Still putting off adopting virtual reality (VR) as part of your marketing campaigns? Don’t. VR isn’t a passing fancy. In fact, when wielded correctly, this emerging tech can be an invaluable tool, providing a limitless landscape on which progressive marketers can make an indelible mark.
The modern version of VR is a far cry from famous computer scientist Ivan Sutherland’s first head-mounted display (HMD), introduced in 1968. The graphics comprising the virtual environment were wireframe rooms, and the device itself was so heavy, it had to be suspended from the ceiling.
Today’s HMDs boast mobility, realism and, perhaps most importantly, affordability. Due to the convergence of these three factors, VR usage is taking root and gaining traction. Statista reports that there are currently 43 million VR users worldwide, and that number is expected to reach 171 million in two years.
Thanks to technologies and platforms like Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive and Google Cardboard, VR is on the cusp of becoming mainstream. The International Data Corporation expects VR hardware sales to skyrocket at a compound annual growth rate of 183.8 percent and reach 64.8 million units sold by 2020.
So there’s proof that the market is expanding and consumers are willing to play. But how can marketers enter the game?
Capture Their Attention
At West Cary Group, our philosophy is that VR is most effective when used for brand engagement, immersive storytelling and virtual showrooms/product demonstrations.
In so doing, marketers take advantage of the true beauty of VR: The experience is developed and presented in such a riveting way that participants feel compelled to sacrifice logic and accept it as authentic. The incorporation of high-resolution visuals, high-capacity networks and swift video telecommunication means users can actually be in two places at the same time.
Further, the 360-degree immersive storytelling enabled by VR allows brands to mix equal parts spectacle and narrative. It facilitates both deeper consumer engagement and richer brand stories with no multitasking and zero distractions from the outside world. Just customers enjoying 100% thrilling, unadulterated interaction with a premium experience facilitated by the client’s brand.
This exclusive virtual world grants consumers access to experiences they ordinarily wouldn’t or couldn’t enjoy, places they’ve never been, sights they’ve never seen and feelings they’ve never felt. When they step back into reality exhilarated with wonder, it will have been the featured brand that made it all possible.
But VR shouldn’t stop at sizzle. Savvy marketers find a way to also deliver the steak. As West Cary Group plans strategies and campaigns for our clients, we frequently underscore the power of VR to strengthen engagement, enhance recall, reinforce product consideration and power brand lift.
• For a leading financial services industry client, we proposed an event-based VR experience that educated users on the value of a travel product while transporting them to distant locations as exotic as the moon.
• For one top-rated university, we illustrated how VR could increase application submissions by giving prospective students an insider’s tour of the campus – without leaving the comfort of home.
• For an innovator in home goods retail, we concepted a virtual showroom that provides consumers with stunning, customizable views of kitchen and bath inspirations.
A successful VR marketing campaign should marry extreme creativity with high brand and product relevancy.
Create a Memorable Experience
Regardless of industry, West Cary Group believes that in order to create a powerful VR experience, agencies must bear in mind three things:
1. Content is king. Ultimately, the quality of the content is what drives engagement and compels prospects to enter (and remain in) an alternate reality long enough to create a lasting impression.
2. Strategy is queen. The most successful VR projects hinge on consumer insights that help connect brands to an emotion or sensation that, when experienced, simply makes sense. Using VR for VR’s sake is not a winning strategy.
3. Partnerships are rooks. Given the significant potential West Cary Group sees in this emerging technology, it’s crucial that marketers forge partnerships with best-in-class developers, production companies and hardware suppliers, who provide a healthy trove of knowledge from which to pull. When advising clients on the most effective ways to use VR to create positive consumer experiences and lasting brand impressions, marketers can then speak from a place of comfort and knowledge.
VR is on the rise, and its potential is undeniable. Now is the time for agencies and their clients to start harnessing its power to create resonant campaigns with truly impactful results.
About the Writer
Camille Blanchard, Vice President, Head of Innovation, West Cary Group
Camille is VP, Head of Innovation, at West Cary Group, an award-winning performance marketing firm headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. Her mandate is to enable rapid testing and integration of new marketing techniques and technologies into client strategies and campaigns. Camille’s professional experience spans marketing, operations, data, technology and business management on both the client and agency sides. @WCG_Camille