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Commentary & Analysis

Lesson from the Cracker Jack Box: Let’s Use AR Responsibly

Even as the technology and implementation of augmented reality races forward at blazing speed, many marketers are still stuck in the past. As a result, and as illustrated by my recent experience with the prize in a Cracker Jack box, it hurts the entire industry.

By Heidi Tolliver-Walker
Published: May 1, 2019

Two years ago, I wrote about Cracker Jack replacing traditional prizes in its boxes with experiences using augmented reality (AR). I like Cracker Jack, but I don’t tend to buy it, so while I was interested in how this might work, I didn’t actually buy a box and check it out myself. Yesterday, though, a friend dropped two single-serving boxes off at our house. After munching my way to the bottom of the box, I looked for the prize to see if Cracker Jack is still using augmented reality.

It is. Cracker Jack is using the Blippar app. Instead of a traditional prize, I found a peel-off card that revealed a Cracker Jack logo that, when scanned using the app, took me to a game. The implementation was clunky, required me to download the app first, and as it turns out, launched a game that was cute but extremely simple and little more than a novelty. There was also a lot of “junk” in between (like ads for Blippar) that were irritating (insert eye-roll emoji) and negatively impacted the experience.

In an age in which even elementary school students are playing Fortnite on their iPhone Xs, it was a bit of a disappointment. Cracker Jack couldn’t do better than this?  

Now I was curious. I went back and Googled Cracker Jack’s switch to AR games. The announcement was made in 2016. The news coverage was from 2016, too. All of it. So it appears that Cracker Jack implemented this three years ago, made a big splash, and hasn’t done much since. While AR has moved forward light years and has become a highly sophisticated and powerful tool, it doesn’t appear that Cracker Jack has moved forward much at all. When users interact with AR through the Cracker Jack prize card, they aren’t seeing AR as it is now. They are experiencing AR as it was three years ago.

What impact does something like this have on the market? I thought back to the conversation I had with my impromptu focus group of Millennials about QR Codes. None in the group were using QR Codes. Why? Because they see them as irrelevant. Most had never even tried QR Codes. Even if they had, they don’t use them now. Their reasoning was, “Well, we tried them back then, it was a bummer of an experience, so I learned my lesson. Why try again?”

That’s the concern here. Early (and present) user experiences matter. If they are poor, they create a barrier to use and adoption far into the future. Not only will people not use these tools again, but they aren’t going to encourage their friends to use them either. That’s not on AR. That’s on marketers.

The conclusion is simple. If we’re going to guide our clients into using AR for anything, whether it’s training, education, or marketing, it’s important that we ensure that the implementation is really good. It should be relevant to the user, ease to use, and showcase the best of what AR has to offer. Anything less hurts not only our own clients’ marketing, but the entire industry.

Let’s all enjoy AR, but let’s enjoy responsibly.

Heidi Tolliver-Walker Heidi is an industry analyst specializing in digital, one-to-one, personalized URL, and Web-to-print applications. Her Marketer’s Primer Series, availalbe through Digital Printing Reports, includes “Digital Printing: Transforming Business and Marketing Models,” 1:1 (Personalized) Printing: Boosting Profits Through Relevance,” “Personalized URLs: Beyond the Hype,” and “Web-to-Print: Transforming Document Management and Marketing.”

 

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