Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

09 November 2011

Starbucks' AR Cup Holiday Characters

Blast Radius just produced Starbucks' first-ever augmented reality app, and you can swoop it up next Tuesday from your Android or iPhone.

Remember how you used to be able to collect all five mini Barbie dolls or Cabbage Patch kids in a McD's Happy Meal™? It's kind of like that, except not a choking hazard.

The app interacts with various characters that will appear on the company's trademark red holiday cups. When you point your phone camera at the cup, they come to life, and can interact with you or different objects (47 in all!) at the store, like bags of coffee.

The characters include an ice skater, a squirrel, a boy, a sleigh dog and a fox. If you activate all five, you get a prize. In addition, you'll also be able to do basic mobile app stuff, like send ecards or Starbucks holiday offers.

Mobile is becoming a dominant player in Starbucks' social experiments. The company was among the first to partner with Foursquare last year, and as of January, it processed over 20 million mobile payments -- making it a prime model for how American companies can mainstreamise mobile payments.

What I really like about Starbucks' evolution in mobile is that it's done a good job of balancing just-because human interaction and more sharply defined revenue-based interests -- without sacrificing one or the other. In the case of this AR app, we're also seeing more maturity in the company's efforts to integrate digital with packaging.

One past effort comes to mind. "The Way I See It" was a good digital + packaging effort because it had a website where people could post stories. It also inspired a lot of online fan action: 1, 2, 3. But taking down the website...? Faux pas. Shoulda aggregated the fan stuff and kept it going in a more easy-to-post Tumblr format. Can you even imagine how rebloggable an #occupywallst "Way I See It" would have been?!

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