LONDON: Marketers seeking to build brand experiences and consumer engagement are being offered a way to bridge the digital and physical environments by the creators of an augmented reality app.

The Traces app sends content to a location rather than a device; the recipient has to be in the right location at the right time to unlock the content – which can be anything from a photo to a video or audio clip – via a digital marker left by the sender and which is revealed in the smartphone's camera view

This twist to location-based marketing has already been used by GoPro, the action camera brand: at SXSW earlier this year it created mobile scavenger hunts around Austin, offering GoPro products and exclusive access to SXSW events to the winners.

And Oxfam, the aid and development charity, recently launched a campaign which employs Traces to deliver messages to people passing its shops and to solicit donations.

Neuroscientist Beau Lotto, founder of Traces, told Marketing that "A lot of my research is on perception, how the brain makes sense of other people – it has to physically engage with the world and the people it cares about."

"What I'm arguing for is the space between," he said, "to have content not on your phone but in the world itself."

So rather than simply clicking on a mobile device, "Traces requires the brain to embark on a journey of discovery, generating dopamine and fostering empathy between connections".

Brands, Lotto suggested, could use this to create experiences and reward people for being in a certain location: "the effort to get a Trace boosts its value".

The brain loves experiences, he explained. "People will spend more money for experiences than objects, and their significance lasts longer."

Lotto further argued that for brands to succeed in digital they had to learn to give.

"We have brands that are close to us, like musicians, and we'll go further for those than for anything else," he said. "And in going further, we feel closer to the brand by having made that effort."

Data sourced from Marketing, Third Sector, Business Wire; additional content by Warc staff