Augmented Reality Glasses & “In Your Face” Marketing

January 30th, 2013 by

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been dreaming about augmented reality since seeing Terminator.  When news surfaced about the development and testing of such AR glasses (by Google, Microsoft, Apple and others), my mouth began watering, both as a consumer as well as a marketer.  Imagine the impact of “in your face” marketing, where consumers could be presented with timely, hypercontextual advertising in the lenses of their glasses/goggles.  Local marketing, for example, could go from “there’s a great restaurant in your neighborhood and here’s a coupon” to “you’re passing by a restaurant with award-winning food that over 20 of your friends love and here’s a 10% coupon”. 

While the previous incarnation of augmented reality using smartphones and tablets (using apps like Layar) fell a bit flat, I feel confident that AR glasses (ARGs) will be more successful and more lucrative for marketers.   A recent study by Semico Research indicated that the AR industry could generate more than $600 billion by the end of 2016.  So what marketing strategies will emerge from this technology?  Below, I describe my predictions.

Predictions for Augmented Reality in Marketing

The most apparent marketing opportunity is on-location advertising.  If Sandra (a self-admitted coffee addict) passes by a new coffee shop, the coffee shop could target a “Try a Cup on Us” promotional offer to her. Sandra stops in for her free cup of coffee and ends up becoming a lifelong customer.

Instead of location, your AR marketing might be directed towards people looking at a specific object.  For example, Charlie is visiting Chicago and decides to take in the view from the Willis Tower.  He snaps a photo of the view to share on Facebook.  After noting his location and the photo he just shared, a professional photographer (through hypercontextual ads) offers Charlie a framed copy of his own award-winning photo of the Chicago skyline.

Lastly, imagine you’re sitting in front of the TV watching your favorite show.  You touch the side of your glasses to have your program “augmented” with additional content.  Now, instead of just the program, you can also view recent news about the actors, announcements about upcoming shows and perhaps their social media information so you can connect with them.

I know what you’re all thinking – there’s no way this is going to be ok with privacy advocates.  To circumvent this concern and reduce the chance of driving users away, any of the above examples will need a very clear opt-in and opt-out mechanism.

Will AR Glasses Users Accept “In Your Eyes” Marketing?

While some marketers might be concerned that users will rebel against marketing directed at ARGs, I feel users will be receptive to “in your eyes” marketing.  The key is that the advertising medium needs to provide true value to the user.  For example, I’m happy to view a display ad between turns on Words with Friends because I get a lot of enjoyment out of playing the game.  While there may be a period of adjustment for the new advertising medium, I feel users will acclimate quickly and without any catastrophic pushback.

What Else Should I Know?

There’s a ton of additional impact with ARGs, from the possibility of eye-tracking data from the masses, the collection of massive amounts of location-sensitive data and perhaps even a way to truly understand what content on a webpage really engages users (beyond the typical engagement metrics).  We will even need to consider new ways for consumers to interact with content, similar to the rise of mobile websites after the smartphone revolution. The development of integrated AR glasses is a major technological feat that will have far reaching impact in manufacturing, tourism, military technology, retail and the arts.

There are still many questions surrounding augmented reality glasses, including standardization of technology and the impact of this technology on society.  However, as marketers, we need to pay attention to this developing space and consider how marketing programs can take full advantage of the ability to literally “get in front of their eyes”.


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