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Where's the Beef with Mixed Reality Marketing

Where's the Beef with Mixed Reality Marketing? Join David Smith, Cyndi Greenglass and Ruth Stevens for Horizons brought to you by WVU Marketing Communications Today

Mixed reality is everything between AR to VR and in-between, evolving the consumer experience with virtual try ons, but where is mixed reality marketing going? Instagram and Snapchat have embraced AR and VR more than other platforms, people are virtually viewing houses, trying on lipstick, glasses and more and the outlook for mixed reality is bright. Join David Smith, Teaching Assistant Professor with West Virginia University's Reed College of Media as he discusses "Where's the Beef with Mixed Reality Marketing" on the sub-series, Marketing Horizons.

Cyndi Greenglass: What is mixed reality?

David Smith: You can think of mixed reality as a term that includes everything from augmented reality and virtual reality. It is helpful to think about it through your user experience. Augmented reality includes everything from headset-based reality like Microsoft HoloLens and glasses that you would wear to phone-based AR on Snapchat and Instagram, as well as filters on Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok. VR is a little bit further down that spectrum towards more immersion, where you would put on a VR headset. That's more immersive than AR and altogether, it's more about moving from our traditional 2D screen-based experiences to more spatial 3D interactive experiences that take advantage of the world around us to overlay information that you would interact with. Looking at it from the perspective of brands, what people are most familiar with is phone-based AR. That's what people are using on social media, on apps and even web-based augmented reality face filters.

Ruth Stevens: What's the marketing benefit to brands and companies? Can you describe some of the applications?

David Smith: The great thing about interacting with or using AR on a phone is that it's more about personalization of experiences. If you're using an effect produced by a brand on Snapchat or Instagram, you're making it your own. You're using what they've created to add your personal expression to it, and it encourages more sharing and virality to things. There are applications that simulate shopping experiences or trying on clothes. You can your appearance in some way, whether it's shoes, clothes or makeup. I know Sephora and other makeup brands have created makeup effects for Instagram and Snapchat that people can try on different lipstick colors or makeup colors. Warby Parker has created an app that allows you to try on different glasses. There are a lot of other examples. If you go to your Target app, you can pull up a chair you want, and there is a button to click and you can view it in AR and you can put it in your yard. Ikea was one of the first brands that started on that, but since then, it's kind of standard in a lot of apps that sell furniture.

Ruth Stevens: Where is technology evolving to?

David Smith: It really is about what you can provide to customers, going beyond gimmicky examples like maybe a holographic concert that you could view in AR or VR and moving towards things that are more practical. Moving beyond just phone-based AR, I think eventually what companies like Apple, Samsung and Snap are looking at is headset-based AR where it would be more ubiquitous and in your face and on your face all day long. So, the idea that people would wear headsets. Now, I'm kind of skeptical about whether people would wear AR headsets all day and how they would overlay information. There's a lot of privacy issues there. There’s a lot of research going into that and there are a lot of companies who have poured a lot of research into the ecosystem, and when it comes to developing communities of creators and freelancers that are developing AR and the hardware, I think it's probably going to be there. It's just a matter of whether people will use those and actually wear headsets. It's about user experience.

Cyndi Greenglass: As we look out to the future, what are your thoughts about how privacy and all this data is going to take us forward from mixed reality?

David Smith: There's already a lot of distrust of large corporations that collect a lot of data. Then, if you think about putting a wearable on your face that is created by one of these companies, or it collects data that's not only your own movements, but it has cameras built in and we're overlaying information onto your view if you're wearing glasses. There's a lot of concerns about who's collecting that data, who owns it, whether individuals own their own information and to what extent you can opt out, especially even if you're not wearing it, if you're in the view of one of these headsets. Between not only the data ownership, but also from a user experience, how much intrusion do the users expect into their view? And if you're wearing a headset, there's actually one of my favorite dystopian versions of this is called hyper reality, but it basically shows a lot of data overlaid onto someone's everyday life. As they're walking through, they're wearing a headset and they're seeing ads thrown in their face from every direction. Any brand or advertiser who wants to create or work in mixed reality, augmented reality has to not only keep in mind how much data is being collected and whether users are opting in, but also what the experience is like. It needs to be something that's a little more elegant, that's not as intrusive and doesn't take away from people's experiences with reality. You want to be able to add value to what they're seeing and what they're experiencing.

Key Takeaways:

  • The marketing applications of mixed reality are really broad. There are so many ways for brands to engage with customers and personalize their experiences. This can range from trying on lipstick to seeing how furniture looks in your space.
  • Don’t make it too cumbersome for people to use. A positive user experience is critical.
  • Augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality are all evolving rapidly. Today, they come in the form of phone-based applications, but the next iteration is likely to be wearable technology or headset-based.

Marketing Communications Today presents Horizons, it’s forward-thinking, looking ahead, through the front windshield and beyond, into the marketing future. Join Cyndi and Ruth bi-weekly for new ideas, technologies, tools and strategies that are emerging to help marketers navigate over the marketing horizon.

Meet the hosts

Cyndi Greenglass

Cyndi W. Greenglass is a founding partner and Senior Vice President Strategic Solutions at  Diamond Communication Solutions, a data driven communications firm specializing in Healthcare, Financial Services and direct response solutions and an adjunct instructor in the Data Marketing Communications online master’s degree program from WVU. 

Greenglass has twice been named into the Top 100 Influential BTB Marketers by Crain’s BtoB Magazine and was the 2012 CADM Chicago Direct Marketer of the Year. Greenglass is a member of the Executive Management team at Diamond Marketing Solutions where she is responsible for the strategic planning process, participates in strategic acquisitions, and manages the agency services division.

Ruth Stevens

Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention, for business-to-business clients. Ruth serves on the boards of directors of the HIMMS Media Group, and the Business Information Industry Association. She is a trustee of Princeton-In-Asia, past chair of the Business-to-Business Council of the DMA, and past president of the Direct Marketing Club of New York.

Ruth was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing by Crain’s BtoB magazine, and one of 20 Women to Watch by the Sales Lead Management Association. She serves as a mentor to fledgling companies at the  ERA business accelerator in New York City.


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