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Case Study: How Olympus Spurred Product Awareness and Sales With Augmented Reality

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In this article, you'll learn...

  • How to effectively use augmented reality to boost product awareness and sales
  • A detailed example of how a B2C company used augmented reality to advertise a product
  • Three lessons to apply to your campaigns that use augmented reality

Company: Olympus Imaging America Inc.
Contact: Sally Smith Clemens, product manager
Location: Center Valley, PA
Industry: Electronics, E-Commerce, B2C
Annual revenue: $10,000,000,000
Number of employees: 4,000

Quick Read

It is said that consumers are four times more likely to buy a product once they’ve held it in their hands. But if you know retail, you understand how challenging it can be to get people into stores, let alone within reaching distance of your product (and interested in handling it).

When electronics giant Olympus introduced a new SLR (single lens reflex) hybrid camera to the marketplace, it knew that it was vital that people get their hands on it; that's because one of the camera's major selling points was its advanced compact body design. In short, it was far more representative of a pocket-size point-and-shoot than the typical SLR with interchangeable lenses.

To provide the masses with a hands-on experience that wouldn't require heading to the nearest store, Olympus trialed a new augmented-reality technology. Consumers could print out paper-doll versions of the product and test out its various features via an online interactive tutorial and simulation experience. The campaign even included social elements to motivate users to share these virtual experiences with their networks, and a contest was added to draw additional attention.


It worked. Within a month of the campaign's launch, more than 50,000 people played with the technology, and the company witnessed a jump in in-store inquiries and sales.

Challenge

In case you haven't heard, a revolution is upon us in the field of digital photography. Olympus is helping to lead the charge with its PEN E-PL1 portable camera, featuring professional digital single lens reflex (DSLR) image quality, interchangeable lenses, point-and-shoot simplicity, and high-definition (HD) video. The camera's technology is based on the Micro Four Thirds system standard, which uses mirrorless technology to enable more compact camera body designs without stifling the creative control and interchangeable lens features of traditional SLRs.

For the product launch, Olympus held an experimental event in New York City and invited journalists to Coney Island to interact with the new product.

The company found that approach highly effective in engaging the audience and highlighting product advantages, so it wanted to find a way to replicate that experience on a massive scale to show consumers the various features that distinguish the PEN E-PL1 from other digital SLRs.

Campaign

Mullen, the company's ad agency, encouraged Olympus to try augmented reality (AR) using Total Immersion's D'Fusion@Home product, which is compatible both with Windows PCs and with Apple's Mac computers.

Olympus and Mullen established a campaign website, which along with a product tour and additional info prompted users to download a plug-in for the AR software. Users could then print out a marker—a paper-doll-like image of the product that, when cut out and folded in half, produced a scale-size representation of the camera's front and back sides.

In addition, the campaign ran insert ads in Wired and Popular Photography magazines, allowing readers to peel off life-sized printed replicas of the camera that could also be used as markers on the site.

Upon visiting the website, users were told to hold the markers up to their webcams, at which point the AR software would recognize the markers and replace them on-screen with virtual renditions of the camera. Key product features, such as the flash switch, shutter button, video record, art filters, removable lens, and mode dial were highlighted on the virtual rendition with bulls-eye targets. When clicked on by the user, the features demonstrated the functionalities as the user continued to handle the "product." A virtual tripod option allowed users to ditch the printout to interact more freely with the product features.

The software also enabled users to shoot digital pictures and video via the virtual product's features. When a user pressed the shutter button, a pop-up window containing the "snapped" photo image (and a link to post it to Facebook) immediately appeared. Similarly, a pop-up window with a link to post to YouTube appeared when the user engaged the video record feature.

Olympus used this functionality to launch a contest that asked users to submit video proposals—shot via the website by using the virtual product, of course—explaining why they deserved the opportunity to pursue a video project of their choice using a brand-new PEN camera and $5,000 cash in the Olympus “PEN your story” competition. Qualifying proposals were posted to Olympus's YouTube channel, where people could vote on submissions by clicking the "like" button.

Results

In its first month, the campaign's website received over 90,000 unique visitors and more than double that by the end of the second month. More than 22,000 watched the product tour, and 51,000 interacted with the product via augmented reality. On average, users visited 3.42 pages and stayed on the site close to two minutes per visit.

Olympus's YouTube channel also received its share of traffic and an almost 300% increase in subscribers.

More important, the campaign generated a spike in in-store inquiries and sales, beginning about three weeks after launch.

Lessons Learned

  • Offer a true taste. Products become more memorable when consumers personally interact with them, and augmented reality makes that possible in users' own choice settings. For Olympus, emphasizing the camera's size and ease of use would have been mere talking points in any traditional print, television, or online campaign. But with augmented reality, users were able to handle a printed version of the product and interact with its features via their computers, with no trip to the store required. Thus, a stronger connection could be forged with a much broader audience.
  • Activate it socially. By incorporating ways for users to create their own campaign elements (e.g., videos and snapshots) that they could then show off to their own networks, Olympus was successful in furthering the campaign's viral momentum.
  • Incorporate AR with purpose. Relying on gimmicks to draw attention will get you only so far. Olympus's use of augmented reality, however, added value to the campaign and user experience by demonstrating product features in an interesting and engaging way—an approach that will continue to advance the company's sales and marketing objectives.

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Kimberly Smith is a staff writer for MarketingProfs. Reach her via kims@marketingprofs.com.

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