Brock University launches leading-edge augmented reality marketing course

Brock University has created an innovative course in augmented reality (AR) marketing that responds to industry and consumer demand.

The new undergraduate course introduced in May by the Goodman School of Business focuses on the strategic marketing opportunities of AR and creating AR experiences that maximize customer engagement.

Professor of Marketing Joachim Scholz, who has been researching and teaching AR for the past six years, recently left a role at California Polytechnic State University to create and lead the course at Brock.

He said while courses offered by other universities and colleges offer training on the technology side of AR or teach generally about digital marketing with AR included as one component, “to our knowledge, Goodman is the first business school in the world to offer a course solely focused on AR marketing.”

“Students will become marketing experts who are familiar with the types of AR experiences that resonate with customers, and they will gain first-hand experience in how to design an AR marketing initiative,” Scholz said. “In that respect, Brock University is an innovative first-mover.”

AR is often confused with virtual reality (VR), and although there are similarities between the two, Scholz said AR has more practical uses and benefits for businesses and consumers.

“AR augments the user’s physical environment with a digital component,” he said. “You might use your phone to see what a sofa looks like in your living room, or how a garment fits your body, but everything else you see is in real life. In VR, everything is a virtual environment and all you see is the digital surroundings. VR is used more in gaming and entertainment.”

The new AR marketing course is made up of four main components:

  • Lectures led by Scholz that explain key concepts of AR, the strategic potential of AR for marketing, AR experience design, and how AR is applied in experiential marketing, retailing, and advertising
  • Guest speakers who connect concepts to industry practices
  • Student-created presentations and articles that examine and reflect on current AR experiences
  • A client project, which Scholz said is the core of the course

“The course has a huge experiential education component to it,” he said. “Workshops and pitch presentations to industry partners take up most of the second half. Students take the AR knowledge they learn from lectures, guest speakers and research and apply it to a real-world client.”

This spring, students created AR strategies for a premium winemaking kit brand owned by RJS Craft Winemaking.

“Partnering with Brock’s AR marketing course is a wonderful opportunity for our brand to engage with consumers in an innovative and relevant way,” said Catherine Field, an associate brand manager for Arterra Wines Canada, Inc., the leading producer and marketer of wines in Canada and parent company of RJS Craft Winemaking.

Throughout the course, students consult with several industry partners, including the client who keeps students focused on meeting business objectives; marketing agencies who offer students advice on how to create big ideas and manage the creative process; a pitch consultant who helps them hone their presentation and persuasion skills; and a development partner who will create and implement some of the students’ ideas once the course is complete.

Student teams recently presented their final recommendations via a written report and marketing pitch to Scholz and the industry partners. The client will choose the strategies they want to pursue and will work with the development partner to implement them.

Scholz collaborated with Etobicoke AR/VR firm UP360, which will work on technical aspects of the students’ chosen strategies with a goal of going live this fall.

UP360 President and CEO Harrison Olajos said he’s excited to offer his services for free to Brock, which provided him with free space, mentorship and coaching to launch his company through the University’s business incubator.

Being one of the new AR course’s first partners also allows UP360 to expand into the AR marketing side of its business at a time when an increasing number of consumers are relying on digital experiences to inform purchasing decisions.

“AR is a new and accessible way to engage with clients,” Olajos said. “Video marketing is a bit overdone; people lose interest in a matter of seconds. AR is new form of media that can captivate attention and boost engagement because it’s usually interactive. It leaves a positive brand impression and experience.”

The University’s first offering of the AR marketing course took place exclusively online this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moving forward, Scholz plans to incorporate Brock’s new augmented reality, virtual reality and sensory reality consumer laboratory into his syllabus. Known as the R3CL, the facility is the first of its kind and contains technologies such as the Microsoft HoloLens that can be used to create a variety of AR environments.

“Beginning with the R3CL and now this new unique AR marketing course, Brock University and the Goodman School of Business is on a trajectory to become a centre of excellence in the area of AR marketing,” said Andrew Gaudes, Dean of the Goodman School of Business.

“Goodman students will be among the first to have a solid foundation on how to use AR in marketing strategy.”

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