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Beauty, Communications

Be Smart Restart: How Brands can Leverage Existing Tech

While most beauty, health and lifestyle brands are highly unlikely to create their own technology, understanding how to leverage and innovate on what’s already out there is an absolute must. We went to a DBA and Kinneir Dufort event that told us how to do just that…

As part of our Beautiful Thinking approach, we go to a lot of events to keep in touch with sector news and trends. But it’s not often they have an immediate connection to the day-to-day work of designing great brands. And then there’s Pokémon Go.

The DBA hosted Kinneir Dufort to talk about how brands can leverage technology. And overnight, their exhortation to ‘understand the art of the possible’- to explore what is already practically available to us in the world of tech and to leverage those existing platforms in an innovative way for brands – came to life all around us in the form of 90s anime characters.

Pokémon Go’s creators, Niantic, built on their original augmented reality (AR) game Ingress, using that data pool to create Pokémon ‘Gyms’ and ‘PokéStops’. The game uses AR technology to over-lay computer generated images into the real world, in real time, when looked at through a smartphone or similar. Notably different from virtual reality (VR) that actually replaces the real world with a completely simulated one–like IKEA use in this kitchen experience. But again, this is nothing strictly new: AR technology has been around since the early nineties.

"The question really is, as with every other type of brand design and communications, what do you want to achieve with it, what do you want to bring to your consumers? AR and VR technology is just a way of doing it in the modern world."

The combination of an iconic brand with a tangible, fun AR application on a single source gaming platform, has been a winner. And brands quickly jumped on the bandwagon. By using the game in their content strategy, and attracting footfall to their businesses with special deals for players, brands are connecting to a huge ready-made audience. Pokémon Go’s highly likely a short-term fad, but one thing’s for certain, this is only the beginning of AR’s evolution.

For companies like Holition and Blippar, who have been heavily behind AR for years, they will undoubtedly be riding the Pokémon wave, using their AR expertise to create further innovative ways for brands to connect with consumers. With increased awareness comes more demand and the critical thing about this is that it *is* possible and highly practical because the technology is already here. The question really is, as with every other type of brand design and communications, what do you want to achieve with it, what do you want to bring to your consumers? AR and VR technology is just a way of doing it in the modern world. And brands are already doing it…

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Holition creates virtual try-on apps for beauty, luxury and retail brands: allowing you to try on the likes of Boucheron’s iconic jewellery or Sally Hansen’s nail shades. For Rimmel, Holition went further and created the Shazam of beauty with the GET THE LOOK app, allowing you to capture someone’s makeup look and then try it on yourself – perfect if you want to see if Kate Moss’ rock chick eyes actually suit you.

"Technology that was seen as gimmicky before is now genuine, tangible and useful – helping consumers to make meaningful decisions and purchases."

Another big player is Modiface (bought in 2018 by L’Oréal). They create skin care and anti-aging visualisation, hair simulation and AR makeup mirror apps for over 50 brands including Sephora’s world-first AR Mirror, L’Oreal’s Style My Hair, Urban Decay’s The Vice Lipstick and a recent medical AR tech suite with skin health analysis and heartbeat visulisation for brands such as Vichy and Galderma.

AR in beauty is booming and getting better all the time. Even stalwart direct-sales brands like Avon and Mary-Kay are paying attention and evolving. Technology that was seen as gimmicky before is now genuine, tangible and useful – helping consumers to make meaningful decisions and purchases.

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So what other applications, advancements and re-purposing of available tech can we at Free The Birds see coming?

‘Hayfever apps’ like Clarityn or Piriton could use advanced geolocation tech to re-route you away from pollen-spots or alert you to problematic plant species. Bus copan, a leading abdominal specialist, could create a predictive app that tracks diet and menstrual cycle, takes contextual cues from your device (plus natural language processing like IBM’s Watson or a machine-learning library like Google’s TensorFlow) to make predictions on stress-levels and other IBS irritants and dispenses advice accordingly. Or how about harnessing sensorial experience with Haptics technology? A lifestyle brand such as Hermès could use this with AR for you to not only see how that beautiful silk shawl looks but also feel the weight, luxurious finish and texture of it wrapped around your shoulders.

The possibilities are already here. It’s just a question of who will innovate first.