8 Innovative Examples of Augmented Reality Marketing (Updated for 2024)

Augmented reality (AR) is one of the hottest trends in marketing, and for good reason. By overlaying digital content onto the real world, AR enables brands to create immersive, engaging experiences that drive tangible business results. In fact, AR ads deliver nearly a 200% higher return on investment compared to non-AR ads.

As AR technology continues to advance and become more accessible, more and more brands are leveraging it in creative ways to stand out, tell stories, and connect with customers. From virtual try-ons to interactive packaging to location-based games, the possibilities are endless.

To help inspire your own AR marketing efforts, we‘ve rounded up 8 outstanding examples from leading brands. These campaigns showcase the wide range of ways AR can be used across the customer journey to educate, entertain, and convert.

1. IKEA Place

The Swedish furniture giant is often cited as an AR pioneer, and for good reason. Their IKEA Place app, launched in 2017, was one of the first to leverage Apple‘s ARKit technology to allow users to virtually "place" true-to-scale 3D models of IKEA products in their own space.

Using their smartphone camera, shoppers can browse over 3,200 IKEA items and see how they would look and fit in their home before making a purchase. They can move items around, rotate them, and even walk around them as if they were really there. The app also includes helpful tools like visual search and AR rulers.

By solving a real pain point in the furniture shopping process and making it easy to visualize products in context, IKEA Place has been a huge success. The app has been downloaded over 8.5 million times and has a 4.5-star rating on the App Store. According to IKEA‘s own data, consumers who engage with the AR app are 11% more likely to purchase and spend 2.7x more time in the app compared to those who don‘t.

IKEA Place AR app screenshot

2. Sephora Virtual Artist

Makeup is a highly personal product category that has historically been difficult to shop for online. Sephora‘s Virtual Artist feature solves this by letting customers virtually try on thousands of shades of lipstick, eyeshadow, false lashes, and more in real-time using their selfie camera.

Powered by facial recognition AI, the AR experience maps makeup onto the user‘s face with impressive realism, following their movements and expressions. Users can see how products look on their own skin tone, compare shades side-by-side, access tutorials, and purchase products seamlessly.

Since launching in 2016, the Virtual Artist feature has seen huge engagement, with over 200 million shades tried on. It has also driven real bottom-line results for Sephora – customers who use the AR feature are 3x more likely to buy and spend over 10% more on average.

The key to the Virtual Artist‘s success is that it both entertains and provides real utility and personalization for shoppers. By removing barriers to trial and giving customers confidence in their purchase, Sephora has elevated the digital makeup shopping experience through AR.

3. Snap AR Lenses

Snapchat is undoubtedly the leader in social AR, with over 250 million users engaging with AR Lenses every day. Branded Lenses allow companies to create interactive AR experiences that Snapchatters can play with and share with friends.

Some notable examples of branded Lenses include:

  • Taco Bell‘s Cinco de Mayo Lens, which turned users‘ heads into giant tacos. The Lens was viewed 224 million times.

  • Nike‘s "Kyrie 4" sneaker try-on Lens, which let users virtually "wear" the new shoes and generated a 2.98% share rate.

  • HBO‘s "Game of Thrones" portal Lens, which transported fans to The Wall. It reached over 45 million people.

  • Levi‘s shoppable Lens for its Disney Mickey Mouse denim collection. Users could try on the items and purchase via a "Shop Now" button.

According to Snap, more than 200 million users engage with AR shopping Lenses on average, and data shows they are highly effective. Branded Lenses drive a 14.4 point lift in ad awareness, 6.5 point lift in brand awareness, and 3.3 point lift in action intent on average compared to Snap Ads alone.

Sponsored Snapchat AR lens example

The key takeaways for marketers are that AR Lenses are highly engaging and memorable brand experiences. When executed well, they can drive significant reach, engagement, and measurable upper and lower-funnel results. However, it‘s important to create Lenses that are genuinely fun and user-centric vs. purely product-focused.

4. Netflix Stranger Things AR Experience

To promote the highly anticipated fourth season of its hit show Stranger Things, Netflix created an immersive AR adventure that brought the show‘s spooky universe to life in the real world.

At live events in New York, San Francisco, and London, fans could step into detailed recreations of Stranger Things sets like the Hawkins Lab and the Upside Down. Equipped with prop flashlights, they had to work together to battle the show‘s monsters and solve challenges, with AR special effects intensifying the experience.

Fans at home could also access AR Lenses on Snapchat and Instagram that inserted them into iconic scenes and turned their own world Upside Down. The Lenses were used over 5 million times.

Stranger Things AR experience recreation

By allowing fans to physically step inside their favorite show and become part of the story through AR, Netflix created a highly buzzworthy, press-generating activation that drove excitement for the new season. The event sold out immediately and generated millions of organic impressions.

The Stranger Things AR experience illustrates the power of AR to bridge the virtual and real worlds and bring beloved IP to life in a way that creates deep emotional connections with fans. For streaming services and studios, AR represents a huge untapped opportunity to extend the life of franchises and keep viewers engaged between seasons.

5. Pepsi‘s AR Engaging Bus Shelter

Sometimes the most impactful AR experiences are the most unexpected. To promote its Pepsi MAX variant, Pepsi surprised London commuters with an AR-enhanced bus shelter experience back in 2014.

