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True or false: Only cutting-edge, big-budget marketers use mobile augmented reality (AR).

False. More than just the Fortune 100 companies are leveraging the technology.

Lately, when I’ve been talking to marketers about mobile AR, I’ve heard two common questions: “Is augmented reality only used for entertainment or gaming?”and “Are there retail examples?”

Today, we’ll look at three examples of well-known brands that are creatively using mobile AR to engage people along the path to purchase.


In the Middle Eastern market, Toyota provides a creative example of using mobile AR to sell cars. In Dubai, the marketing team for Toyota 86 (branded as the Scion FR-S in the U.S.) decided to focus its campaign on a specific demographic: thrill-seeking adventurers.

So they created an app, but not just any app–one with mobile AR features. When potential customers downloaded and opened the app on their smartphones or tablets, an alternate reality opened up before them that “simulated test-drives to help consumers feel and experience everything the new Toyota 86 embodies,” according to Qualcomm Vuforia, which provides the AR technology. Consumers could also activate the app from posters at shopping malls and other “trendy hangouts.” Toyota’s Qeb site also gave consumers the ability to print their own posters and create Toyota 86 movies.

The effect? Buzz. A lot of buzz.

Then, according to Qualcomm Vuforia, “to further increase the buzz Drive Dentsu (marketing agency) also created the world’s largest augmented reality car near the world’s tallest building the BurjKhalifa, Dubai.” The Toyota 86 app has more than 750,000 downloads on iOS and more than 250,000 YouTube views for videos related to the app.

At this point, you may be thinking, “This is completely over the top and way beyond my budget. I need reasonable, real-world examples for the everyday marketer.” I agree. I started with this example to set the bar high and provide some inspiration. Let’s turn now to a relatively simple and innovative way to incorporate mobile AR technology into your marketing strategies.

Ben & Jerry’s

Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s provides a great example of an early adopter integrating mobile AR into product packaging–a technique being used by more and more companies today.

In 2010, Ben & Jerry’s rolled out its first mobile AR campaign–yes, 2010–when it integrated mobile AR in select carton lid designs. When customers open the Ben & Jerry’s app on their smartphones, they can use “Moo Vision” (Ben & Jerry’s clever term for its mobile AR platform) to view the ice cream packaging in a whole new way. Depending on the flavor of ice cream, creative images “emerge” from the lid when viewed through the lens of the smartphone camera.

For example, consumers can “meet the Fair Trade Cocoa Farmer who makes milk and cookies possible” or watch as the Empire State Building leaps out of the lid of the New York Super Fudge Chunk.


Furniture retailer Ikea offers a great example of how mobile AR is bring together print and digital. The 2014 Ikea catalog is designed to be “read” by Ikea’s smartphone and tablet apps. This allows customers to “see exactly how a virtual Billy bookcase or Ektorp sofa fits into the real-time environment,” according to Econsultancy.

Not only does this mobile AR experience provide customers with a cool experience, but it also prevents customers from buying the wrong items–what Ikea refers to “square peg, round hole syndrome.” To wit, 14 percent of customers say they’ve bought the wrong-sized furniture for their rooms, and more than 70 percent say they don’t really know how big their own homes are.” So, while the use of mobile AR is both innovative and creative, it also serves a practical function as well, providing customers with realistic visualizations and product placement.

Two Insights From Mobile AR Early Adopters

How simple is it to pull off a mobile AR campaign? Did these mobile AR campaigns drive more sales or increase customer loyalty? What were some other added benefits? To close this article, I’m going to leave you with two simple best practices:

1. Remain flexible

As marketers, we understand that every creative campaign takes both structure and flexibility. In a case study featuring Ben & Jerry’s, Katie O’Brien, manager of global digital marketing initiatives, pointed out that a lot of flexibility is required when implementing mobile AR in your campaigns for the first time. She noted that the company’s process “took two months from start to finish, with many changes and revisions along the way.”

She explained that the project began as a print campaign, which eventually moved to the Web and then mobile. In a ReadWrite article, O’Brien explained some of the changes that occurred from the inception to the execution of the campaign. “The AR shifted from marker-based to natural feature tracking, all making for a frantic last couple of months,” she said.

2. Create a clear call to action

In “3 reasons why digital marketers should revisit augmented reality in 2014,” Ryan Sommer wrote: “In an interview for Re/code (formerly AllthingsD) Catchoom CEO David Marimon has called for smarter calls-to-action in AR advertising, stating: ‘The user is wowed the first time, but there is no useful outcome.’”

So a smart approach when implementing mobile AR is to “wow” the consumer, and then create a clear, easy, and accessible call to action.

The Author

Ray Pun
As the Head of Strategic Marketing for Mobile Solutions at Adobe, Ray Pun helps mobile marketing professionals and mobile technologists create, manage, analyze, and optimize mobile channels and tactics. His biweekly blog, “Mobile First,” provides marketing professionals with practical steps to do just that: keep mobile first in planning digital strategies. You can reach Ray on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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