Will Augmented Reality Make Direct Mail the Bomb?

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April 17, 2012

Today reality isn’t always wysiwyg (what you see is what you get). We have reality, virtual reality, alternate reality, digital reality and now augmented reality.  This great new tool may be on the way to helping marketers get their clients to experience a new level of reality and help drive engagement and hopefully revenue

Augmented reality is a digital layer over the real world that you can’t see with the naked eye but can see with the camera on your smart phone or computer, according to Vivian Rosenthal, founder of New York City-based AR start-up, GoldRun. Get a glimpse of Rosenthal’s use or AR in this promo (an invisible pop up store) for AirWalk sneakers.

You experience a tiny sampling of AR when you watch a televised football game. The yellow first down lines aren’t painted on the field itself, but inserted digitally to enhance your viewing experience.

A Boeing researcher introduced AR in 1990. By 2008 it was a $6 million industry and expected to grow into a $350 million industry by 2014.

AR is Legalized Steroids for Direct Mail

The movie Avatar used AR in its integrated marketing campaign to launch with Avatar teamed with Coke Zero. Movie buffs could hold their Coke can with the Avatar symbol in front of their webcams and interact with parts of the movie on a “visceral” level.

Don’t be fooled into dismissing AR as all fun and games, it offers an entirely new avenue for engagement and in particular direct mail, according to the February issue of the U.S. Postal Service’s Deliver magazine. The cover and feature article in this issue featured black and white artwork that came to life, movement, and color when you held your smart phone over the graphic after downloading the recommended app.

Taylor, one of the largest direct mail printers in the nation, used AR as the star attraction of its trade booth at the 2011 Direct Marketing Association convention in Boston. Visitors were given a postcard and sent to a special website to unlock the encoded graphics and information. Art Calamari, who manned the booth, said he watched hundreds of attendees share the technology and message with hundreds of other attendees – turning a direct mail print piece into a word of mouth brushfire.

Imagine making your direct mail even more interactive and relevant like some insurance companies have by sending out postcards with agent photos and a neat graphic that changes weekly when scanned just like a rotating billboard. The selling point is helping consumers hold on to that print piece longer as well as being moved further down the sales pipeline as the information changes.

AR is a Magnet for Millennials

Research shows that if the messaging and the experience are not engaging, and do not create brand desire, Millennials may just move on to a competitor. Millennials are defined as those born in the 1980s, whose lives revolve around being constantly connected to technology.

One successful augmented reality iPhone app that attracts Millenials is Le Bar Guide. Using GPS data, the technology locks onto a location serving the popular Belgian beer, Stella Artois, by populating the phone with directional arrows pointing users to the nearest pub that serves it.

Can You Afford Augmented Reality Marketing?

According to Rosenthal, AR campaigns can be as inexpensive as $5,000 and as high as $100,000. She compares costs with full-page magazine print ads, which start at $100,000 in major magazines based on cost per thousand readers or as high as $400,000 for a one-page ad in the coveted Sports Illustrated issue.

As part of a vacation promotion for Snow Mass Ski Slopes, three-dimensional renderings necessary for the AR campaign ran approximately $10,000.

Regardless, the spend definitely can be tied to customer engagement, acquisition, and retention thanks to the measurability of the interactivity and technology.

If the numbers work and the medium directly aligns with your target market, then executing an augmented reality campaign can both bring home the bacon and establish your company as an innovation leader.

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