Brands That Bend Reality

Let’s clear something up: with the recent development of virtual and augmented reality technologies, it can be easy to use the two terms interchangeably. However, they are distinctly different concepts. Augmented reality (AR) involves augmenting the real world with digital elements—generally, as viewed through a screen on a smartphone or other device. Virtual reality (VR) immerses the user in a completely virtual setting. In order to be immersed in VR, the user must wear a headset—the most popular is Google Cardboard. While AR and VR technology can be used to accomplish similar goals, it’s important to understand the advantages and limitations of both technologies.

As AR and VR technology has become more developed and accessible, many brands have been exploring different ways to use it in their own marketing. Read on for four brands who have used AR and VR in ways that are innovative, successful, and deeply inspiring:

Ikea: Ikea Place

What is it: Ikea has been experimenting with AR since 2012 with their catalogue app, but initially struggled to make the app actually useful. In 2017 they released a new (and much improved) version—Ikea Place. The app uses your phone camera in conjunction with AR technology to show you what Ikea furniture would look like in your home, in real time. Unlike the old catalogue app, Ikea Place doesn’t require the user to spend time configuring the room’s measurements—furniture is automatically scaled with 98% accuracy and can be moved and flipped with ease.

Why it works: The app is easy to use, making it a pain-free experience for the consumer. It’s also easy to discover new pieces of furniture that they may not have originally thought of for their home—Ikea’s entire catalogue of 2000+ furniture pieces is enabled in the app. Most importantly, it tackles a very real problem: furniture shopping is a hassle. Now, consumers can figure out how furniture will look (and fit) in their home without having to step outside or even take out a tape measure.

Lowe’s: Holoroom How-To

What is it: In select Lowe’s stores, customers can experience their home remodel in virtual reality before they pull the trigger.

Why it works: Home remodels are a huge investment, and sometimes it’s hard for customers to tell how they’ll feel about the final result. Virtual reality technology gets Lowe’s customers as close as possible to experiencing the real thing, making them more comfortable in their decision.

Lowe’s also uses virtual reality to encourage DIY home improvements: since the implementation of the original Holoroom, Lowe’s has expanded into education with Holoroom How To, an interactive workshop that teaches users hands-on skills through virtual reality.

Snapchat: Lenses

What is it: Since their introduction in 2015, Snapchat’s lenses have become arguably the most popular feature of the social media app. The lenses, also called filters, use augmented reality to add effects to the user’s face or the scenery around them. Some lenses (such as the infamous “breakdancing hotdog” pictured above) are so widely used that they have become an integral part of pop culture, inspiring memes, Halloween costumes, and more.

Why it works: Simply put, the lenses are addictive. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone under the age of 30 who’s never taken a picture of themselves using the “dog” lens. But perhaps the most important aspect of the lenses is their advertising capabilities. Snapchat routinely publishes lenses sponsored by major advertisers. Often, the weirder a lens, the better—users are eager to send bizarre Snaps to their friends with the newest lens, sponsored or not.

TOMS: Virtual Giving Trip

What is it: A core element of the TOMS brand is their mission to give a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased. In their LA flagship store, customers can use a virtual reality headset to experience the act of giving away Tom’s shoes firsthand.

Why it works: The Virtual Giving Trip is an extremely powerful way to reinforce a brand’s mission. By immersing customers in TOMS’ core values, the brand can form a personal and emotional bond with the customer. TOMS’ is setting a new ethical standard by using virtual reality technology to promote kindness and charity.

These are just a few of the many brands that have adopted AR and VR in their marketing. The four brands—Ikea, Lowe’s, Snapchat, and TOMS—showcased successful use of AR and VR for very different purposes: letting consumers visualize a product, easing worries about a large investment, entertaining, and reinforcing a brand’s promise. Brands that are interested in using AR and VR can learn a great deal from the four brands highlighted in this article, but shouldn’t feel limited to following similar paths. If anything, the diversity of applications shown in this blog proves that the possibilities of what AR and VR technology can add to a brand are endless.