By Piers Fawkes, President & Founder at PSFK
Take your pick. Is virtual reality the groundbreaking technology of tomorrow or a marketing antic that’s already old news? While 2016 and 2017 have seen virtual reality evolve into the public lexicon, its 1:1 interface and limited consumer adoption have constrained marketers’ abilities to execute effective activations at scale. As a result, it remains stationed in the land of ‘advertising gimmick,’ rather than reaching its full potential as a marketing resource.
So what’s an advertiser to do? The first step—don’t limit your VR strategy to creating 360-degree versions of existing video content. Treat the technology’s immersive potential as an extension of your brand experience game plan to enhance emotional, educational and transportive storytelling.
Experiential marketing such as pop-ups require a big investment on behalf of the brand—real-estate, staffing, training—while limiting how many audiences can reach the physical engagement. So to truly get a good ROI, it is necessary to implement tools into the mix such as immersive video, which can bring the joy of a brand experience to a larger audience at a lower cost (check out Quilted Northern’s virtual toilet paper pop-ups). Hosting VR activations at your local store or encouraging audiences to access your content with a branded Google Cardboard headset, offers deeper engagement to a greater number of interested consumers.
Heighten The Moment
Consumers want to be swept away by their senses. Already surrounded by digital content, it takes more than a video to keep today’s audiences entertained. The key is to use VR to authentically build on what already makes your brand special. Take Guinness’s VR-enhanced beer tastings. As customers taste three new beers, they are immersed in an abstract virtual environment where they experience colors, textures, movements and sounds that are meant to enhance the beer’s flavor profiles.
Try Before You Buy
Digital advertising has a tough time building shopper confidence, especially for big purchases. Customers aren’t sold on the luxury of sitting in leather car seats from a social ad. Virtual reality’s rev-gen power lies in its ability to help customers experience a product pre-purchase, driving upsell opportunities in high-ticket industries such as automotive, home and travel. Travel technology company Amadeus helps travelers experience luxury plane cabins or car interiors before booking, while YouVisit offers students virtual tours of college campuses they can’t visit. Committed to building shopper confidence, retailer Lowe’s has created Holoroom How To, a VR clinic for homeowners to learn how complete DIY tasks, such as putting up drywall, before purchasing the materials and tools.
Last but not least, let’s not overlook VR”s fundamental ability to transport consumers to another location or perspective. Whether helping audiences understand the severity of migraine sufferers’ symptoms (Excedrin), or offering a momentary (branded) escape from everyday humdrum (Volvo), VR has a special ability to introduce heightened emotions or empathy into a branded experience.
There are ways to embrace VR and create a true experiential and immersive strategy around this technology that works with your brand’s story, and doesn’t just encompass the traditional 360-degree video. By enhancing consumer emotions and education while telling your brand’s story, VR technology can be propelled from confused stunt into strategic action.