AR Filters Enable Brands In The Quarantine Age

COVID-19 is, by far, one of the biggest challenges that brands and agencies have faced today. Effective marketing strategies require agility like never before, and companies are scrambling to find answers to what and how they should communicate to their consumers as the likelihood of economic recession looms over us. Recession studies show that companies that are able to “keep the lights on” during tough financial times can recover 9x faster once things go back to “normal.” But how can you keep activations going without the ability to facilitate in person events and transactions? Shifting to a more digitally-focused consumer engagement approach is the key. 

We are seeing a growing trend of digital experiences replacing in-person ones. Time will tell if this approach will have staying power, but it is certainly the most viable solution in a world focused on social distancing. But just being digital isn’t enough. As companies look to compete in a digitally-focused ecosystem, they will need educational, entertaining and engaging tools to capture the attention of consumers. One of the best ways to stand apart and drive added consumer engagement is via Augmented Reality filters. 

AR filters sound like a nice idea, but if it’s a tactic you haven’t leveraged before, you may question its validity. Here’s the good news. Since 2019, over 1 billion people across the globe have tried AR filters. Today, there are 20 million AR filter users in the US alone. The numbers speak for themselves. So, what value can you drive with AR filters? 

Drive awareness while tapping into moments of relevance.

Every time someone views an AR filter, either themselves or through someone else’s social media content, it counts as an impression and generates word-of-mouth marketing. This provides a massive opportunity for brands to reach millions of potential consumers and even go viral. In fact, Dior generated 2.6 million impressions on Instagram in just one week with their fall collection filter. 

So how can AR filter usage be applicable during COVID-19? Companies can help governments drive awareness around COVID-19 safety practices. For instance, an AR filter encouraging people to wash their hands for 20 minutes that makes water in the sink appear to be glitter could be a highly engaging way to drive awareness for this PSA. Or, with consumers feeling cooped up, brands could offer a reprieve by digitally transporting consumers anywhere in the world using a 3D AR filter, while still encouraging them to stay home physically. Further, brands could make virtual calling more interactive. We know people are increasingly spending more time on virtual calls, which is much more fun when using AR filters. In fact, Snapchat has allowed different apps, such as Zoom, to use their Lenses, or AR filters. Snapchat itself has seen a 50% growth in calls through their platform.

Generate 3x more viewing time on average than traditional TV ads and Instagram videos.

Due to social distancing, more and more people are spending time online. However, unless your brand belongs to one of the few verticals, such as fitness, home deliveries, entertainment services, baby food, pet stores, etc., the increased time spent online doesn’t necessarily translate to users remembering or spending money on your brand. More importantly, we know that the user attention span is limited. On average, users spend 2.5 seconds watching a TV ad, 26 seconds watching an Instagram video, and 15-30 seconds watching an Instagram story. 

Compared to that, users spend 75 seconds on average when using AR filters. In fact, Snapchat has recently reported that since the global lockdown, it has seen a 25% increase in time spent using AR filters on its platform. Why? AR filters are interactive, responding to movement of the user or camera, and immersive, transporting the user to a virtual and unique universe - something just about everyone is craving right now. 

To put this in perspective and emphasize why this is good news, think of the fact that Instagram’s 1B+ users spend nearly 28 minutes on the app each day. Of these, 200 million users visit a brand profile at least once a day, and 1 in 3 stories they watch are branded stories. If brands amplify their branded stories, then Instagram’s potential advertising reach is 849.3 million users. This gives ample opportunity for brands to reach out to consumers and create awareness around and encourage engagement with AR filters through stories.  

Develop marketing that is 70% more memorable. 

On average, AR experiences are 70% more memorable than non-AR experiences. As a result, this tactic can really make your efforts stand out in a crowded digital ecosystem.

Why are AR filters so memorable?

  • Their novelty adds a sense of innovation to a brand’s aesthetic.
  • They are personalized to each user because each user is made to be the hero of the filter.
  • Customization features allow users to add any personalized stickers or text, and publish that for everyone in their network to see.

Ultimately, the unique mix of creativity, personalization, and interactivity make AR filters more memorable than non-AR experiences. This has the potential to increase the chance of the consumer remembering a brand name and, therefore, pushes them one step closer to considering the brand during and after COVID-19. 

Bring in-store purchase moments to life in a digital ecosystem. 

According to Gartner’s latest study, 100 million consumers will shop in-store or online as a direct result of AR experiences in 2020. According to another study by BRP, 48% of people are more likely to shop at a retailer if they use AR. This could very well be because using AR allows consumers to see the object virtually and decide if they want to use it or not. With such growing interest in seeing AR in retail, the ad spend on AR filters is projected to reach $2.4 billion by 2022, and the return on the ad-spend is projected to be $15 billion.

The link from AR filters to sales is based upon the creative and strategic use of the AR filters. By using AR filters, brands can be perceived as being creative innovators that use tech to engage the consumer and involve them in their branded universe. When the time comes that consumers can go back to physical stores, brands can be strategic by further promoting the AR filters through influencers and paid media, slowly gaining consumer trust and moving those consumers from awareness to engagement to brand consideration. 

For all of the reasons above and more, AR filters make for an engaging marketing tool shareable by nature, helping brands achieve awareness, engagement, and a boost in sales during such uncertain times of quarantine. When partnered with an influencer and paid media plan, brands can not only bring awareness to their product but also encourage social distancing. Utilizing Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram allows a brand to target desired audiences on any platform to either educate, entertain, or simply maintain engagement with consumers in these uncertain times.

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