Physical products + AR = the best medium for brand communication

Jens Backwall, Project Manager @ Hololink

Augmented Reality content can exploit the possibilities that physical products have to offer in terms of brand communication. By adding a digital layer, the opportunities are limitless.

Physical products are media.

Media is any tool or channel used to communicate. Usually, when we think of media, we consider traditional and digital — television, newspapers, movies, newspapers, social media, and the Internet in general. However, we often forget about a media type distributed in higher quantities than traditional means of communication, which is used almost daily by consumers: the physical products.

Physical products are right where any brand would like any medium to be: in front of the consumers at the point of purchase and inside their house or workplace actively taking part in their lives.

Physical products are everywhere. Depending on the category, they could be bought daily like consumer packaged goods, such as bread, or on special occasions like perfume. Products are at the consumers’ eye reach, and brands are not taking advantage of this.

Product packaging is underrated.

The packaging of almost all products is underrated by both consumers and brands. From the consumer’s side, it’s not interesting to see the same information about the product’s attributes and logo every time. There is nothing there that can surprise us. On the other hand, it is not very easy for brands to fit something new on the product packaging, especially if it’s a small product. Yes, sometimes they try to integrate some promotions within the original packaging, but it often looks oversaturated, and consumers don’t really enjoy it.

Luckily, Augmented Reality has come to save the day.

AR can optimize a product’s packaging space and make it interactive

What if you could add a digital layer to the physical product? One in which you could add endless information which can even be personalized for each consumer. AR content can exploit the possibilities that physical products have to offer in terms of brand communication. By adding a digital layer, the opportunities are limitless. Imagine a consumer sitting at the table eating breakfast, then scanning a QR in the milk’s packaging. Then, when enabling the camera on the browser, an interactive milk glass 3D model that can talk or a recipe book will appear right in front of it. This interactive AR layer will let the consumer listen to interesting information from the milk glass or choose recipes that include milk as an ingredient, letting them personalize depending on their likes or dislikes.

All this is possible without redesigning the packaging completely; brands only need to add a QR code sticker that consumers would be able to scan with any smartphone’s camera to trigger unique AR content right on top of the actual product. To save time and resources, product packaging could even have the same printed QR all the time, and the marketing team would be able to change the content in the AR platform anytime they need to, enabling rapid response and real-time marketing.

It’s time to change some paradigms.

The pandemic made it hard for brands to continue investing millions in advertising. As a result, some big companies changed their advertising management from agencies to internal teams. Some brands also stopped investing in social media ads because of financial reasons, and they realized that sales were not changing much, concluding that they were reporting high numbers of likes that were not even coming from humans; they were coming from bots. These are challenging times for everybody, brands included.

Nowadays, it is too hard to find an affordable medium where consumers can be engaged and change their consumption behavior to increase sales.

Why don’t brands take advantage of the already existing product packaging and exploit all its opportunities? AR can be added as a digital layer that will help to change consumer behavior. Recent studies show that the degree to which consumers feel in control and enjoyment when interacting with the AR content is essential to change their attitudes and behavior towards the products [1, 2]. The goal is to make them feel they are not being interrupted by advertising and put them in charge of their own entertainment experience.

You might think that the investment for a campaign with AR can be relatively high, but brands could be spending less than what they currently spend on TV ads or social media ads. In fact, to create an AR campaign, you need neither to have a big team of developers nor to be a large company. Anyone in any organization has the chance to innovate and communicate with AR.

It has never been easier to use AR.

The current developments in other technologies like internet speed, mobile processing power, device availability, and camera access in the browser help AR gain mass adaptation. All these elements are aligned so that now people can easily access AR content. Indeed, the customer journey goes smoothly because with WebAR; they don’t need to download an app; they can open their browser and enjoy the AR content there. Physical products are already being distributed where the consumers are, and almost all of them have a smartphone, so it’s the perfect combination.

Don’t oversaturate the consumers with information; entertain them.

As you can see, consumers need to feel in control and enjoyment to change their attitudes and behavior towards products. This is why AR content should always be interactive and not just a bunch of information that doesn’t expect a consumer’s response. Otherwise, it turns out to be another ignored piece of advertising.

AR is about experiences that can be both fun and useful. Imagine a consumer who’s eating a pack of cookies at work, needing a little break, just by scanning the QR code in the packaging, an AR mini-game will start, rewarding the user with points that can be exchanged in a landing page for something else. If brands can create expectations, the consumers will be waiting for the next AR content campaign every time they go to the store. That said, it’s important to create experiences that integrate the actual product and the AR layer; otherwise, it would be harder for consumers to create a direct product-brand-experience link.

As some might say, every company is a media company and the product or service that they specialize in. Communication is everywhere, and Augmented Reality can enhance it.

At Hololink, we help you create interactive AR experiences without knowing how to code and develop apps.


[1] Qin, H., Peak, D. A., & Prybutok, V. (2021). A virtual market in your pocket: How does mobile augmented reality (MAR) influence consumer decision-making? Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 58.

[2] Park, M., & Yoo, J. (2020). Effects of perceived interactivity of augmented reality on consumer responses: A mental imagery perspective. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 52, 101912.