The internet, social media, QR Codes… Augmented reality? This technology has been around for a little while now, but as to its success rate, well the jury is still out. In the meantime, we’ll catch you up on what this new-fangled idea is all about.

Augmented reality (AR): the use of computer-generated images or data to modify the real world. AR apps allow the user of a smart device (phone or tablet) to hold their built-in camera over a specially designed image in order to receive additional information about it.

As Google puts it: using pictures rather than words to search the web.

Marketeers and PROs have increasingly been using and trialling AR as a part of their campaigns over the last couple of years. From Obama’s app that meant scanning a $5 billgained you access to exclusive campaign content, to Children in Need’s version that allowed you to “have your picture taken” with celebrities. They’re popping up in print media too, with AR ads running in high profile publications such as The Times and FT.

Much like QR Codes, the whole point of AR is to increase customer interaction, maximise the potential of print ads by improving the customer’s experience and convert these actions into sales. Though people have had varying views on QR Codes, the belief is that AR will take a stronger hold of the market by giving companies the opportunity to express their creative side. Though AR apps are not expected to impact your bottom line straight away, it should add value and deepen customer’s perceptions of your brand.

So what should you be aiming for when you create an AR app? Well, it should be simple but effective – the biggest hurdle is getting people to go to the effort of actually using it! Most importantly you want to give your customer a reason to smile or laugh and create a positive association with your brand.

In terms of measurement, you should be looking to see an increase of online activity and buzz – in that sense it fits nicely within the realms of PR – the idea being that a better public image will result in more sales.

However, approach with caution! Like all new things, you shouldn’t adopt AR just because it’s available to you but only use if it’s a relevant part of your wider PR strategy.