No sooner did brand managers and marketers discover augmented reality (AR) as the next big marketing frontier then did consumers find a way to use AR to voice their own opinions.
AR developers Mark Skwarek and Joseph Hocking are keeping BP’s feet to the fire with a new AR iPhone app that lets users visualize the Deepwater Horizon oil spill at their local BP gas station or wherever they happen to see a BP logo.
Called “the leak in your hometown
,” the app transforms the logo into the source of the deep sea gusher. Just point your phone at the logo and your outrage and sense of futility over the unceasing disaster is rekindled.
If you’re new to augmented reality, it’s technology that overlay’s digital information and imagery onto your view of real-world things, typically using a webcam or smartphone camera as the visual conduit.
The BP gusher app is pretty simplistic as far as AR apps go. Yet it’s a brand manager’s nightmare. As the app’s creators describe on their blog …
An important component of the project is that it uses BP’s corporate logo as a marker, to orient the computer-generated 3D graphics. Basically turning their own logo against them. This repurposing of corporate icons will offer future artists and activists a powerful means of expression which will be easily accessible to the masses and at the same time will be safe and nondestructive.
Remember back when brand managers first swooned over the potential of social media as a new direct-to-consumer marketing channel, not yet realizing how the technology gives consumers their own, sometimes critical, voice? With AR, it’s déjà vu all over again. Google ‘augmented reality’ and ‘marketing’ and you'll see what I mean. But the effusive praise by marketers will soon be tempered as they discover that AR can be a double-edged sword, as much a threat to their companies’ corporate reputation as it is a powerful marketing tool.