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VR Marketing: A New Reality or Smoke and Mirrors?

Unsurprisingly, Virtual Reality has exploded onto the marketing scene as the next big thing — but is it right for your next campaign?

Admit it, you’ve wanted Virtual Reality (VR) to be real since you were a little kid. Now that VR is finally here and in the mainstream, we’re so obsessed that we don’t care how we look wearing that silly headset, waving our arms around frantically as we try to figure out how to move our VR spaceship before we get blown to bits by aliens. We don’t even care how we look losing our balance and stumbling into the display case at our local mall (no one saw that…right?).

With the launch of VR products meant for mainstream consumption, like Samsung’s VR Gear headset, Google Cardboard and Facebook’s Oculus Rift, this innovative technology is exploding. But it isn’t just consumers who are going crazy over this new technology — marketers are also embracing its potential. Thanks to the immersive, personal experience that VR affords, consumers have been hooked — and engaged consumers equal marketing gold.

If you’re tempted by the prospect of integrating Virtual Reality into your marketing efforts, take a cue from these household brands that have already forged a path into VR territory.

Brands That Get VR Marketing

McDonald’s Sweden

McDonald’s Sweden really went outside the box by, well, thinking about the box itself. Looking to make the VR experience accessible to anyone with a smartphone, they designed their Happy Meals boxes to be converted into a VR headset. Nifty.

This video shows the simple design and delightful experience in action. This ingenious approach to VR connects the McDonald’s Sweden brand with innovation, entertainment and ingenuity — a message that can be passed on to the next generation of loyal customers, one Happy Meal box at a time.

Marriott Hotels

The idea behind Marriott Hotels’ “Teleporter” is to use VR in conjunction with other stimuli to help you see, hear, feel and even smell their exotic locations around the world. Participants will feel the wind in their hair, the sun on their skin, and the spray of the ocean, bringing into question the very definition of travel: “If your eyes, ears, nose and body tell you you’re travelling around the world….are you?”

The New York Times

The New York Times continues to use technology to jump off of the printed page and connect our increasingly globalised world, most recently offering Google Cardboard’s lo-fi goggles to one million print subscribers, free of charge. Viewers could stand alongside mourners of the Paris terrorist attacks, attend a campaign event and experience the day-to-day lives of people across the globe.

This video depicts the battle against ISIS in the Iraqi city of Falluja:

The Pros and Cons of VR Marketing

Virtual reality offers four main benefits to consumers: it’s…

  • Immersive
  • Emotionally Impactful
  • Novel
  • Memorable

In the context of marketing, viewers will come away from these intense experiences having engaged with the product or service in an unprecedented way. This aim is similar to the benefits of 2D video marketing: that is, viewers tend to engage longer, understand the product at hand better and are likely to remember the unique visual experience it offers. VR marketers in particular stand to benefit from the ability to “transport” viewers, as humans are wired to remember location-linked events.

There are, however, a few obstacles to successful VR marketing. First off, VR is best experienced via headset — and while headsets are becoming more accessible to the general public, they’re still expensive, limiting your reach among some demographics. Second, even if a viewer has the ideal viewing setup, the experience of VR isn’t for everyone — you don’t want the motion of a camera to lead consumers to associate “nausea” with your product.

Finally, VR is just beginning. There will be dramatic improvements and changes to the medium, so you may not want to invest time and money into a marketing campaign that’s rendered obsolete before your video is even rendered.

So ask yourself: does VR actually improve the clarity and impact of your message? And, if it does, what do you want to accomplish with VR? Ultimately, any new marketing approach is for naught if it doesn’t align with your editorial voice and brand messaging, so make sure you’re using this powerful tool in a way that’s right for your company.

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