For over a decade, marketers have been using the term omni-channel to describe branding campaigns that use a multitude of physical and digital touchpoints. Omni-channel campaigns include phone, direct email, email, and other adverts. Today, when you mention omni-channel most marketer’s eyes glaze over. The term has become tired. It’s time to shift our thinking to creating campaigns that provide an immersive customer experience anywhere, anytime.
Before we can do that, consider how far we have come in the past decade.
A few years ago, Hatteras, a printer in Long Island, New York, produced an omni-channel campaign for the TV show, 2 Broke Girls. They used physical tools, like inkjet and wrapping to create a physical space around the consumer. Everything from the wrap on the trucks to custom mugs to cupcake labels and even carnival rides were branded in the TV show theme. This is an example of a physical experience that is doing a great job being consistent with the brand.
Flash forward to San Diego’s 2018 Comic-Con where Fox in partnership with National Geographic, created an immersive physical experience for its Cosmos: Possible Worlds show. Bluemedia, the leader in grand format wrapping, built a 33-foot dome that transported attendees onto the deck of a space ship where people could view far off galaxies. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the narrator, and host teased the next season series, taking viewers to experience places far and wide, with dizzying special effects. The intent of the campaign was to immerse the Comic-Con attendees and create a physical environment where they are part of the experience.
Or take Sunday’s Super Bowl as an example. If you were in Atlanta, you would have seen the giant Bud Light Knight wrapped on one of the buildings looking down over Atlanta. The Knight tied into Bud Light’s successful commercial showing the Bud Light Knight jousting with HBO’s Game of Thrones dragon. According to the Wall Street Journal, the commercial was the “biggest and boldest marketing tie-ins [HBO] has ever orchestrated.”
In both examples’ companies stayed true to their brand and delivered a customer experience through multiple physical and digital touch-points. However, each campaign was limited to a specific time and place. The future of immersion is to provide users an experience, no matter the location, or time. Augmented reality technology can now bridge this gap. It provides the missing link to bring a digital experience into the physical world.
Augmented Reality (AR), takes objects in the digital world and superimposes them into the real world using smart devices. Though AR was invented in the 80’s, it was Pokemon Go that catapulted it into the main stream. Two years later the app’s success has not waned, growing revenue 84% year over year. Consumer brands have also been experimenting with AR. L’Oréal Professionnel Style My Hair AR App leverages AR by enabling the consumer to scan a packaging bar code while shopping, and overlays the new hair color on the consumer using the consumer’s smartphones camera. Shoppers can see before and after images side by side.
Now imagine infusing AR into omni-channel campaigns.
Using augmented reality, imagine building on the Super Bowl Bud Light campaign to deliver an immersive experience that a person can take with them.
Attendees or residents of Atlanta could use their smartphone along with an AR app to extend the Bud Light campaign with different immersive experiences in the week leading up to the Super Bowl and the weeks after. Before the game, users on their phone could watch the knight come off the building and step towards the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The knight might hint to its future such as preparing for a joust or provide information on pregame events. Following the Super Bowl, the experience could change where the user now sees the knight’s ghost speaking to the king that ‘winter is here’.
In this scenario, augmented reality compliments the campaign, and immerses the consumer. AR could also be used in multiple other ways after the Super Bowl. A Super Bowl ticket could become an AR marker that drives customers to multiple AR experiences – post game analysis, photos with the MVP or Lombardi Trophy. Or once home, a consumer can scan the ticket and the knight appears in his/her living room. For the ticket holder, the Super Bowl experience continues long after the game. Bud Light could partner with a retailer, such as Target and even have the Knight come off the building and walk and show where the nearest Target retailer is to buy their Bud Light.
The possibilities are endless and these ‘what ifs” illustrate ways to progress customer experience campaigns, beyond a single event, or point in time.
While omni-channel campaigns vary, they are predictable. A person subscribes, gets an email, maybe something in the post. The billboards I drive by matches the TV commercials I see. These are all standard ways to tie campaigns together. I believe over the next year or two we will start to go beyond those touch points. Forward thinking marketers and brands will use physical and digital tools such as AR to create truly immersive experiences for the consumer that they can take with them.