How Air Miles used Marvel characters and AR to bring families into stores

Last year, as Marvel fans were gearing up for the Nov. 3 release of Thor: Ragnarok, the youngest among them were presented with an even more immersive opportunity of their own.

By visiting Air Miles partners such as Metro, Rexall, or Staples, they could be photographed next to an augmented reality (AR) version of Thor himself, or the Incredible Hulk, or any one of the 14 other Marvel characters available for them to collect in both virtual and Micropopz form.

The campaign, which ran between Oct. 5 and Oct. 26, 2017, proved to be the perfect platform to engage young families in the Air Miles program, the company’s vice-president of marketing Rachel MacQueen says, by allowing the company to place equal focus on parents and their children.

“We’re always looking for innovative ways to bring our program to life,” MacQueen says. “It’s not very often that you get to work with the Hulk and Captain America and Thor and Spider-Man, so when we thought about how to bring that excitement into the retail environment, we decided that augmented reality was a great way to do it.”

The app, developed by BrandLoyalty, a subsidiary of Air Miles owner Alliance Data Systems Corp., and Dutch retail solutions provider IceMobile, invited users to visit as many Air Miles partner retailers as possible if they wanted to collect – and shoot photos with – every character available, which in addition to Thor and Hulk included such fan favourites as Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Captain America (but not the X-Men – parent company Disney hadn’t purchased their studio, 20th Century Fox, yet).

Users “collected” – and could take pictures with – the characters by scanning their corresponding symbols at participating retailers.

“We primarily engage with the shoppers in the household, who are often moms or the dads that make purchase decisions, but in this particular promotion we actually looked at the whole household, promoting these characters through content that promoted a joint viewing between both parents and their children,” MacQueen says. “Giving kids the opportunity to get their photo taken with the Spider-Man that comes to life in a retail environment created a fun shopping experience for the entire family.”

Having Disney as a partner also helped, BrandLoyalty president Bruce Kerr says, since the company has proven itself eager to collaborate with brands on bringing its content to life, as seen in launches as varied as Sept. 1, 2017’s “Force Friday” and the numerous partnerships showcased at its annual D23 Expo.

“Disney has a lot of content, not to mention a lot of followers, on many different digital platforms, and as a result they have a strong infrastructure in place to support projects like this,” he says. “What we brought to the table was the ability to bring this AR experience to a retailer.”

While Air Miles declined to share exact results with, MacQueen says the response was “encouraging.”

“We saw lots of social content – people sharing their collecting journey, engaging with the Marvel characters in different environments,” she says. “And from an app perspective, we had thousands of downloads.”

More importantly, she says, the average app session was about five minutes, indicating that users weren’t simply logging in and shooting one photo, but engaging with the app’s content.

“It was a great learning experience for us to see what type of content resonates with our collectors,” MacQueen says. :So I think this is the first of many apps and, more broadly, digital innovation that you’ll be seeing from us over the next coming months.”

Though no longer officially supported, the app is still available on both the Google Play and App stores, where it currently has a rating of 1.5 stars out of five on the former and 1.8 out of five on the latter.

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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