January 28, 2021

How tech can be harnessed to do good in the world

AR is an immersive platform of our future. It generates value in every vertical applied – from factory floors to education. But can brands and organizations do good with tech to bring the society’s critical issues into the spotlight? Let’s find out.  

Listen to my voice

“My name is Ann. The Big Issue saved me. I want to tell you my story” – the street newspaper vendor Ann’s face lights up the screen as she proceeds with telling her life story through the AR-powered video.

Ann, like thousands of street vendors across Europe, is usually not spoiled with passers’ undivided attention. They rush past, looking intently at their smartphone screens, barely paying attention to anything around. The UK street newspaper The Big Issue decided to challenge the existing paradigm and use technology to bring otherwise unnoticed stories to society’s eyes and hearts.

The Big Issue AR special experience

Ann’s story was brought to life through ‘GenARate’ AR app by Konica Minolta. Realizing that the impact companies and brands leave in the world goes well beyond the consumer level, Konica Minolta decided to use the power of omnipresent technology to connect people. Interestingly, the project came to life following an inspiring conversation between The Big Issue magazine vendor and a Konica Minolta team member. It prompted the team to think how it could help the organization and its vendors to overcome the challenges it was facing as a traditional print publisher.

Selling the magazine has given our vendors structure, a sense of purpose, and dignity. It was really important for us to find a way to engage and empower a wider audience through digital channels, whilst not compromising on our physical vendor model.
Oliver Waddington-Ball | Head of Content and Partnerships | The Big Issue

As the result of this creative collaboration, the Big Issue “Tech for good” special was filled with augmented exclusive content. Using the app, readers discovered the story after story – from the animated front cover and living city map to renowned Scottish actor David Tennant reading an extract of a magical adventure story.

People don’t tend to associate AR with a social enterprise like The Big Issue. We used AR in several editions to shift this perception and demonstrate how technology really can make a difference, in all parts of our society.
Rob Ferris| CEO| Konica Minolta Business Solutions (UK) Ltd

This initiative was later recognized by a prestigious Tech-for-Good Award 2020, showing the appreciation for the positive impact on the local community. But most importantly, The Big Issue collaboration with Konica Minolta marked an essential trend of social impact storytelling spreading wide and far.

Socially distant, emotionally connected 

Well aware of the heavy weight the COVID-19 pandemic has put on the shoulders (not seeing the family members for a long time to keep everyone safe), the GenARate app continues its mission to bring positivity to the world using technology.

Their #STAYHOME campaign aims to provide an easy (and free!) AR tech-for-good tool to help people connect with friends and family. Users just need to download the free app and follow step-by-step instructions in the AR editor to create a personalized augmented message. 

A brand that wants to save the planet

Konica Minolta was not the first partner who used Wikitude-powered storytelling for a social cause. Haircare brand Herbal Essences teamed up with digital agency Tactic and innovative waste management company TerraCycle for an equally good cause. AR campaign was launched to raise awareness for the global ocean pollution issue. As Herbal Essences believes in the critical role biodiversity plays in keeping our planet in balance, they wanted to encourage consumers to be mindful of recycling.

Herbal Essences AR
Herbal Essences tech for good AR app

The partnership involved creating recyclable shampoo and conditioner bottles made of 25% beach plastic. This project used augmented reality enhanced product packaging as a portal to the immersive game.

Plastic floating in our oceans and rivers has been a recent topic for discussion and unless people work to find solutions, it stays just that—a discussion. By incorporating beach plastic into their bottles, Herbal Essences shows that they are committed to leading by example.
Tom Szaky| CEO| TerraCycle

Values that drive decisions

So why social impact storytelling becomes too important to ignore? In our increasingly digitalized society, technology can act as a mixed blessing. With generation turnover and people under 40 years old possessing most of the purchasing power globally, personal beliefs and values become a significant currency in relationships between brands and consumers.

According to 5Ws 2021 Consumer Culture Report, Gen Z and consumers aged 55+ are most vocal when it comes to brand loyalty. At least 56% of Gen Z responders claim that they buy from the companies that align with their values. Those aged 55 and up are the least forgiving and most likely to boycott a company entirely because of their stance on an issue. 

The best way out for the brands is to use their power intentionally. Not only in doing good but in choosing the right tech tools to spread the message that reaches their customers’ minds and hearts. And for that, there is no better companion than augmented reality.

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