Krystal, Starbucks try augmented reality apps


Restaurant marketers trying to envision the next big thing in advertising may start experimenting more with augmented-reality, or AR, mobile apps. But while the technology has the ability to surprise and entertain consumers with animated scenes on their smart-phone screens, a direct correlation to sales and return on investment remains a bit abstract, some early adopters say.

The Krystal Co., which operates more than 400 quick-service hamburger restaurants throughout the Southeast, has been pleased with its first foray into augmented reality with its mobile app, said Brad Wahl, the company’s vice president of marketing.

“It was not a real direct-ROI project for us, but it fell more under the idea of keeping in line with our overall strategy of a ‘Nothin’ like it’ brand,” Wahl said. “We decided to jump forward with AR. It was a real neat idea presented by our agency to step out from our competition.”

An AR reader is one of two main features of Krystal’s first smart-phone app, Wahl said, adding that a restaurant locator is the other main function. Scanning a special AR code on the restaurant’s hamburger packaging with the smart phone’s camera activates the mobile app’s AR reader, and a digitally animated scene plays on the phone’s screen over the picture of the packaging.

Krystal distributed three different animated scenes with its Freeze Penguins characters on hamburger boxes and drink cups to promote its Krystal Freeze beverage over the summer.

More recently, Starbucks Coffee introduced the Starbucks Cup Magic app to promote its holiday beverage lineup and Holiday Starbucks Petites dessert line at its coffeehouses in the United States and Canada. By scanning an AR code on one of Starbucks’ red cups, coffee packages or other signage, customers activated one of several animated holiday scenes. Festive characters included carolers singing, an ice skater, and a boy and his dog sled riding.

Watch a video of the Starbucks Cup Magic app; story continues below

“As part of Starbucks’ efforts to find innovative ways to engage customers and bring the Starbucks experience to life, we are excited to introduce this fun new Starbucks Cup Magic app for customers to use to interact with holiday characters,” said Annie Young-Scrivner, global chief marketing officer of Seattle-based Starbucks.