I’ll be honest. Before I started working in ad tech, I didn’t know that there was a difference between virtual reality and augmented reality.

I know, not my brightest moment. But I did eventually learn that VR essentially recreates a digital version of a real-life setting, while AR provides digital overlays to the physical, real world. Those SnapChat lenses that make you look like a partying panda? That’s AR. And those big headsets that you see people wearing in videos while falling over and grabbing at nothing? That’s VR.

While both AR and VR technology is still pretty young, it’s growing and it’s growing fast. Some brand marketers have seen how these technologies have invaded the market and have implemented them into their marketing strategies, primarily AR. So, settle on in, because I’m about to drop some serious details about AR and why brands should have used it, like yesterday.


 

Augmenting Brands for the Better

In the grand scheme of things, AR is a far easier technology for brands to adopt because it blends both digital and physical reality, creating an interactive and collaborative experience for consumers. I mean, who doesn’t spend hours bombarding their friends with SnapChats of them as a dog or alien?

AR changes the game because it allows brands to display images in front of their product, while allowing consumers to play with product and space and around them. One of the best examples that highlights AR’s accessibility is Pizza Hut’s AR Menu Experience that created an engaging experience around their pizza by having customers scan trigger images that were on pizza boxes and menus to access pizza trivia, interactive menus and even place an order on the app.

I don’t know about you, but pizza is pretty great on its own in the real world, but Pizza Hut used AR to make it even more amazing.

AR as a Storytelling Technology

I’m a sucker for a good story, and when a brand creates a narrative around their product or service that actually makes me feel something, I’m more likely to purchase or at least be engaged with the brand’s product.

Another reason why AR is important to brands is because it adds another layer of entertaining digital content to the real world for consumers like me. One of my favorite examples of AR letting brands tell a story is Coca-Cola’s 2014 partnership with the World Wildlife Fund. They created an AR experience housed in the London Science Museum where visitors were able to “interact” with a virtual family of polar bears in the hopes of creating awareness of and raise funds for the conservation of the Arctic.

Even though they were virtual, the polar bears were still totally cute, establishing an emotional connection between a consumer and product through a successful AR campaign. Honestly, who wouldn’t want to go buy a Coke after interacting with those guys?

AR and VR are going to be the next big thing, with AR being the most beneficial to brands. The technology is creating a completely new way to create targeted and interactive ad experiences for consumers. Despite the hype, AR and VR won’t eliminate traditional ads, but they will become one of the most important tools for brands to have.