If you’ve been keeping up with this article series, or really, on any marketing, tech, or even general business news, you know that XR is powerful — the future of created experiences, the new obsession of every industry leader and social media-crazed teen. But why? What about AR and VR (augmented and virtual reality) make it so attractive, fun — and impactful?
Let’s take a quick dive into the brain science behind why XR attracts and influences us the way it does — and explore why exactly that phenomenon is transforming the marketing playing field.
First of all, some key takeaways:
- The Stats: AR can drive 70% deeper impressions due to greater memory encoding.
- The How: AR experiences activate higher attention levels and emotional intensity.
- The Why: Consumer decisions are highly emotion-based; 95% of decisions take place unconsciously.
- The Impact: Marketing strategists, scholars, and consumers alike acknowledge the transformative potential of XR for branding and conversion.
The Brain: The Magician Behind It All
How in the universe (or rather, the metaverse) does AR interaction achieve deeper impressions, stronger brand associations, and higher conversions? Well, it all comes down to the brain. Neurologists don’t quite understand exactly how AR is so much better than normal media at leaving a lasting impact on our minds, but they have concrete evidence that it does: research participants interacting with AR media experienced 70% more memory encoding than with non-AR media, specifically in long-term memory (you know, the kind that marketers want to activate, the kind that lasts more than 5.8 seconds).
AR also leads to higher brain activity, almost double the normal activity level of non-AR media, particularly in attention and engagement. Researchers found that people experiencing AR had 45% more attention than when watching TV or browsing the web — makes sense right, when you think about just how awake you are while mindlessly scrolling Netflix or the web — or even this article.
Image Source: Zappar
Even more importantly, AR almost doubles the emotional intensity and connection we feel. Most AR experiences hit us with emotions like surprise and delight, that “woah that’s so cool!” moment after opening a fun face filter or gamified university mailer — the exact moment you hope happens for every customer when they interact with your products.
This emotional connection is the key to conversion success. As marketing expert and professor Byron Sharp found in his research-based book “How Brands Grow,” most consumer decisions are made with the emotional brain. In fact, neuroscience experiments found that a whopping 95% of these decisions take place unconsciously (yes, the perfect excuse when you magically find that double-shot espresso on your doorstep for the 5th time this week).
Source: Daniel Kahnemann, Thinking Fast and Slow
From our neurological wirings, to our conscious (and unconscious) brand associations, to our emotion-based decision-making, XR leaves a deeper impression at every step of the marketing and recruitment funnel. It isn’t a machine to push conversions — it’s a vibrant attractor to pull them, drawing customers in with genuine and engaging experiences with your brand. And who doesn’t need that kind of magic?
Sharp, Byron, and Jenni Romaniuk. How Brands Grow. Oxford University Press, 2016.
Susan Belknapp, Senior Writer. “CALIFORNIA to Land World's First Biotech Park for Brain Mapping Technology.” California Business Journal, 28 May 2021, calbizjournal.com/california-to-land-worlds-first-biotech-park-for-brain-mapping-technology/.
Ung, Josie, Contributing Author. “Layered: The Future of Augmented Reality.” Mindshare UK, April 2018, mindshareworld.com/uk/mindshare-futures/.Susan Belknapp, Senior Writer. “CALIFORNIA to Land World's First Biotech Park for Brain Mapping Technology.” California Business Journal, 28 May 2021, calbizjournal.com/california-to-land-worlds-first-biotech-park-for-brain-mapping-technology/.