The Biggest Hit of the Summer was...

When hearing the words “summer smash hit,” we typically think about an action movie that packed theaters nationwide or a catchy pop single that blew up the radio. For 2016, however, a very different kind of hit took shape right in front of us: Augmented Reality.

Augmented Reality (AR) has been around for a few years, but the summer of 2016 can be marked as its tipping point with the increased popularity of Snapchat lenses and the instant success of Pokémon Go. 

As we all saw, in only a matter of days after the Pokémon Go launch, people began chasing down Pikachu and fighting for control of “gyms” all around the globe. There were more than 100 million downloads in less­­­ than a month. There are around 20 million daily active users, and it’s estimated that Pokémon Go generates somewhere around $10 million daily in profit. Nintendo’s stock skyrocketed as well. And while there is no crystal ball to tell us how long this new game will be popular, these short-term numbers are impressive.

What’s even more interesting is how the business and advertising worlds have sought to participate in and capitalize on this craze. Small restaurants and bars have attempted to “lure” Pikachu and other characters of the game into their businesses, hoping players will congregate and spend money on beer and food. McDonalds in Japan was quick to strike a deal with Nintendo, making each of its 3,000+ restaurants a Pokémon gym as well. This has already paid off as McDonalds Japan’s YOY sales for July were up 27%.  Even taxicab companies are getting clever offering flat rates in some cities to allow players to venture to new territories and compete in new ways. 

As of right now, there isn’t advertising associated within the game, but that shouldn’t take long.  With this level of popularity, the marketing world is ready to see what media opportunities this app brings. Over the next year or two, it will be interesting to see how this game and its passionate followers move forward.

On an equally important front, Snapchat lenses have become a phenomenon in their own right. Teens and adults everywhere are turning their faces into puppy dogs and sending snaps with them breathing out fire like a dragon. It might be for laughs and smiles now, but one can easily imagine a world where this technology is used for much more practical reasons. For example, with this type of Augmented Reality, you could pucker your lips, snap a quick selfie and then try on a variety of lipstick colors. When you find your favorite shade, you could click and purchase directly. Another exciting possibility could be watching live sports (as seen with Oklahoma vs. Ohio State this year) or TV shows in the AR realm, which no doubt would then ignite a whole new type of advertising.

Augmented Reality may not be brand new, but its popularity has really taken off in 2016. What its future looks like is very much unknown, but there’s no question it will continue to evolve with increased technological capabilities and human interest. Businesses and advertisers need to pay attention to this trend and look for opportunities as they emerge.

Now excuse me, I believe a Blastoise just appeared at a nearby park.