A Brave New World: How Facial Recognition Could Shape the Future of Marketing

The world of social media marketing is marked by anticipation of the “next big thing.” If the moves by Apple and Facebook this year have been anything to go by, facial recognition technology is a certain game changer.

We deep dive into the world of facial recognition and explore how some brands are already integrating this technology into their marketing.

Big-time Backers Set the Stage

Facial recognition hit the mainstream when Apple unveiled their iPhone X. The inclusion of 3D mapping (rather than the more basic 2D imaging) means this form of facial recognition will be more secure than previous editions. Users can use facial recognition to log in to their phones as well as using it for Apple Pay.

Facebook also jumped into the world of facial recognition this year. They’ve begun testing facial recognition as a way of allowing users to verify their identity when reclaiming their account after a lost password.

Meanwhile in China, the tech has really taken off with services like Face++ and Baidu. The Face++ technology is being used to transfer money, with just the users’ face as login credentials.

Baidu’s service lets users pick up train tickets from facial recognition machines, and they’re working on adding access to attractions and events.

Baby Steps: The Brands Using the Technology

While facial recognition technology is still in its infancy, a handful of brands are already experimenting with different ways to use the technology. It’s consistently proved to be effective at creating a more engaging experience for users.

South African coffee brand Douwe Egberts placed a dispensing machine at O.R. Tambo International Airport. The machine used facial scanning technology to detect people who yawned as they passed by. As they yawned, it dispensed a free cup of coffee. Watch below as word spread around the airport and travellers began queueing to use the machine.

Streets used facial recognition to promote the launch of the Magnum Infinity. Billboards across Australia were set up with an inbuilt camera to detect when users were smiling, before placing a virtual ice-cream in front of them. Users could pretend to bite down on the ice-cream while a photo of them chomping down was uploaded to the Streets Magnum Facebook page.

In Seoul, the International Finance Centre shopping mall set up LCD-screen kiosks with cameras and motion detectors. These kiosks used facial recognition to detect the gender and age of users. Users were then served with different ads for shops and restaurants based on their demographics. As the technology improves, we can only presume this kind of precise targeting will only become more widespread and commonplace.

Growing Pains: The Ethics of Facial Recognition

While facial recognition will allow marketers to provide a more tailored, customised experience for their audiences, facial recognition also raises many technical and ethical questions.

Many testers have already managed to dupe and break into facial recognition systems using photos, cheap glasses, and even special makeup.  

Privacy also becomes a major concern. If facial recognition apps can be embedded in any camera or recording devices, brands may eventually reach a stage where they’re able to perpetually track the movements and actions of their audience.

This lack of privacy could feel very much like a Big Brother situation. As technology advances faster than legislation, it remains to be seen what the social impact of facial recognition technology could be.

The Future is Bright

While it’s important to keep these issues in mind, the future is certainly bright for facial recognition. Soon, brands could be using the technology as the “cookie” of the future.

It could become to the most accurate way to target phone users and mall shoppers. After all, it’s much harder to change your face than it is to delete your browser history.

Different ads could be served based on a person’s moods, their recent foot traffic and any number of data-driven metrics.

Beyond the face, iris-scanning could become more commonplace, meaning the only log-in you’ll ever need is a scan of your eye.

In short, wherever the technology goes, it’s certainly one to keep an eye on.

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