Building Community With Augmented Reality And Emerging Technology

Brands building community with their customers need to think beyond traditional channels to make a lasting impact. Luckily, with a multitude of innovative tools at their disposal, leading brands are finding the perfect balance with their communities through augmented reality (AR).

Emerging technology has the ability to help build a brand community, but AR offers a different dimension—literally. With the innovative edge it offers, AR creates an experience that the user can often only get with the brand, allowing them to create their own content and modify the experience to their own environment.

In a time when digital connections remain supreme, a few brands are looking to innovate with AR are seeing impactful results with their audience. As this and other emerging technologies become more accessible to brands, and smartphone usage continues to climb amongst users, the opportunity for interactive communities has multiplied favorably.

These brands not only continue to pioneer with innovative technologies such as AR but have been able to transform these campaigns into highly engaging community engagement points.

Pokemon Go might have been the most viral AR opportunity in history—generating $207 million in the first month. The game, initially launched in July 2016, allowed users to capture virtual Pokemon on their phone based on locations around them. The highly engaging and interactive game resulted in a ripple effect of user-generated content well beyond the franchise.

PROMOTED

Undeniably, Pokemon Go sparked a perfect storm of community-driven AR trends, as its users banded together to play the game, working together to defeat rival gyms, and shared the content en masse on social. Their use of location also allowed for digital communities to meet in real life, resulting in one of the most visible engagements yet.

Image-based social media largely began with filters. Then AR hit the scene, transforming engagement and user-generated content indefinitely. What began as a simple set of ‘lenses’ in 2015, has now evolved into Lens Studio, a community-generated network of creators for AR content. While not a campaign in a traditional sense, Snapchat’s creator network showcases how impactful creator communities can be in scaling emerging technologies such as AR.

This program allows artists and designers to use Snapchat’s technology to create their own AR filters for the app. By providing the infrastructure for creators, Snapchat is creating a community within a community of the already engaged users.

Courtesy of Snapchat Lens Studio

By creating an application that allows creators to customize and create AR filters, Snapchat is able to build affinity with the creators and, down the line, users of the filters. Snapchat can also offer the benefit of exposure to the creators, as AR filters are highly popular with users on the app.

Communities often form around shared values, and sometimes, brands strike the right balance between emerging technology and important issues. To highlight gender inequality through banknotes on International Women’s Day, challenger bank N26 worked with AR Spark on Instagram and Facebook to transform the faces on banknotes to prominent women such as Rosa Parks or Sojourner Truth. Users simply open the filter on Instagram or Facebook, hover the camera over the banknote, and the face will change to a pioneering woman for Women’s History Month. Beyond the effect, users can also donate to a relevant charity through the N26 app, creating a full-circle approach to this campaign.

According to N26, only 12% of banknotes circulating feature a woman—highlighting how little representation is afforded to prominent women in history. The #BalanceTheBanknotes campaign sought to create a stronger community around inclusivity, N26 VP of Marketing, Patrick Stal explained.

“Our community are early-adopters by nature. They value first to market technological advancements. We value representation in our advertising and business. It was clear to us from the UGC (user-generated content) that this campaign not only spoke to our community but to wider platform users.”

AR helped the campaign resonate with the digitally-inclined community members, who were drawn to N26’s mobile-first approach to banking. Alongside influencers, this campaign took off and helped draw the community together at the intersection of social change and innovation, Kathryn Callow, Global Social Media Marketing Lead for N26 shared.

“Most recently #BalanceTheBanknotes helped us challenge money through AR Spark on Instagram and Facebook. Through multiple banknotes we were able to unite our fans towards gender equality and raise the question across our platforms, should more women be featured on banknotes?”

In the first week alone, this campaign generated nearly 30 million impressions, indicating that the campaign was well-received by the community.

Building a brand community from the ground up can’t rely on technology alone; shared values, consistent evolution, and engaging content opportunities all play a prominent role in keeping individuals interested. But emerging technology such as AR can and should be used to create above-and-beyond content experiences for community members. When done well, the community grows, creators find new inspiration, and ideals for a more equitable world become an (augmented) reality.

I’m the CEO of Pixlee (www.pixlee.com), a venture backed startup that helps companies leverage authentic customer photos. I consult some of the largest brands and

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