The Future of Augmented Reality on Alcohol Packaging

The Australian wine brand 19 Crimes made a big splash last year when they released AR-capable labels. These brought to life the historic criminals depicted on the bottles. Consumers downloaded the brand’s AR app, opened it on their phones and pointed the camera at the bottles. This triggered the criminals to explain how crimes landed them in the Australian penal colony.

Novel and entertaining, these labels attracted countless eyeballs. Now digital marketers wonder what’s next in the evolution of AR content. Greg Norton, president of the digital agency Twisted Rope, believes it’s about much more than just entertainment. I recently spoke with Norton about the future of AR.

Kyle Swartz: What’s holding back AR from greater prevalence?

Greg Norton, president of the digital agency Twisted Rope.

Greg Norton: There’s still a lot of hiccups in how users engage with AR. Right now, most companies have to utilize a third-party app system, like Blippar or HP Reveal, to get people to use their AR. That means that you have to tell your audience to go to a channel on one of those apps before they can access your AR.

19 Crimes made their own app. They were the first to make us go, ‘Holy shit, something is really going on here’. At several holiday parties I was at last year I saw people gathered around looking at the bottles through the 19 Crimes app. To have something penetrate at that level, something is definitely going on here.

19 Crimes said that their app got a million downloads. Even if they only got half of that, just think about the separation they’re obtaining on the shelf at retail, where labels have always been just about graphic design, ink and paper. 19 Crimes really got out the ‘wow’ differentiation factor.

KS: But you don’t think 19 Crimes went far enough with AR?

GN: What I think people will begin to realize is that AR can be the entry point to the entire digital consumer experience.

Up until now, to get digital content from a company, you have to go to their URL on the internet. For years it was natural for companies to say ‘Come visit us at our .com website’. Consumers had to learn about this other part of the brand. But what if you could just point your phone at their logo and get a cool effect through AR, and then click on that effect to get that extended digital experience. Now you jump from the app to the web browser.

All the content that the brand has ever developed for the web is now at your fingertips. The cross-marketing opportunity is immense. Obviously you can change the AR effect to different things. Or think about the number of alcohol companies that sponsor events or have brand ambassadors. Now there’s an opportunity to cross-market directly to that through AR. The idea is that the logo is now the link. The number of times that you’re going to get an impression with that logo is immense. You don’t need to worry anymore about whether people know your .com or not.

We see this as the next step. This is for companies pushing to have that first-to-market opportunity for a ‘wow’ factor.

KS: Why hasn’t anyone done this yet?

GN: A number of reasons. Look at 19 Crimes, and their parent company, Treasury Wine Estates. They spent a ton of money on making their own app. They worked with a highly qualified digital agency, Tactic, which isn’t cheap. Tactic is a big-ass company. Can a smaller brewery or distillery drop that amount of coin on something?

And so if you can’t afford an app, and have tell your fans to hop onto HP Reveal to follow your AR channel, then you become just one of many already on there. You don’t stand out.

That’s why we’re developing a ‘white label’ app that people can buy from us and then add their own branding. That way it becomes their own app, like with 19 Crimes, but at a lower price point. For us it’s a volume thing, the rebrandable app. We’re looking for people who want to be first-to-market with something that can differentiate in a regional sense.

The only way AR will take off is if it becomes easier for companies to provide consumers the trigger app.

Another part of the problem is that companies that make apps tend not to be front-end developers. They’re more on the back-end. Once they finish the app they’re on to the next customer engagement. We do that engagement and keep working with them long-term, creating content for that front-end user experience.

KS: What are some other marketing opportunities for AR?

GN: The AR effect is the hook for the consumer, and then you’ve got them. Then you can have someone talk through AR about where the product came from, how it’s made, or you can have people click for coupons. This is all ancillary content that most companies already have sitting on a shelf somewhere.

Apple with OSX was talking about integrating natural AR capabilities for that phone. But then they didn’t really come out with it, not yet. But Apple disrupts markets all the time, so it’s going to happen again. I think that sometime soon we’re going to see Apple come out and say that they want to be the iTunes of AR. They’ll tell companies that if they register with Apple, then the camera will pick up their trigger images. Then whoever already has those images and content ready to go will be off and running. It’d be like being one of the first people to get your music up on iTunes.

And the AR will work almost anywhere that the label is, whether that’s on shirts, tap handles, wherever — it will trigger.

Kyle Swartz is managing editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece Trends in Beer, Spirits and Wine Labels in 2018.

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