Interview with Caspar Thykier, Co-Founder and CEO, Zappar

Caspar Thykier
Caspar Thykier

“We’re on the cusp of an era when augmented reality can take its place among the communications channels businesses and people regularly use.”

Tell us about your role and how you got here? What galvanized you to start Zappar?

I am the CEO and co-founder of Zappar. My co-founders and I were inspired to start Zappar to democratize augmented reality (AR) technology. We wanted to enable companies of all sizes – whether small businesses or big multinationals – to leverage AR within their commercial and marketing strategies and realize the benefits these highly immersive experiences offer for consumer engagement to both surprise and delight and increasingly inform and instruct as a day-to-day utility.

How are the AR/VR technologies for marketing different from when you first started?

The biggest difference, and greatest opportunity, we’re seeing now is an increased demand for great content to support the plethora of smartphones and headsets of the future. That’s why we’ve built ZapWorks as the best toolkit to deliver dynamic, expressive short-form experiences made for Augmented Reality – catering to the new breed of digital creatives around the world.

Who is your ‘Ideal Customer’?

One of Zappar’s advantages is that we don’t have an ideal customer! Our toolkit, which is made up of our zapcode solution, ZapWorks (our award-winning content authoring and publishing platform); app embed component and APIs; and ‘Zap-Alytics’ (data dashboard), is scalable, affordable and flexible – allowing anyone, from the world’s biggest brand to small mom and pop shops and bedroom coder, to create and launch their own experiences. So really our ideal customer is one that is looking to embrace what AR as a facilitating technology has to offer to connect the physical world with digital devices and capture value for their end users in their daily lives. That could be a brand marketer, creative or designer at an agency, coder or chief innovation officer.

What marketing platforms are best suited to leverage AR as a primary engagement tool?

One of the marketing technologies best suited to leverage AR is connected packaging. Brands are beginning to realize that their own owned media may just be their most powerful and untapped communication channel yet – both in terms of engagement with their users through their smartphones and measurement through better analytics. Gartner’s latest report predicts that there will be 50 billion connected products on shelves by 2020. The good news is that this will allow for more contextually relevant messaging, greater marketing attribution and retargeting opportunities. It’s a complete reimagining of an entire sector which is hugely exciting.

What is the current state of AR engagement in 2018? How much of that state is influenced by the maturity of data science and customer experience platforms?

We’re on the cusp of an era when augmented reality can take its place among the communications channels businesses and people regularly use. Not only are more powerful and cheaper mobile devices and headsets hitting the market, content creation tools are now so simple businesses can create AR content without specialist skills. So while there has already been significant progress, we need to continue raising awareness and understanding of the benefits and best practice in AR to fuel wider mainstream awareness and uptake.

How do you see the AR adoption strategies evolving around omnichannel marketing campaigns?

Brands have been integrating AR within their omnichannel strategy for some years now, leveraging the technology to drive consumer engagement, promote in-store events, encourage app downloads and, of course, drive purchases. We’ve worked with brands such as HasbroPEZDreamWorks, and Rovio to do just that. Looking ahead, in an increasingly mobile-first world, where US consumers spend five hours on average each day on their smartphones, and as AR continues to prove itself as a viable marketing channel, we can only expect to see greater uptake of this technology in brand campaigns.

What factors should marketers consider to launch a full-fledged AR-based digital website?

Right now to take full advantage of what AR has to offer you really need to be thinking about a native app rather than mobile web. If you’re new to AR, look at adopting simple, easy-to-use tools which will guide you to create your own AR experiences. Once you’re set up, next comes the element of thinking about what you’re trying to achieve with AR, how you’re going to tell your story and describe what you’re going to do in AR. There are three Cs to making a good AR experience: Understanding the Context, having a clear Call to Action, and then thinking about the Content with the first two in mind. Companies shouldn’t feel pressured to launch large-scale, complicated AR campaigns from the off – often the things that are simple, small and beautiful are the most compelling. There is one last ‘C’ which is Commitment. To really take advantage of AR you need to think long-term rather than one-off: how can augmented reality provide a benefit to end users as an always-on channel and lens.

What are your predictions for the AR/VR technologies becoming the ubiquitous technologies for marketing and sales in 2018-2022?

First off, I think it’s critical that in this next period we make a separation between AR and VR. Granted they both share an ‘R’ but the ‘A’ and ‘V’ portions apply to very different use cases. Both have fascinating real-world applications but it’s time that we separate them in articles, conferences and events I believe. Our centre of gravity as a business is AR. As this captivating technology becomes more ingrained in the everyday culture as a lens through which to layer content and is increasingly used for mass market deployment, we can expect it to be more ubiquitously used within native apps as an essential part of any businesses engagement strategy, everyday utility and general camera function.

Which startups in martech and adtech industries are you keenly following?

I’m a big fan of Evrythng and their work and thinking around connected products and packaging that are ‘born digital’. Codes on product packaging can now be connected to Active Digital Identities in the cloud to deliver rich short-form content, while also driving digital product life-cycle management capabilities and capturing real-time data throughout the life of the product. Brands can then use these insights, which are accessible via Evrythng’s cloud-based data management platform, to optimize their supply chain operations and strengthen customer relationships.

55, part of the You & Mr Jones brandtech group are very interesting. They are a new breed of data company that helps brands leverage data and technology, to engage people better, faster and cheaper, with a focus on transparency, empowerment and innovation.

