TikTok’s fate in the U.S. teeters, but that’s not stopping it from rolling out new AR features. Its latest play is an offshoot of its Effect House AR creation platform, built for brand marketers. They can use it to build and customize branded AR lenses – or effects as TikTok calls them.

Known as Branded Effects, the new program lets marketers build interactive experiences around their products. Common examples are virtual try-ons for makeup, sunglasses, and hair color, while other creative activations include mini-games or serendipitous randomizers.

If any of this sounds familiar, it comes shortly after Snap did something similar. Snap’s ARES recently launched as a SaaS-based tool that fine tunes its Lens Studio for marketers. Snap also has Camera Kit, an SDK that lets brands bring Lens Studio into their own design workflows.

Like ARES, TikTok’s Branded Effects is meant to ease friction for brands to add interactive lenses in their marketing mix. It’s all about helping businesses get over fears of new technology and marketing formats. And that underlying goal shows in several of the program’s features.

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Unusual Suspects

Going deeper into those features, Branded Effects leads with tools that help marketers get started with AR. We’re talking templates, tutorials, and documentation about how to create various types of effects. Those include interactive elements like textures, materials, lighting, and shadows.

These are key considerations for branded AR, given that it often involves displaying products in multi-dimensional ways. As we examined recently around AR product try-ons for cars, jewelry, and food, realistic rendering and surface detail (e.g., food “craveability“) is the name of the game.

The ability to achieve this realism is also important for brand buy-in. If they don’t see their products represented well in AR, it can be an adoption impediment. This is especially true with fashion or high-ticket items (again, cars), which is why Snap recently launched ray tracing.

Speaking of verticals, TikTok names a wide range of businesses that can benefit from Branded Effects, including personal care, beauty, consumer packaged goods, entertainment, and retail. These sectors are each fitting (excuse the pun) for AR, but are at varying stages of adoption.

As for those already on board, TikTok names Microsoft as a Branded Effect launch partner. Though productivity software is an unlikely suspect for AR, Microsoft has already achieved millions of views for its effect that plays on Microsoft Office’s classic “Word Art” for a fun vintage feel.

Mucinex meanwhile saw a 42.7 percent lift in purchase intent from its Branded Effect. Other launch partners seeing results include beauty brand Laneige, gum maker Dirol, and Shoppers Drug Mart. Like Microsoft, this list demonstrates that AR is expanding to all kinds of products.

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The Price is Right

Besides results, another selling point for Branded Effects is its price tag: free. Like Snap’s Lens Studio, the toolset is a sort of loss leader that stimulates activity among brands, which is then monetized downstream when they double down on paid amplification.

To further grease the adoption wheels, Branded Effects matches brand marketers with developers to fulfill the creative legwork. Snap, again, has done something similar where it acts as a matchmaker between brands and creators. Both sides win in being plugged into a marketplace.

To add to the list, Branded Effects boasts other components meant to appeal to marketers. For example, several of its Effects formats can activate calls-to-action so that they’re not only demonstrative but also actionable. This can drive tangible ROI for brands.

To that end, analytics are also offered so that brands can evaluate results. TikTok knows that marketers are data-driven so it wants to help them realize a business case and justify the investment. This is table stakes in all flavors of marketing these days.

This quantifiable business case is needed to move the needle. But before getting to that point, you have to entice brands to take the first leap, which is all about reducing friction and making AR less intimidating. We’ll continue to see TikTok, Snap, and others draw from that playbook.

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