The shelter‘s walls were replaced with AR screens that made it look like asteroids, tigers, robots, and flying saucers were headed straight for commuters in real-time – only to reveal it was an illusion when they passed by. The stunt was captured on video and quickly went viral, generating over 8 million YouTube views.

Pepsi AR bus shelter screenshot

While this activation was a one-off PR stunt vs. an ongoing branded AR experience, it holds some valuable lessons. It shows how AR can be used to hack a traditional ad format and create genuine surprise and delight. The sci-fi theme also tied in perfectly with Pepsi Max‘s "Live for Now" tagline and futuristic branding.

In the age of ad blindness and declining attention spans, AR represents a way for brands to create advertising experiences that are impossible to ignore and highly shareable. When seamlessly integrated into the environment and combined with great storytelling, AR can make a lasting impression.

6. Pokémon GO

In 2016, Pokémon GO became a global phenomenon practically overnight, getting millions of people to prowl the streets catching virtual monsters with their phones. While not sponsored content per se, the location-based AR game did collaborate with a number of retailer partners like McDonald‘s and Starbucks on sponsored PokeStops and in-game promotions.

At its peak, Pokémon GO had over 45 million daily users and drove over $1.2 billion in revenue. Sponsored locations saw a surge in foot traffic and sales – McDonald‘s in Japan reported a 19% increase in store sales after partnering with the game.

Pokémon GO AR screenshot

The massive success of Pokémon GO showcased the potential of AR gaming to drive real-world behavior and get people to engage with brands in a new way. It also highlighted the importance of organic brand integrations that add value to the user experience vs. feeling forced.

While the Pokémon GO craze has long since died down, it opened the floodgates for other AR gaming apps and laid the foundation for the growing trend of "real-world metaverse" experiences. For marketers, the key lesson is that AR can be a powerful tool for driving foot traffic and bridging the online-offline gap when properly executed.

7. Burger King "Burn That Ad"

Burger King is known for its edgy, tongue-in-cheek marketing stunts, and their "Burn That Ad" AR app is a prime example. Launched in Brazil in 2019, the app challenged users to "burn" rival fast food ads (virtually) by pointing their phone at them.

When the app recognized a McDonald‘s, Subway, or other competitor ad, it would superimpose animated flames over it. The "burned" ad would then reveal a coupon for a free Whopper at Burger King. Users could record and share their "burns" on social media.

Over 500,000 people downloaded the app in the first few days, burning over 1 million ads. Burger King reported a 54% increase in app downloads and a 6% increase in store visits during the first three months of the campaign.

This creative stunt illustrates how AR can be used to gamify advertising and incentivize user interaction in a playful way. By encouraging people to actively engage with and deface competitors‘ ads, Burger King turned the tables and got them to promote their own brand instead.

8. Home Depot Project Color App

Choosing a paint color for your home is a notoriously tricky process. Colors that look good on a swatch or screen often end up looking very different on your actual walls due to lighting and other factors. Home Depot‘s Project Color app aims to solve this problem with AR.

Using your smartphone camera, the app scans your room and lets you virtually "paint" the walls with different shades in real-time. It can recognize different surfaces like trim and doors and even account for lighting and shadows, giving you a realistic preview of how the color will look in your space. You can save and share different color combinations and order paint samples directly through the app.

Home Depot Project Color AR screenshot

By leveraging AR to help visualize and preview a paint purchase, Home Depot is making the selection process easier and giving shoppers more confidence in their choices. This in turn helps reduce the likelihood of costly returns and unhappy customers.

The Home Depot example underscores how AR can be used to enhance the pre-purchase phase of the customer journey by allowing people to "try before they buy." For considered purchases that are difficult to visualize, AR can be the difference between conversion and abandonment.

Key Takeaways & Best Practices

As these examples illustrate, the creative possibilities for AR marketing are virtually endless. Whether the goal is brand awareness, engagement, foot traffic, or conversion, AR has the ability to enhance every stage of the customer journey and create memorable experiences that drive results.

Some key takeaways and best practices for AR marketing:

  • Focus on utility and adding real value for users vs. AR for the sake of novelty
  • Make it as frictionless and easy to use as possible – the interface should feel intuitive
  • Optimize the experience for performance on a wide range of devices
  • Use AR to visualize products in context and drive confidence in purchase decisions
  • Gamify and incentivize AR interactions to boost engagement and sharing
  • Surprise and delight by bringing AR into the real world in unexpected ways
  • Allow for customization and personalization to make the experience feel more relevant
  • Measure results and gather data insights to optimize and validate ROI

Looking ahead, the future of AR marketing is poised for explosive growth. As 5G networks enable richer, more photorealistic experiences and wearable AR glasses move into the mainstream, brands will be able to build even more immersive, intelligent, and contextual campaigns.

Gartner predicts that by 2024, 70% of enterprises will be experimenting with immersive technologies like AR for consumer and enterprise use cases, while AR ad revenue is expected to exceed $18.8 billion by 2025. This represents a significant opportunity for forward-thinking brands to get ahead of the curve.

But even in the near-term, any brand not exploring or investing in AR marketing risks getting left behind. As the above examples show, AR is already driving significant, measurable business value for early adopters across categories.

The key for marketers is to start from a user-first perspective and identify use cases where AR can enhance the customer experience in a meaningful way at any touchpoint, whether it‘s research, engagement, purchase, or post-purchase service. When done right, AR has the power to cut through the clutter, capture imaginations, and drive unparalleled results.