Then there’s Madefire who are reinventing storytelling in comics for the digital age and providing a new platform for creative IP through technology. Democratizing the comic industry if you like which seems very complementary to our own endeavors in AR.

What marketing and sales automation tools do you use?

We’re currently making the switch to Intercom. We’ve been big fans of their blog and podcast for some time now and are just about to make the switch to highly personalized, event-based conversations with our customers. At Zappar, we truly value our customers and their feedback of, not only our products and services but how we drive the AR/VR/MR conversation forward – Intercom it turns out, is the perfect solution to meet these goals.

What has your best digital transformation campaign at Zappar?

I don’t think there is just one to select when you consider the range of work that we’re doing across sectors and for brands including Tilly’s, Hasbro, Pez, Shazam, Kimberly-Clark, Nestle, and the San Francisco 49ers. I think the more important observation when it comes to digital transformation is the great awakening that’s occurring at the highest level of most enlightened corporations around the globe. They’re beginning to understand the potential impact of AR as a new spatial interface. Unlocking value across their organization and creating new cost saving and revenue opportunities as well as greater accountability and data through a direct and permissive dialogue with their end users.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric ecosystem as a business leader?

AI is not something we’re currently focusing on at Zappar. As with AR, there are clearly many and varied applications of AI but we don’t profess to be experts in this field. I suspect as with AR it’s a process of thinking big but starting small to test and learn and start the journey to see where it can positively impact your business to solve specific problems and open up new opportunities.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology at Zappar?

We’re lucky enough to have employed some pretty inspiring people to begin with so we’re starting from a good place! Frankly, AR is one of those technologies that naturally inspires. It’s like magic on your phone that immediately attracts attention, which is why it’s such a powerful tool for active engagement, learning and development. Our role is to make the tools as intuitive as possible to let anyone create the best short form AR experiences possible and inspire the world. So really it’s about our platform and suite of tools being the building blocks for the democratization of this technology to inspire others.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

My iPhone is definitely the tech item I couldn’t live without. Whoever first likened it to an evolutionary appendage was spot on. In terms of apps, Shazam is one of my favorites. I’m biased as we work with them, but frankly, I still feel that same “How do they do that?” excitement every time I use the app and it recognizes a track. Netflix, Nest, Pinterest, Sonos, Spotify, Uber, Google Maps, FaceTime, WhatsApp, First Direct and Amazon also sit front and center on my home screen…with Zappar of course!

What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?

  • Exercise. There’s nothing like a good swim or run to crack a problem. Staring at a screen won’t get it done.
  • Face-to-face meetings and the art of conversation. Beats a video conference or a million emails every time.
  • Block out your diary in advance each week for some alone time and turn off wifi. Space, peace and quiet are a beautiful thing.
  • Sleep. Tiredness kills in the office as well as on the roads it appears.

What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)

Recently, I Pilgrim, The Glass Castle, Fire & Fury. Mostly on planes. And anything by Dr. Zeuss. We’re clearly in a time of information overload which has its pros and cons. Personally, my feeling is that it encourages short-term thinking and an age of disposability. So I don’t really get caught up in social media. I’d rather pause for breath. I still delight in a Sunday newspaper and a coffee.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is simply, “do your best.” If you can go home feeling like you gave it your best shot you can’t ask for more. Also, have fun doing it. You need to wake up each morning wanting to go to work. The day you don’t is the day you need to find another job.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read.

@charliefink – a man who can see the AR and VR woods from the trees!

Thank you Caspar! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Caspar has a background in advertising and marketing as an account man, who was lucky enough to work at some of the most successful companies with the biggest blue chip brands, surrounded by the best people.

Having helped set up three companies there’s certainly no substitute for experience and learning from your failures as much as your successes.

There are no easy wins. In my experience it comes down to hard work; knowing what you’re good at (and not so good at); solid thinking; creative ambition; setting the right quality threshold; spotting opportunities and talent; taking intelligent risks; making the difficult decisions; seizing the moment and good old lady luck. (oh, and a great FD always helps!).

Businesses are all about people. In a digital world where new business models are being created daily and all bets are off, getting things off the ground is all about strong relationships. Right now couldn’t be a more exciting time professionally.

Zappar Logo
At Zappar our mission is to democratize Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality (AR & VR): building the most powerful, easy to use and affordable platform, tools and analytics on the market to meet the demands of everyone from big business to SMEs. Our specialism is in creating bite-size entertainment experiences: snackable morsels that can be consumed quickly and easily, connecting the physical world of things with our digital lives through handheld devices (be that mobile, tablet or headset) driving interaction, and engagement. It’s why we’re called Zappar: the clue’s in the name – an APP using AR that lets you ZAP stuff. With Zappar on your phone it’s your new remote control to augment the world around you. Over the past 4 years we’ve been able to do just that through thousands of experiences and millions of zaps for hundreds of companies across the globe including: Coca-Cola; Hasbro (Transformers); Sony Music (One Direction, Little Mix); Warner Brothers (Scooby-Doo, Batman, Superman); Universal Studios (Minions); Manchester City Football Club; PlayStation; Rovio (Angry Birds); Cadbury’s; Asda and Carrefour to name a few. Our approach has been to work across different verticals to understand how our platform and tools can best add value to businesses and end users alike: from real estate to education, publishing to packaging and consumer products.

The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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