What is augmented reality marketing?

Can AR be a tool for marketing? Should it be?

Augmented reality (AR) marketing represents a novel, potentially disruptive subdiscipline within marketing. More specifically, like the advent of the World Wide Web accompanied by online marketing, search engine optimization, and social media, AR-infused marketing activities can be positioned within AR marketing.

AR marketing-related concepts and developments range from AR shopping apps, VR games, AR experiences associated with flow, and customer journeys in AR.

And with that introduction, Philipp A. Rauschnabel begins his paper: “What is augmented reality marketing? Its definition, complexity, and future.”

In the paper, Rauschnabel discusses AR marketing and its unique characteristics. As such, he argues, AR represents a strategic element beyond being a promotional tool for sales and being limited to a customer scope (e.g., potential applicants, stakeholders, or publics). He also introduces, as part of AR marketing, an AR customer journey model and summarizes common objectives under the “BICK FOUR” framework—branding, inspiring, convincing, and keeping. Managerial insights are drawn from a study of industry perspectives that provide avenues for future research.

AR has received increased attention over the last years, both from managers and scholars alike. Various studies in the marketing discipline have tackled fragmented aspects of AR, such as its impact on sales or brands. Yet, a holistic approach to AR remains scarce. Therefore, Rauschnabel defines augmented reality marketing as a novel, strategic, and potentially disruptive subdiscipline in marketing. He also introduces several fundamental differences between AR marketing and traditional digital marketing concepts, such as redefining the reality concept (reduced reality, normal reality, and augmented reality in a metaverse context). Insights from 127 managers further enhance the current and future practices of AR marketing. Finally, a discussion of ethical and legal considerations completes the assessment.

Rauschnabel wrote the paper for the Journal of Business Research, and as such it is a scholarly treatment peppered with references to other papers and a large collection of endnotes. Such papers are tedious to read because of their formality (having written a few and read hundreds, I speak from experience). However, Rauschnabel manages to delicately weave his way through the rules of academic prose and not only present his thesis, but also tell a story in the process.

This is a paper for the senior management of marketing in forward-looking companies who are seeking means of differentiation in an ever commoditized and mass-produced world. AR marketing is not just about generating sales, but also can be used to achieve a variety of marketing and eventually organizational goals. Used in retail settings, AR can entertain and educate customers, help them evaluate product fit, and enhance the post-purchase consumption experience.

Rauschnabel’s proposed definition of augmented reality marketing encompasses a highly strategic and interdisciplinary concept. His insights from surveyed managers reveal a certain degree of caution and a lack of knowledge, yet those same managers express an implicit belief in AR marketing. That practical motivation to advance AR knowledge is complemented by various theoretical gaps discussed in multiple academic publications. As such, Rauschnabel introduces six foundational premises to assist in furthering the theory of AR marketing and to suggest avenues for future research.

You can read or download the paper here—I highly recommend it.

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