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Tech Marketers Group

Rupert Deans: Augmented Reality for Brand and Product Experiences


Taking AR beyond the gimmick factor – a Q&A with immersive reality pioneer, Rupert Deans

“We live in a three-dimensional world, so why are we still pushing two-dimensional content?”

Tell us about yourself

I grew up on the farm in Darfield Canterbury. As a child I had dyslexia and so I always learned and engaged with the world in a completely different way than everybody else. During the 80s and through my schooling, dyslexia wasn’t recognised as a learning disability – it was basically: This kid can’t engage and learn the same as the others, we don’t know what box to tick to recognise his skills.

So, in hindsight, that happening was the best thing that ever happened to me because I didn’t tick the boxes and I fell outside the traditional education system. That led me to leave school earlier and going down more of an entrepreneurial path. I got into my entrepreneurial grove from setting up an event management company, to setting up a health take away noodles franchise concept, to designing a house, etc…

As part of this journey, I identified where I could add the most value and that was using visualisation to understand, communicate and engage with the world leading me to set up one of the first design agencies, focusing on branding and marketing. Then, being a child of the 80s the interwebs coming through, I got into website and application development.

One day back in around 2010, one of my lead producers, Jonathan said: “Rupert, I have got this amazing new technology you’ve got to check out.” He said, “Hold up your smartphone over this bit of paper,” and up popped a 3D house. And I thought, What the hell is happening here? I’ve seen this in Minority Report and Terminator. What is it?

He went on to explain that it was augmented reality. At that point I thought, This is going to change everything – the way we interact with each other, the way we learn, the way we buy.

But the problem was that it hadn’t really been applied in a great way. It was pretty gimmicky at the time and so there wasn’t a strong business case for using it. I realised at that point that we had to prove the value of it as we have with other technologies before.

So we went to Hell Pizza because I knew of all the brands in New Zealand they would be the one that would want to push the boundaries and try something new. We said, Look, guys, why don’t we look at how we can transform your customer experience (not that CX was a thing back then, but a version of it) by creating a really sticky and engaging experience on top of your pizza box? And they said, Hell yeah, let’s give it a shot.

We created the first zombie shooter on a pizza box called Zombies from Hell. It went nuts – 45k downloads of the app in a couple of months, eighth most downloaded app, above Facebook and Trade Me. An estimated increase of $2 million in pizza sales off the back of it. It went viral featured on CBS, Radio stations and TV stations were playing it, people were sharing it…off the back of this we had to brands like Hermes in New York, Red Bull, PWC etc coming to us – they were all saying, Look, we have this challenge: how do we build these experiences up ourselves, not at the $150 – $200K cost for something that’s very accessible to use.

I’d seen the same thing in website and application development – it all started off very bespoke and customised and then over time, it got commoditised by platforms like Weebly, Wipster, Squarespace, WordPress. So I thought, Hmm, this is going to have to happen again for AR and VR and mixed reality – and we need to be able to make it easy, simple and cost-effective to create.

And that’s where the idea of Plattar was born. We went out with an MVP, back when I still had One Fat Sheep, the agency. We tested that and brands loved it and I thought, Okay, we’re onto something now.

We then raised $1.2 million – it was one of the first ever seed investment Newscorp had made in Australia – it was pretty cool for a kiwi dyslexic boy from the farm to be able to get one of the behemoths of the industry to fund us!

We then took the product to market – being an AR CMS. It was very early days still, we were finding our feet and AR was finding its place in the world – it was still being used for mostly within advertising and more activation experiences. After a while, we started to see consistent use cases around product experiences (either showcasing product, explaining it, taking very complex data and simplifying it or just presenting information). That’s where we really started to find our product market fit and really focus down on establishing Plattar as a product experience platform. That’s led to where we are today.

When you think about marketing success, what specific trends are you seeing for 2019?

The world is changing, as we know – the physical and virtual borders are being blurred and coming together.

Augmented Reality is a key enabling technology to make this happen – it has gone mainstream and by the end of this year is going to be on over 1.8 Billion AR enabled devices. Google, Apple, Facebook, Snap the list goes, they are doubling down on investments and are betting big on it.

2019 is all about the customer experience – Marketers sometimes need to take a step back and look at the entire customer life-cycle and where you can innovate across it, what are the easy wins and where can you add the most value to your business or organisation. For example:

  • Activate – How do you activate and engage your customers to get cut through all the noise, provide them with an experiential experience – it can complement traditional marketing touchpoints
  • Engage – Don’t make your customers come to you, enable them to browse and interact and buy with your offering when and where they want. Also allow them to browse, configure, personalise and customise with virtual samples.
  • Interact – Having an authentic brand story which can be delivered through new mediums to connect, aim to surprise and delight customers and enhance your social currency
  • Browse – Think how do you clearly and concisely communicate features and your offerings? Allow customers to self discover your product with ease as well as compare. Communicate visually with people who are time poor.
  • Support – If they have purchased a product and need to support, empower them to put it together, install it and get it running without having to call a call centre and wait or read a 50 pages paper manual.
  • Shareability – making sure you give your customer an experience that would naturally encourage them to share with their networks.

The list goes on ….

There are opportunities across the entire customer life cycle where immersive technologies like AR can add value and help achieve your objectives for 2019. Break down your customer journey and identify where immersive technologies can add the most value both to marketing but also your overall business model – that’s my key takeaway.

Tell us about your session – Augmented Reality for Brand and Product Experiences. Why should people attend? What are they going to come away with from the session? What are some of the key takeaways?

Why should people attend? It’s always good to challenge your thinking and be aware of what’s out there and what’s coming up next. I’ll cover a top line of the immersive technology spectrum from AR/ VR/ MR/ XR  trends within these mediums, key user cases and where the technology is heading. We’ll look at the new business opportunities and models that immersive realities can create.

And finish with what you need to be aware of in order to apply these solutions into your business or organisation to get an ROI and not be left behind.

What people will take away… Some of the best applications of immersive technologies, specifically AR and mixed reality. What you should do, what you shouldn’t do. How to apply it. What the business case is for utilising these technologies beyond just the engagement gimmick factor. Then how you integrate them into your wider business strategy and the business case for why you’d apply this to your marketing campaigns.

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