head, Thmbstrk, the mobile marketing division of Indigo Consulting (an interactive marketing and technology agency), AR, because of its novelty factor intrigues the consumers. While AR can be used in conjunction with the users mobile phone, it can simply help find offers in the shop one is passing by or even check out if the television set a consumer is checking out in a store will fit into his/her TV-trolley. “AR based solutions enable simple, easy to use solutions for many common problems,” he says.

For a layman, AR is nothing short of magic. It is this freshness that engraves a brand’s identity in the minds of consumers. The buzz that is created also lends to the enforcement of a brand’s presence in the marketplace.

Will marketers adopt?

Even though the concept is new, AR has great future potential. According to Singh of Titan, the brand will use AR in future, if it fits the overall campaign objectives and can be employed in an innovative manner.

Maini of McDonald’s too feels that AR can help brands build a better connect with the consumers. In fact, McDonald’s is evaluating the possibility of using AR to highlight and share nutrition information of its products with the customers.

Also, with more companies investing in digital media and there being an explosion in smart phone sales, AR will be an important component of the marketing campaigns of brands that are looking to be pioneers in the digital media space and break the clutter in traditional media.

Who should use it?

While Singh feels that AR will play a major role for companies in the retail sector, others marketers feel that any brand that wants to innovate and interact with its consumers can use AR. Luxury is another sector, which can use AR to give an experience of its products to consumers without actually handing over the product before a sale.

Any challenges?

While I AR still is in its nascent stage, yet there is always a fear of overkill. According to D’Silva, “An overdose of anything is always bad. An overdose with bad Augmented Reality ideas is worse.”

Another challenge that is foreseen is the cost involved. Saxena feels, “Typically brands and marketers think of AR too late while planning a campaign and hence timelines and sometimes costs can become a challenge.”

He adds, “The cost of an AR project depends on the complexity of the requirement and the amount of platforms it needs to work on.”

The cost according to him, could go anything beyond Rs 10 lakh for a static image projection at a single OOH installation. The costs keep increasing as more features and interactions are added.

While the stage has been set, it remains to be seen how marketers make use of this technology to leverage their brands.

Watch the video of Augmented Reality in action at the Auto Expo during the launch of Mahindra XUV500:


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