Enabling playtime


Unlocking next-generation brand experiences

Fame Razak, Chief Technology Officer

Digital technologies and channels have made it easier than ever before for brands to connect with people. But as with most things, it’s a double-edged sword. If your brand can connect with consumers, so too can your competitors.

In order to stand out, marketers need to create campaigns that grab attention and engage emotions – like a Michael Bay movie, but with relatable characters and a comprehensible plotline. And what better way to do that than blending the digital and analog to create moments of play?

We’ve dug through the technologies on the brink of spilling over into mass market, highlighting how brands can use each of them to build playful experiences. There’s no use creating brand experiences that rely on technology no-one’s using. Instead, brands should focus on using technology that’s reached mass acceptance in innovative ways.

NFC & iBeacons

How does Adam Sandler keep getting movies funded? And how do you enable deep and personal engagement with consumers in a physical space? These are the great questions of our age – but for the purposes of this article we’re only interested in the latter.

You can count on pretty much everyone having a smartphone in their pocket, which provides the perfect playground for more one-to-one engagement. And in the absence of staff or brand advocates, Near- Field Communications and Bluetooth beacons are increasingly providing the vehicles to deliver that experience. NFC smart tags rely on users physically tapping their device on the tag to access content, services or experiences. While Bluetooth beacons (or iBeacons) provide an additional layer of configurability, delivering highly-targeted, highly-relevant messages to anyone nearby who’s agreed to receive notifications from your brand via an app.

This method of proximity marketing has typically been used to push discounts and vouchers at the point of purchase. But there’s real potential for the technology to create immersive, playful experiences. Building an in-store trail or treasure hunt using iBeacons, for instance, adds a memorable layer of interactivity to an in-store experience that can introduce customers to your brand and your products in a unique and exciting way.

Augmented Reality

Taking contextual data to the next level, Augmented Reality allows marketers to create digital overlays viewable through a smartphone camera. These overlays – whether it’s a video, image, or data set – can be launched by GPS locations or visual cues, such as QR codes. In a nutshell: AR offers plenty of potential for creating playful experiences.

The 2014 Ikea catalogue was accompanied by a smartphone app, allowing customers to scan items and then see a 3D model rendered on screen. Using the camera built into their device, they could ‘try out’ a sofa, checking to see if it would fit in their living room, and which colour best suited their décor. This augmented reality experience was simultaneously novel and useful, allowing customers to play around with furniture before they bought and assembled it.

Virtual Reality

The application of Virtual Reality to create playful experiences doesn’t need much of an introduction. It’s the sort of technology teenage gamers have dreamt of since Donkey Kong first threw a barrel at Mario. But with the commercial releases of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR just around the corner, brands can start bringing these dreams to life. From immersive gameplay to virtual product demonstrations, brands are only limited by imagination and budget.

For instance, travel agent Thomas Cook is reportedly in the process of building “virtual travel experiences”, allowing customers to tour resorts without stepping one foot out of the travel agency. Not only does this create a playful point of difference against their competitors, offering an experience that many would actively seek out, it provides genuine utility for both business and customer.


Despite a predictably high profile launch of the Apple Watch, wearable devices remain relatively untouched by marketers. There are myriad reasons for that – some got spooked by the failure of Google Glass; others are yet to be convinced of the enduring popularity of wearables; others just haven’t been sure how or what to build for the devices. But with the Apple Watch and Android Wear beginning to gain momentum and Bluetooth always being enabled on these devices, allowing for beacon communication, the first big effective wearable campaign is just around the corner.


Perhaps most unexpectedly, older techniques like SMS, hold the greatest potential at present, with haptic ‘taps’ helping to attract the wearer’s attention. There can be no doubting the usefulness of services such as GoButler, whose AI-powered personal assistant will take care of your every need (within reason) and is always just an SMS away.


Whichever technology you choose, one thing remains true. Only by properly understanding target demographics and telling a brand story that dovetails neatly with the customer context is it possible to build a playful campaign that properly connects. Get that right and you’ll deepen the level of engagement, increase the user’s enjoyment, and help deliver the sentiment change you want.

But for all the technology and data available, the ultimate goal of any playful experience must be to put a smile on the face of your customers and clients.

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