If you had forgotten all about Snapchat, no one would blame you. Outside of the cohort of young people who fell into the existing micro networks of their friends when Snapchat started to be a thing four years ago, you probably downloaded it, couldn’t figure out why to use it, and then forgot about it. You’re not alone, user growth for Snapchat has been dismal, registering only 5% in 2018, and they had been forecasted to lose users in 2019.
When Instagram copied Snapchat with Instagram Stories, it took the wind out of Snapchat’s sails. I personally didn’t think it was going to work, but Instagram stories boast about 3 times more usage alone than Snapchat does. Instagram took the same things that made Snapchat cool – disappearing messages and fun filters – and applied it to a place where people already had networks.
And now with essentially the same augmented reality filters proliferating across Insta Stories, Facebook Messenger, and Tiktok, that leaves Snapchat with geo-filters and a rather small userbase. The first rule of social networking is that when I join I need to be able to find my friends or have some sort of utility that is so strong that I use it without knowing anyone on the platform. Since none of my friends use Snapchat, I’m going to need a pretty damn good reason to open the app.
Well, that reason might finally be here, and no, it’s not Spectacles.
Augmenting the world with Landmarkers
Snapchat just announced their newest feature and it really does seem like they are pinning all of their hopes on it. Landmarkers is the ability for the Snapchat camera to recognize famous buildings and places and let you apply augmented reality filters to make those landmarks do fun things. Always dreamed of the Eiffel Tower vomitting rainbows? Who hasn’t?? Well, now you can see it in real, beautiful, augmented reality.
Snapchat used millions of public photos of famous places to stitch together virtual versons of real landmarks. Plus, smartphones are so powerful now that they can access data in the cloud and process augmented differences on top of that visually in real time. Landmarkers is a real achievement not just as a creative idea but in computing prowess and the promise of what the latest techonology can unlock for us.
After the shine of adding filters to ourselves wore off (there are only so many different selfie filters you can try before it just gets old) it makes total sense to switch over to the real world. What do people photograph just as much as themselves? Famous stuff! And once people get used to the idea that opening Snapchat and pointing it at a famous landmark will surprise them with a crazy augmented reality experience, people will start doing it everywhere just to see what has been augmented.
We forget how Snapchat pioneered a lot of the features that have come to be standard across social media: disappearing messages, AR filters, vertical video. Landmarkers is another true innovation in a space where copying is the norm.
Landmarkers will be awesome for brands
As marketers we try to go from offline to the real physical world as much as possible. Nothing is more real than the real world. Landmarkers will give marketers the chance to pimp different buildings and places for their latest campaigns, offering a solid step up to the geo-fenced filter that Snapchat became famous for rolling out.
Imagine Cartier diamonds flying out of the front of their flagship in the Champs Elysées. Imagine Jay Z rapping on top of the Statue of Liberty to promote his new album. Imagine Patagonia throwing fleece poop emojis at the White House. The possibilities are literally endless, and by doing this in a virtual space, you get around the hassle of getting permits to promote a brand in a historic place.
What’s more, the landmarkers option is going to be open to creators (like the basic filters are now) so anyone with a little animation skill can put together an augmented experience.
I cannot wait to see this in action. It’s nice to get excited about tech again! Bravo Snapchat!