Under their thumb: The Rolling Stones use augmented reality to drive message awareness

November 8, 2012

If the Rolling Stones use it, then you know it’s cool.

I’m referring to augmented reality — supplementing real-world interaction with digital elements like video, audio and GPS data.

It’s an evolution of QR codes in publications and websites, but instead of scanning mobile barcodes from pages, people can point smartphones at pictures or objects to access digital content.

The Stones created an augmented reality campaign promoting the band’s 50th anniversary and greatest hits album, “GRRR!,” which comes out this month.

The campaign tagged 3,000 locations in 50 cities worldwide — including landmarks like Big Ben in London and the Empire State Building in New York — with the album’s gorilla-themed artwork. Scanning the images reveals 3-D animations and album-related content. Fans can snap pictures of their onsite experiences and tweet @RollingStones with the hashtag #GRRR to appear on a photo wall, entering for a chance at 50 prizes, while simultaneously promoting album sales across the social Web.

Other marquee brands are in on the act, too. NFL teams have augmented game tickets and team logos, IKEA supplemented its print catalog, 3M applied the concept to Post-It Notes and Johnson & Johnson even augmented Band-Aids with Muppet characters to help kids “heal the hurt.”

The digital DNA and production value of augmented reality make it ideal for big-budget marketers, although its ability to enhance information and connect with consumers makes it a useful tool for PR practioners as well.

Bridging to babble on

Communicators can engage audiences by bridging key digital content with real experiences and encouraging people to share details in their social networks. Compelling activities can also return people to messages for multiple exposures.

Packaging an augmented reality experience within your communications plan requires knowledge outside of most practitioners’ experience.

However, the cost to create an augmented campaign can be well within the budgets of most midsized organizations. App-development packages and digital support can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

Expanding reach

Imagine how augmented reality can broaden your audience reach. The Post-It Note app or a similar one could anchor customer success profiles to your product photos, brand logo or signage in public venues so prospects can view them on their phones or tablets, then post those relevant to their industry on Facebook and Twitter. Virtual maps at an industry conference could suggest sessions based on business roles or entice attendees with video clips featuring your speakers.

Offering relevant messages and providing utility will create more measurable results than simply using the technology for splash appeal. IKEA shows people 3-D models to help inform purchasing decisions. Augmented Band-Aids help parents turn minor injuries into amusement.  And the Stones are repackaging their greatest hits for the umpteenth time, proving that time — and augmented reality — is on their side.

Ryan Zuk, APR

Ryan Zuk, APR, is a media and analyst relations professional, Phoenix PRSA Chapter member and Sage North America representative. Zuk can be reached @ryanzuk on Twitter. He also blogs at criticalmasspr.com.

Email: ryanzuk at gmail dot com


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