As mobile technology becomes even more crucial to a restaurant’s digital branding, more restaurants are delving into augmented reality as a unique way to boost their social media marketing strategy. On the heels of similar AR experiences from brands like Magnolia Bakery and Bareburger, Panera Bread is working with AR partner QReal, a subsidiary of AR platform company, The Glimpse Group; and mobile ad platform Composite, powered by the digital agency GLOW, to bring the St. Louis-based brand’s menu and nutrition information to life through augmented reality.
Whereas virtual reality places immerse users entirely in a virtual world, augmented reality is an interactive experience where virtual objects are placed in the real world, usually through the lens of your phone’s camera. In Panera’s case, they have launched an AR-enhanced ad unit that will run on Bleacher Report that will allow users to virtually place a Panera breakfast wrap in front of them, peruse the nutrition facts and ingredients in the wrap, and share their AR experience through social media.
“We think there is huge upside for brands willing to challenge the status quo with display advertising,” said Mike Molnar, managing partner, GLOW. “That’s what inspired us to create an ad platform that brings the best of social sharing and AR creativity to traditional banner ads. We think it’s an exciting and necessary breakthrough for the industry.”
This is not the first time the JAB Holding Co. brand has dabbled in augmented reality; earlier this year, the café and bakery chain rolled out a special “You Mix 2” menu in which customers could see the menu remixes being made before their eyes. But it is the first time customers won’t have to download an app to experience the augmented reality ad. The You Mix 2 menu was only available via Snapchat, whereas when customers interact with this advertisement, they will be able to choose whether to open the interaction via Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or just through their phone’s camera.
“Snapchat has a robust platform and audience with tech built in, but our work with the AR ad unit powered by Composite is shareable across social platforms, allowing consumers to choose their own experience outside a given app,” Scott Nelson, vice president of marketing with Panera Bread.
Although the ad is pretty simple — customers will only be able to interact with the one menu item, the Mediterranean Egg White Breakfast Wrap — it’s meant to highlight the company’s nutrition-focused goals, and not act as a gimmick where customers can “play with” the entire Panera menu in augmented reality.
“This isn’t a flex of technology for technology’s sake,” Nelson said. “It’s important to note here that we are using technology to advance transparency in our menu and provide a better customer experience.”
As of right now, Panera has not elaborated on plans to further expand AR capability in their digital marketing campaigns.
As of March 26, Panera had 2,130 bakery-cafes in 48 states and Ontario, Canada.