When Ambarish Mitra launched augmented reality pioneer Blippar in 2011, he had to convince the world’s leading brands that, no, his little company would not license its tech.
If they wanted to give their consumers magical AR experience, they would have to do so with a branded ‘blip’ code.
It was a struggle, given that Blippar had just a few thousand users.
Mitra approached 107 brands. 101 showed him the door.
But six were intrigued enough to give it a go. It helped that they included Nike, Heinz, Samsung and Xbox.
In the subsequent four years, the strategy paid off. “It was one of the best decisions we made,” says Mitra. “But it wasn’t easy at all. With 5,000 users and small team, it sounded like all talk. In fact, we still get asked that question now.”
Today, Mitra reckons he works with 100 of those 107 brands. But, as he explained in a video interview with Hot Topics, he is still prepared to offer up counter-intuitive ideas.
Not least around reach.
“Reach is exaggerated: it’s not that important, at least for brands,” he says.
“Depth is a lot more important than reach. If you have 100m people in a platform, brands get really excited. But how many of these users are really interacting with your brand?
“We say: the power is in your hands. Your product is your media. Billions of them are in circulation every day, and they are much more powerful than news and TV combined.
“Imagine if one per cent of all your products were being interacted with – that’s better reach than 20 retweets.”
To support his thesis, Mitra says that Pepsi achieved 55,000 hours of ‘pulled engagement’ when it put blips on 250m cans.
And he adds that when L’Oreal put a blip ad on page 79 of Vogue that let readers virtually try on 40 shades of nail varnish, it had 125,000 interactions.
For all its progress, Mitra admits that Blippar is not yet mainstream and still needs to convince brands to make blipping a central rather than experimental component in campaigns.
But he reckons that technology will help.
More precisely, visual search technology that lets users blip any image rather than a special code.
Indeed, Blippar’s progress on this must have helped it to close a huge $45m round last week.
“We’re working on something where the platform will not rely on brand partnerships alone,” says Mitra.
“It’s almost visual search. I really believe that’s the future…we’re about to solve it in a unique way.”