This article was originally written for, and appeared in, Fashion’s Collective (www.fashionscollective.com)
The visual mystery, sensuality, and intrigue elicited through still image artistry provide the de facto two-dimensional canvas of choice for luxury brands. The artistic vision of the Creative Director is meticulously staged and captured for the world to marvel at in the glossed pages of the style guides of our times. Each year, luxury brand marketers invest enormous percentages of marketing budgets in print advertising. Vast libraries of visual content collect dust, as the artistry of each new season’s collection is re-envisioned, making way for the evolving stylistic viewpoint of the house.
This accelerated march to antiquity for such valuable assets represents tremendous sunk costs for brands. If digital life could be breathed into these traditionally passive assets, print advertising could be resuscitated with added dimensionality, and provide additional layers of complexity and personality to the consumer experience. The technologies required for this revitalization exist today and are in use by some of the most creative minds in digital fashion marketing. The opportunities are significant, yet the proper application and execution of the technologies in ways on-brand for luxury adds a layer of complication.
QR Codes and the Luxury Brand Dilemma
In the infancy stages of mobile marketing, many luxury brands have successfully experimented with QR codes as actionable triggers to launch added dimensions of brand engagement with consumers. However, the QR code represents a dilemma for luxury brands. A vast majority of labels are unwilling to risk altering the artistic impact of their print advertising by including the awkward appearance of tiny, futuristic-looking blocks.
While advances in the production of more aesthetically on-brand vanity QR codes are evident in recent campaigns from prestige brands like Ralph Lauren, luxury brands will continue to be slow to adopt. Because of the contrarian nature of QR codes and brand aesthetic, labels opt instead to pursue less creatively intrusive technologies represented by augmented reality and image recognition.
The Curious Case of Augmented Reality for Luxury Fashion
Certainly, augmented reality provides an intriguing new wrinkle of added dimensionality to 2D print, but the function is faced with its own set of significant challenges. Early adopters of AR technologies in the luxury arena have been predominantly in the timepieces and fine jewelry sectors. However, fashion brands such as Dunhill have taken progressive approaches to the utilization of the technology to add layers to their print campaigns.
The very technologically progressive effort by Dunhill in support of The Voice campaign provides an excellent example of how the mobile medium can breathe digital life into traditional brand assets, allowing them to take on an entirely new and more engaging identity. The Voice campaign, which highlights distinguished men from varying walks of life who exhibit the refinement of the brand, provides an exceptional environment for enthusiasts to connect with Dunhill through their connected devices.
The one drawback to the initiative is the primary barrier to entry for many retailers experimenting with AR or image recognition technologies: there is no universal reader or standard for it. This arena is highly fragmented and siloed by application platforms, requiring a certain app – in this case Aurasma – to be downloaded in order to view the video content behind the print. Consumers must have the Aurasma app downloaded and open in order to view this otherwise flawless execution by Dunhill. AR technology can be a valuable addition to the digital marketer’s arsenal, but, until standards are solidified and AR can be leveraged regardless of application, its immediate value may be hindered.
The mobile medium is uniquely suited to revitalizing traditional print for luxury brands and allowing the consumer to experience a three-dimensional engagement with them. The ability to breathe digital life into traditionally passive assets opens numerous compelling interactive opportunities for brands and their legions of loyalists.