During the inauguration of Democrat Joe Biden as the 46th US president, Democrat Bernie Sanders became the star of meme culture. Within a very short time, the picture of him and his knitted mittens went viral and an internet phenomenon was born: media reported worldwide, millions of people picked up the cropped photo as a meme and shared their own content via social media.
AR Creator were quick to recognise the hype and capitalise on the strengths of the technology by launching a SparkAR filter for Instagram and Facebook. This gives anyone, even without any image editing skills, the opportunity to bring the seated Bernie with his iconic mittens into their environment. Easily and quickly integrated into the social media camera, every user can create their own individual and unique memes – a mass hype is born.
The necessary AR technology is possible with any standard smartphone or tablet – either with the SoMe app, via browser-based WebAR or with a native app. However, the technology is only a means to an end and ensures the democratisation of content creation, because everyone can create their own content with AR assets. Of course, the relevance of the content and the occasion are crucial factors. With Bernie and his mittens, the creators hit the bull’s eye with the AR filters. This phenomenon shows how content creation and its successful “spreading” can look in the future.
The mix of relevant AR content and one’s personal environment also creates a new, effective engagement trigger for brands. Imagine, for example, that the funniest, most embarrassing or most discussed scenes of the contestants of a high-reach reality TV show are made available to the fan community as AR filters directly after broadcast on TV. Or that the fans can do virtual shootings with their favourite models at home. In this way, the show not only actively intensifies engagement with the topic, but also proactively stimulates new, shareable and individual content. Iconic scenes of a football star cheering after a legendary goal also have great potential and can be made available online as AR filters shortly after broadcasting, so that fans can cheer with the player in their homes. What used to be the preserve of professional media professionals with software skills can now be done by anyone with user devices. And the next level is already just around the corner: 3D, which enables completely new interactions and experiences. Users can, for example, have 3D avatars dance via face tracking, map 3D objects into reality for interactive AR games or have human holograms sing, speak or otherwise perform in their own environment.
The exceptionally high engagement level of AR creates a new dimension of activation and interaction with users. Compared to the medium of video, users of AR content have been shown to pay 45 per cent more attention during consumption, they also stay four times longer on average and remember the content consumed up to 70 per cent better afterwards. The reasons for this are obvious: the user is active in the experience and the creation of the content is unique and individual, personalised. For brands, this potential is of course also commercially relevant – especially in the increasingly fierce battle for the attention and engagement of target groups.
This means that content alone is no longer king. AR technology creates new possibilities for the creation and reception of content as well as interaction with it. I am convinced that this is only the beginning of AR as a new mass phenomenon and that there is endless potential for brands. It is interesting that this was triggered by a 79-year-old senator from Vermont, of all places.