Once everyone got past the sticker shock, Apple's release of the latest iPhone spawned a slew of analysis as reviewers picked apart every upgrade and unpleasant surprise. One new that has captured a lot of attention - and likely to have widespread implications -- is that the newest iPhone is an augmented reality (AR) platform. It's apparently no niche feature with some reviewers already speculating that it could succeed where Google Glass failed and take AR mainstream. Including AR on the most popular smartphone will increase consumer awareness to a point well beyond the meteoric rise and fall of Pokémon Go and undoubtedly trigger a massive increase in the development of AR applications.

Forward-thinking marketers are already acting on the opportunity that mass-market adoption of AR has to offer. AR offers a whole new world for marketing creatives, particularly those who come at it from a customer-centric, content-first perspective. But marketers beware. There are two ways this whole AR thing could play out in terms of customer experience: 1) A dystopian hell that resembles Times Square, only more crowded, chaotic, and even less consumer-friendly. 2) An information-laden utopia, in which consumers' every interest is enhanced by brands that meet them where they are and help them get to whatever they want.

Think about it: If AR marketing mirrors what we've seen online, people will be met at every turn with an aggressive, invasive advertising assault that ruthlessly capitalizes on their behavior and offers little in return. And we know that that hasn't gone well. Digital tops the list of advertising people hate the most, resulting in an alarming increase of ad blocker adoption. Let's hope we learn from our mistakes and approach the AR marketing opportunity in a customer-centric way.

Content marketers will have an advantage here, particularly if they take their cue from the early AR experiments made by their fellow content creators in traditional media who focus on content experiences that inform, entertain, and enhance. Great content is additive, not distracting or invasive.

As we begin to develop AR marketing, here are three approaches to consider:

1. Storytelling: A compelling story is a must for content creators, no matter what the genre or objective. AR offers a raft of ways to build compelling content such as telling the story of a place or product; movie trailers or behind-the-scenes vignettes activated by a movie poster or tie-in toy; or children's books that come to life so that readers can interact with characters off the page.

2. Informative: Undoubtedly, one of the clearest benefits offered by AR is the ability to provide useful information about products and services. Ideas here include allowing a furniture shopper to see if a sofa in a showroom fits well in their living room; the ability to scan the supermarket shelves and see only the products that fit your food criteria; immersive guides for anything from museums, to malls and national parks; and interactive visuals on how to prepare a recipe, use or assemble a product.

3. Fun: When it comes to effective marketing, there's a lot to be said for bringing the fun. With regards to AR, think Snapchat activations and filters. Great examples include makeup mirrors, which use AR to map the user's face and then accurately show the precise effects of makeup and even skin care regimens on the face over time; game-like features or check-ins; the ability to interact with celebrities, zombies or endangered animals; jumping into the scene of a film, book, or historical setting; or picturing yourself on the cover of a magazine or cereal box.

Augmented reality is the ultimate integration of content and context. It is an engagement machine. When integrated with the ability to capture video or images of AR experiences, there's a natural social and shareable extension that can far extend the reach of a marketing initiative. After a few false starts, Apple's inclusion of AR is likely the tipping point we've all been waiting for.

Now is time to pump the brakes and approach this opportunity at a sane speed, with a destination in mind. AR could transform marketing in a profound way. The question is whether it will be another digital quagmire in which we take the stalk and assault approach with everyone force-fitting AR into their digital marketing plans. Or if we can mindfully create additive, informative, and engaging experiences that put the put the customer first to create compelling marketing experiences.

Published on: Sep 26, 2017