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The College Student Marketing Opportunity in Augmented Reality

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Every month, it seems, there are important developments heralding a boom in augmented reality (AR), creating new opportunities for marketers to reach student-age audiences. Platforms such as Facebook, Google, Apple, and Snapchat are opening up their AR technologies to outside developers, as brands find new ways to deploy them.

“Augmented reality is quickly becoming one of the hottest trends in the marketing and advertising industries,” Forbes writes.

AR, a technology that overlays animations onto real images seen through a device’s camera, has already been shown to appeal to marketers trying to reach college- and high-school age audiences.

Taco Bell’s Cinco de Mayo Snapchat “Lens,” which let users replace their faces with an image of a taco (complete with eyes and mouth) in the app, was viewed 224 million times, writes Ad Week. Snapchat’s ability to reach an under-25 audience is the platform’s “defining characteristic,” writes the LA Times.

The game Pokemon Go, an iconic AR success story, scored with users aged 13-29, who account for 68% of its adopters, Mike Sonders of SurveyMonkey Intelligence reports. Pokemon Go lets players compete for points by chasing animated characters that were mixed into real locations visible via cameras.

New AR in the Offing

Recently, platforms have been seeding their AR technologies into the mainstream while giving marketers new options for using them.

Snapchat: In May, the platform added new targeting capabilities for sponsored Lenses, including age, gender, and geo-location. Sponsors can include the names of high schools or colleges whose students they want to reach, Digiday reports.

Google: Their AR initiatives include an app from The Gap that lets customers with some of the most powerful Android phones and a new app called Tango virtually try on clothes without going to the store. A virtual representation of the clothes is applied onto their own selfie images, Business Insider reports. In July, Google announced the release of Blocks, software that lets people write AR-like objects into VR experiences.

Facebook: CEO Mark Zuckerberg, at the company’s F8 conference in April, demonstrated via video AR applications such as animated sharks “swimming” in the air around a pictured bowl of cereal on a mobile screen. Facebook will be opening up its augmented reality Camera Effects area to outside developers to let them create new AR experiences, Tech Crunch reports.

Apple: The iconic firm added an augmented reality development kit that specifies how to incorporate AR into its new iOS 11 operating system. iOS 11 is expected on iPhones as early as September. Apple may “bring AR into the mainstream faster and better than anyone else,” The Verge‘s Vlad Sarov says.

Microsoft: An AR platform called HoloLens was displayed at a Comic-Con convention in San Diego, where Hyperloop Transportation Technologies CEO Dirk Ahlborn used it to show off Hyperloop’s new AR collaboration tool Beem, a news release says. TechCrunch reports that Hyperloop, an Elon Musk-supported company planning to introduce high-speed trains, might use augmented reality on train windows to enhance the view.

It’s difficult to predict with absolute certainty which AR technologies will take hold fastest or which platforms may gain an upper hand. But with so many competing so strongly, and some notable success in reaching student-aged constituents, the technology is poised for growth.

“Augmented reality presents a new way for brands to get in front of potentially engaged users,” Kristopher Jones of LSEO.com tells Forbes. “Big brands need to become part of the reality experienced in new virtual or augmented worlds or they will be replaced by imaginary or new, innovative marketers.”

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