Augmented reality is more than a buzzword.
Move over human influencers; virtual beings might be the next-gen in the near future of marketing.
Ever want to grab a headset and meet your client in virtual reality instead of Zoom – see what your home office makeover could look like using augmented reality or create a virtual copy of yourself and send it off to teach your next webinar or Facebook Live?
Digital marketers are facing new realities, thanks to pandemic disruptions, diversity movements, and social distancing.
Everything – from virtual spaces, micro-messaging to digital creators to platform targeting – has completely turned marketing upside down in the last few months.
Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), machine learning, and now virtual beings are all terms digital marketers need to become familiar with sooner than later.
They have quickly become one of the most accessible ways to market, communicate, engage, and teach.
Here are some of the latest definitions to add to your marketing speak.
Virtual reality is when you are in a fully immersive environment (computer-simulated and video).
Think gaming with a headset only this is no game. Imagine your avatar is meeting with your co-worker’s avatar in your company board room on a platform such as Alt Space VR.
VR gives the user the feeling of being in that environment, instead of the one they are at physically.
Augmented reality is the overlaying of visual content within your existing environment using a device such as glasses, or your smartphone through apps – think Snapchat or Instagram Filters.
Mixed reality, also known as spatial computing, is a hybrid version of reality merging a virtual environment and a real environment.
Think Princess Leia in “Star Wars” or fast-forward today to send a holographic press release with your CEO as a hologram.
Machine learning refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions.
Think R2D2 is now flipping hamburgers for White Castle, or you have a two-way human-like conversation to solve a health problem via messaging.
Virtual Being is a character that you know isn’t real but with whom you can have a two-way emotional relationship.
Think Twitter’s founder Biz Stone as your next keynote or Deepak Chopra conducting a meditation for you.
The catch – it’s not them, it’s via their Virtual Being.
Brands and marketers can now create a virtual being as part of its influencer’s marketing strategy, a computer-generated being programmed to be entirely relatable to your buyer persona.
When heading out to the mall for retail therapy is not an option, AR and social networks like Snapchat are coming to the rescue.
While trapped in a global health crisis, augmented reality gives marketers and brands the power to thrive without putting consumers at risk.
Case in point – Gucci recently launched its first-ever shoe-try-on lens with Snapchat using the powers and style of augmented reality.
All you have to do is scan the promo shop code and get access to try-on the latest trends in footwear fashion.
AR and VR make engaging with your audience accessible in this era of social distancing, quarantine, and beyond.
Virtual concerts, fashion shows, and augmented tours are allowing brands to entertain, educate, and launch without a physical audience.
Social networks are the platform and in many cases, no headset is required.
John Legend with Wave, a social music venue, hosted his first virtual live concert.
The virtual concert attracted more than 500,000 attendees and raised awareness for Legend’s FREEAMERICA campaign, with the goal of transforming the U.S. criminal justice system.
Attendees watched John Legend’s avatar perform his legendary songs which marked history in virtual reality events this month.
During the live event, the real John Legend took to his social channels to interact with his fans.
While all this new marketing technology might sound daunting and think again.
Facebook is making it easy to jump in and experiment with immersive content.
Want to stand out in the feed?
Try using the 3D photo images or panorama images turning into 360 images on mobile.
National Geographic takes one small step for mankind and one large step for AR by taking climbing the world’s highest mountain using immersive storytelling and AR.
Connecting with your audience is about getting up close and personal.
Why would Lululemon buy Mirror, the interactive fitness company?
Experts say the future of fitness (or any industry) is all about creating meaningful content, connecting with customers, gaining loyalty, and the keyword, immersive relationships.
“During COVID, I’ve been meditating and working out w/my MIRROR. It’s like having an #AR personal trainer at home,” said Cathy Hackl, Futurist AR/VR Tech expert and author of the upcoming book “The Augmented Workforce”.
“I like how this #tech has allowed me to experience a part of the #future of fitness and AR and how its adoption has been accelerated by the pandemic,” Hackl added. “And if Lululemon turns this into a sales channel that can offer personalized gear and workout recommendations, it’ll be well worth the investment.”
