There is a plethora of applications for Virtual Reality, many of which will eventually impact and enhance our daily lives in one way or another. From a marketing perspective, this means an equally great opportunity to use this technology to increase profits in whatever way you can possibly imagine. There are already some fantastic examples of companies that have used VR experiences to enhance storytelling or to generate interest in what they were selling.
A prime example of using VR to generate interest is Marriott Hotels, who, as mentioned in my previous post, created a “teleportation booth” to let potential customers experience idyllic travel destinations all over the world. Similarly, global travel company Thomas Cook has placed Samsung Gear VR headsets in 10 of their major stores in the UK, Germany and Belgium, to enable customers to truly experience potential travel destinations. This form of marketing clearly overshadows the limited potential of traditional in-store catalogues and offers an exciting new medium to market holidays to consumers.
Though alcohol brands would not seem to be an obvious early adopter of VR, the tequila brand Patron has decided to create a compelling lifecycle story filmed as a 360° video experience. This way of storytelling creates a deeper understanding of the product and makes the brand more memorable and relatable in viewer’s minds. Using this type of VR experience to enhance corporate storytelling will be increasingly popular once VR has become more commonplace in households.
A final example of marketing in VR is the hugely popular festival TomorrowWorld, who created an immersive virtual reality experience in 2014 to simulate what it is like to attend their festival. The experience aimed to capture the atmosphere of the entire festival, showing not just concerts but every major section of the festival, including the campsites.
These examples illustrate the existing potential of VR in the marketing process and suggest that this will push marketers to innovate more than ever to reach potential customers at a deeper emotional level. Since immersion implies a sense of presence in the virtual world, the experiences people have will be more real and more moving than simply viewing an advertisement on TV or online. Marketers will have the chance to create a new standard in advertising that focuses on customer relations rather than simply selling a product. This is already a trend in advertising, where the focus has commonly shifted more towards experiences and creating a positive recall in consumer’s minds. With the dawn of VR, experience marketing will become even more powerful and brands will begin to transcend their conventional limits in the value chain by embedding their messages in virtual experiences that have deeper intrinsic value. Consumers will benefit from these VR experiences and therefore be more receptive to the brand messages within. This receptiveness of consumers will also be enabled by the immersion VR offers, because of a reduction of distractions, leading to a greater focus on the message.
As with every game changing innovation, such as social media most recently, there are also a number of pitfalls to marketing in VR. These will indubitably be discovered by the numerous companies that will be tempted by the novelty of the technology and rush to create a VR experience. Much like it is not advisable to participate in social media as a company without fully understanding it or utilizing it correctly, companies should not hastily decide to create experiences in VR if they are not completely convinced of a clear benefit. The examples above were all very positive and in many cases powerful in terms of shaping consumer perception of the brand, however it is surely only a matter of time before there will be a number of infamous examples of how not to market in VR.
Additionally, there is currently a major disincentive to invest in marketing in VR, as it has a relatively low reach compared to more conventional forms of advertising. Though this will definitely change in the long term, the short term looks less competitive when it comes to marketing to casual VR consumers at home.
Read my final post to find out more about my predictions for VR