Augmented reality delivers consumer wow

New technology brings new features, surprises and delight – almost daily. As expectations ratchet up with every passing month it becomes ever harder to impress consumers. From time to time a great new service or product grabs the attention of key influencers, the wind blows in the right direction, all the stars line up perfectly and the whole thing takes off. More often than not though, it doesn’t work out like that and great products fail to reach critical mass.

Augmented reality app Blippar recently caught my eye with its “Talking pack” label. It is a great app, with tremendous potential for consumers, brands, retailers, merchandisers and advertisers. They have already launched more than 750 campaigns for many big name brands, with more than 3 million users.


But it caught my eye for the wrong reasons. The “NEW Talking Pack” label on the side of a pack of Tate & Lyle sugar urges users to download the app from the app store, start it, fill the screen with the image of the logo and “Watch the pack jump to life“. I was so intrigued that I broke off from baking to investigate, and found myself watching a 46-second video about a new range of sugars. I’m not sure it lived up to the expectations, and I felt underwhelmed by this particular instance of Blippar. According to The Food & Drink Innovation Network, Tate & Lyle maintain that many Brits don’t know what muscovado is, with 38% unable to pronounce it. I don’t doubt their figures. But is this the right way to fix it? For me the wow was missing – it could have delivered so much more. And that’s not all… it was a long-winded process to even get to that point. There wasn’t even a QR code to download the app.

Instant wow” is always good; “delayed wow” is good too. But “delayed lack of wow” isn’t good.

There’s little doubt that image recognition Augmented Reality can deliver fantastic results – and Blippar is a great app. You only have to look at some of the other examples of Blippar campaigns to see how it can wow consumers. My experience with the sugar didn’t really wow me. It was the wrong time and place, and delivered nothing I’d speak positively about, or want to repeat. I tried it out of curiosity – not to learn how to pronounce muscovado. It would have been different if the label had said “Scan me to get some great new recipes“. Even “Wondering what muscovado is? Scan me to find out” would have been better. But it was simply a trigger to a video. This was my first experience of using Blippar, and I’m interested in products and technology so I’ve spent time researching it. Others encountering it for the first time on a sugar pack, might not try it again.

Print media – such as the Tesco ads in the Daily Mail – gives a better user experience because the time and place are more likely to be right. It’s easy to do, and can create instant wow.

OOH media – such as posters at bus stops – can give a great experience. But the key is to deliver instant wow, or slightly delayed wow. Something which draws the consumer back again. Not something which, on reflection, did nothing more than waste a few minutes installing an app which probably won’t ever be used again.

I wonder whether the Tate & Lyle campaign was delivered by a team excited about the prospect of trying new technology, but without the imagination to do something more appealing than a video?

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