“In many ways, virtual reality is live video’s next phase,” said Navah Berg, Social VR expert and host of The Hive VR.
VR gives a sense of real, raw, and being there type of feeling more than a two-way Zoom video could ever do.
As virtual reality becomes a marketing reality, virtual people become part of the cast.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently launched a campaign using its first virtual health worker named Florence. Her mission is to help users quit tobacco use.
“Users can rely on Florence as a trusted source of information to achieve their quit goals. She can also help recommend tobacco users to further national toll-free quit lines or apps that can help you with your quit journey,” said WHO on it’s official YouTube website.
Who would have predicted the crisis the COVID pandemic has spread across all industries.
What does diversity feel like?
Using VR, a company called Live in Their World allows users to experience workplace scenarios in which bias, inequity, and incivility arise.
Crisis or no crisis, VR might be the answer to new ways of teaching.
PwC recently released a 10-month study analyzing the value of Virtual Reality for soft skills training.
Part of the finding reported VR learners are faster to train, more confident, more emotionally connected, and more focused versus classroom/e-learners.
If you are in the digital marketing and public relations world, AR/VR and machine learning are bound to come into play.
Storytelling and reporting news and experiences to the media are destined to make VR and AR the new journalistic normal to stand out with your brand’s news.
An example application can be:
We used to send press kits, now we can we send journalists and bloggers branded, exclusive immersive content.
If influencer marketing is part of your strategy, imagine creating a digital person to be your next influencer spokesperson or a host of your web series.
Move overwritten and visual communication, augmentation is here to enhance and bring to life the message.
Hackl unveiled the world’s first holographic press release in 2018 at a PRSA conference using AR technology with Facebook and Snapchat.
One easy way to step into using AI in your media relations or marketing life is by using the platform Crystal.
It allows you to get access to personality insights to cultivate stronger relationships in marketing, sales, and public relations.
Connect the Crystal Chrome Extension to view any journalist, prospect, or customer’s personality as you browse LinkedIn.
It’s the ultimate secret weapon in building strong relationships and ice breaker conversations like you’ve known somebody your whole life.
Marketing your brand promise or cause is brought to new realities once not even comprehensible.
With AR and VR, nothing is left to the imagination.
Immersive technology builds consumer loyalty and is powerful for organizations’ teams that know what they stand for and how to communicate it.
From using robot divers to save coral reefs, to helping educate our next generation use augmented reality to superimpose quirky faces representing climate change.
The cases are endless and just getting started.
“Experiences like these can create empathy to really engage your brand’s audience on their mission/ promise,” said Berg who is also the Social VR host of the Hive VR.
There are tons of choices to get started or ramp up the marketing powers and inspiration using AR/VR.
It’s as easy as experimenting on how Snapchat using different lenses from a personal or professional standpoint.
Discover platforms such as AltSpace VR, Mozilla Hubs, rec room, and more where you can host conferences, take a yoga class, attend a workshop, or just have a social meet up.
Local SEO is also something to take into consideration as places become searchable in augmented reality using your smartphone.
Imagine users no longer searching with a browser and searching with their camera.
Making sure your business is optimized on local platforms such as Yelp and Google My Business is an important checkbox for local SEO and augmented reality.
Google Maps currently has a “Live View” using AR that overlays to navigate you to your destination.
You may remember the KFC campaign using a computer-generated version of Colonel Sanders jet-setting around and meeting up with other virtual influencers.
Some called it fake, others called it brilliant as it did attract engagement and publicity from top tier publications such as Ad Age, PR Week, and Mashable.
These tips will help you get inspired to launch your own new marketing initiatives:
Samantha Wolfe, emerging technologies expert, author, and founder of WeArePitchFWD, sums it up the best when summarizing how brands should look at their approach to new marketing realities.
“Companies with a strong online and social presence = Advantage TODAY. Companies with a strong augmented/spatial /virtual presence = Advantage TOMORROW.”
Where will you be tomorrow?
All screenshots taken by author, July 2020 In-Post Image: Cathy Hackl