Summary:

GoldRun, a New York start-up that allows brands to use augmented reality to create innovative marketing campaigns that end in real-world rewards, just raised $1.1 million in an angel round. The company is showing the promise of augmented reality and the power of tangible rewards.

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Vivian Rosenthal once wrote an architecture masters thesis on the intersection of the physical and virtual worlds. Now, the New York entrepreneur is mining that intersection for profit with a start-up that’s getting attention for the way it uses augmented reality to create marketing campaigns that end in real-world rewards.

GoldRun, which just launched in beta last fall, allows companies to create augmented reality campaigns that can be tailored to their content, product or message. It gives brands a very visual way to engage consumers and drive specific offline or online actions with the payoff being tangible rewards, something we’ve mentioned more and more lately. Companies such as H&M, Esquire, Barnes & Noble, Universal Pictures, A&E Networks and Interscope Records are among the early customers turning to GoldRun to run augmented reality campaigns.

The start-up is getting noticed by investors too. GoldRun just announced $1.1 million in angel funding from a host of investors including Ed Mathias of the Carlyle Group; financier Jon Ledecky; Jeremy Zimmer, the founding partner of United Talent Agency; former chairman and CEO of Sunglass Hut Jim Hauslein; and Mark Ein, the CEO of Venturehouse Group. The money is going toward continuing the early momentum of GoldRun, improving the platform and bulking up the sales team.

Rosenthal said she got the idea for GoldRun because she heard from brands who wanted to utilize mobile marketing channels but weren’t able to craft very visual campaigns using existing check-in services. She said by leveraging augmented reality, companies are able to engage users in a very compelling way that complements their brands.

For example, Airwalk created a campaign for a limited edition shoe last November by allowing people who visited Washington Square in New York City and Venice Beach in Los Angeles to shop in a virtual pop-up store stocked with the limited edition shoe. Using augmented reality, consumers were able to see a floating image of the shoe on their screen and could buy the shoe online. The shoe sold out within 24 hours. In another example, H&M created a photo scavenger hunt allowing users to take a picture of virtual items that appear in front of certain H&M stores. That allowed them to unlock an in-store discount.

“Brands are able to meet the consumer at the pace and pattern of their life with something fun and engaging to do and they can offer them a reward rather than an advertisement,” Rosenthal said.

She said GoldRun is providing a good example of how brands can use augmented reality effectively. Many examples of AR are about creating layers of information over the world, she said, but they don’t always offer enough utility to make up for the added complications of using them.

“We took a totally different tack. We asked how can we make AR be this new media buy that’s a visually driven experience. It’s about getting something cool that you want from a brand,” she said.

Augmented reality overall is still outside the mainstream and I’m not sure GoldRun will help change that. But the company is interesting because it’s good way to try and intelligently use AR and pair it with location-based marketing. While many companies are able to utilize check-in services, there are a lot of brands that still shy away from smartphones because they’re not able to put their own touches on their campaigns. GoldRun seems to do a good job of giving brands the necessary tools to use AR and rightly combines it with real rewards to ensure that the whole process produces some benefit for the user.

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