IMG_1584I’ve advocated for years that augmented reality is on the cusp of mass appeal, and the recent Pokemon Go craze may be vindication for me. The game is a wake-up call for brands, because a whole new world for establishing brand identity and reinforcing brand promise is here.

The question is: How will brands play this – wait and see, or go forward full bore? I’d suggest both, if that makes any sense.

Be aware: I don’t think Pokemon Go is that AR “killer app” for most brands. That’s coming. Others think so, too, including WSJ. WSJ columnist Christopher Mims alluded to that fact in his Keywords column this morning.

In case you’re not aware, augmented reality superimposes digital information over a person’s view of the real world. In Pokemon Go’s case, that means digital animals called Pokemon (e.g., Pikachu) can be “captured” by a user via smartphone. Yeah, I downloaded it and actually caught a couple of them in my living room. Not bad, considering I’m not the game’s target demographic.

I’ve read a fair amount over the last few weeks on why Pokemon Go is a game changer for augmented reality and marketing – this piece from Marketing Week provides a great overview of why the game is a huge opportunity for marketers.

But one of the points that article makes is that the Millennial target demographic for Pokemon Go is less likely to be influenced by advertising; they are going to be turned off if their game becomes a series of ads that interrupt the user experience. That’s why brands are more likely to sponsor in-game tournaments or other special freebies or content. That article also says it’s probably unwise at this point for brands to create their own AR game; the tech just isn’t there yet.

But to me, I think the bigger opportunity for brands when it comes to AR is the app that allows users to point their smartphone at something – a product, or a location (think restaurant) – and see what others are saying about it. Something like a very advanced version of Blippar, or a Yelp or TripAdvisor AR.

What will users see in that scenario? Content from their connections from the people they trust about their brand – written, video, etc. What they say, and what you say, will help define a brand. That’s why the basics of a great customer experience and ability to address concerns immediately will once again be paramount.

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IMG_1577A brand is represented by people – and to me, that’s just as important as any logo, collateral, website or slogan, perhaps more important. Because, as Marty Neumeier says, a brand isn’t what you say it is – it’s what “they” say it is. And in this story, “they” is me, the consumer.

We were recently auditioning vendors for some work to be done at our home, and we reached out to several, all well-known brands local to Chicago. It’s also important to point out that I started out with those highly rated on Yelp, not major advertisers.

Anyway, since I’m about branding, I’m naturally paying attention to the things mentioned in the first sentence of this post, particularly the website, since that’s the first point of contact.

One by one, estimators arrived at our home, did their due diligence for our project, and left. None of them really stood out per se; just guys doing a job.

But last Thursday, one of those pint-sized Smart cars, colorfully branded bumper to bumper, pulled up to our curb. Out jumped Nick, that vendor’s estimator, wearing an equally branded uniform and cap, unlike the others. A really friendly guy, Nick pulled out his iPad and diligently tapped away as I explained what we needed to have done.

At the end, in addition to explaining payment options, he gave me some tips regarding what to look for no matter who we ultimately chose for our job. No high-pressure sales pitch; just matter-of-fact, “Keep X,Y and Z in mind.” As Nick departed, I reflected on the fact my experience was about as pleasurable as an estimate could be.

Who do you think we ultimately went with – even though Nick’s estimate was technically the highest? And what do you think I’m going to tell others – proactively, I might add?

That decision was made based on how we felt, plain and simple.

See, when the actions of people intersect with a brand’s words (the promise) and visual representation, the effect is palpable.


HR to Play Pivotal Brand Identity Role in Post-Digital World

July 1, 2016

I’m convinced human resources is going to play an increasingly pivotal role in brand identity going forward. Why? We’re heading toward a post-digital world, and they hire the talent. And some sources aren’t convinced HR is ready for the digital transformation that’s coming, at least not yet. Not even the biggest brands have a handle […]

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Happy Monday: Focus on Learning One Thing Today that Builds Your Brand

June 27, 2016

When it comes to building one’s personal brand, time is the key resource. Because using your time wisely leads to knowledge, and knowledge provides insight. Today has 24 hours – 1,440 minutes. You can redeem that time any way you like. What’s the one thing you’re going to learn today that will translate to the […]

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“People Don’t Read” and the Delicate Balance for Brands

June 21, 2016

So this just happened (recently) – the head of Facebook’s EMEA operations said that the social media site “will be probably all video” in five years, according to a Quartz piece with the compelling headline, “Facebook is predicting the end of the written word.” That led to Trib business columnist Phil Rosenthal’s insightful hold-your-horses counterpoint. […]

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Appeals Court Net Neutrality Ruling Benefits Small, Startup Brands

June 15, 2016

I have to say I’m pleased that a federal appeals court yesterday upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said in a tweet: A victory for consumers & innovators! Court upholds Open Internet Order. No blocking, throttling or fast lanes online. I’ll add winners include small- to midsized companies, especially […]

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Innovation Aside, is the Apple Brand Heading Toward a Crossroads?

June 13, 2016

Christopher Mims’ Keywords column in this morning’s WSJ had a bold headline: Apple’s True Strengths Don’t Lie in Innovation. And so to me, the question: If so, is the Apple brand at a crossroads? Now, think about the essence of the Apple brand. To me, it’s about sleek, minimalist technology that makes lives and lifestyles […]

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How a Brand’s Story Bridges Tech, Innovation, Manufacturing, People

June 12, 2016

Here’s another reason why I’m blogging again: I continue to find myself at the nexus of technology, innovation, manufacturing and people. And I’m learning that brands have a unique positioning opportunity at this spot on the grid, because of the stories they can tell. Take Trumble Inc., which is based in the Detroit area. It’s […]

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What Inspired the Return of Branding Bricks

June 11, 2016

I’m a writer. I love to write, and in fact, according to books I’ve read over the past few months while Branding Bricks was on a short hiatus, I need to write. It’s part of what I am, and a big part of where I want to go, personally and professionally. In short, that’s the […]

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Why I’m Putting Branding Bricks on Hiatus

October 12, 2015

I’ve been writing Branding Bricks for five years this month, and by and large, it’s been a wonderful experience. I often think that the process of writing helps me learn – and indeed, because many of my posts are based on things that happen in business, and my reaction to them, I’ve been able to […]

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