Research: Augmented Reality Marketing Can Be Effective

Augmented Reality technology offers new opportunities for both consumers and marketers. With the advent of powerful mobile devices (and forecasts that indicate an explosion in the market for AR glasses), more and more brands are looking to AR as a channel for marketing activity. But does it pay off? A recently-published study by university researchers reveals that it can. More specifically, AR has the power to change existing brand associations and by doing so, to improve consumer attitudes toward brands.

A study on Augmented Reality Marketing and Branding

The study was conducted by AREA research partner Prof. Philipp Rauschnabel (Universität der Bundeswehr München, Germany) in partnership with Prof. Reto Felix (University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, USA) and Prof. Chris Hinsch (Grand Valley State University, USA) and published in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services.

In their study, the authors measured consumers’ brand attitudes before and after using a branded AR application. Half of respondents used an IKEA app and half used an app for a German Hip Hop band. Even among the IKEA app users, the authors detected improvements in brand evaluations. This is significant because attitudes towards established brands are notoriously difficult to change.

The researchers also asked consumers to rate their evaluation of the app and how inspired they felt after using the app. Based on statistical driver analyses, they could then explain why and when brand evaluations improved.

Counterintuitively, the extent to which consumers rate an app as positive or negative seems to be unrelated to overall brand attitude. However, the extent to which consumers felt inspired is a major driver of improvements in brand attitude. More specifically, among highly inspired consumers, the brand improvements were about four times stronger than among the less inspired users. In addition, the quality of the augmentation is a main driver of inspiration. Users who experienced problems in AR technology (e.g., a virtual object behaved unrealistically) felt less inspired then those who did not.

Findings: AR can be effective!

The study provides some key findings and calls to action for marketers:

  1. Augmented Reality Marketing can improve brand attitudes and positively impact a brand’s bottom line. Marketers should consider adding AR apps to their marketing and branding toolbox.
  2. The degree to which the AR app inspired the user was more predictive of brand attitude change than an evaluation of the app itself. Marketers should measure the degree to which app users are inspired by the app.
  3. A bad augmentation of the real world can negatively impact evaluations of the overall brand. Marketers interested in pursuing AR should invest in high quality 3D content and state-of-the-art AR technology.

As the study authors wrote, “Consumers will operate in a reality that is consistently enriched with virtual content,and marketers need to find ways to integrate these new realities into their marketing strategies.”

The entire research report can be downloaded here for free during the month of April 2019. After April, the report will be found here. To read a more academic summary, please visit Philipp Rauschnabel’s personal website.

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