It’s not real until I’ve seen it…
A new (virtual) reality.
Base-jumping off the Eiffel tower at night, swimming in the ocean next to a gigantic white shark or standing on top of the Mount Everest. Virtual reality makes it possible to experience your wildest dreams without even having to leave your living room. A thrilling experience that promises to become big business. But how can brands use virtual reality to create an experience that goes beyond the borders of our ordinary world?
Virtual reality. Sound good… But what is it?
Virtual reality has made an impressive entrance in the technology market over the past few years. However, many people still believe it only exists in into-the-future movies. The opposite is correct, virtual reality is happening right now. But the question is: what is it and how does it work?
In short we can say that virtual reality is a computer-generated environment that lets you experience another reality than the one you are in. So it tricks your senses into thinking you are in that other world, somewhere beyond imagination. All you need is a VR headset, a pair of headphones and in some cases a smartphone (depends on the headset). By turning your head, you get a 360-degree view of the virtual landscape around you, making you the epicentre of a spectacle, triggering your senses.
In some cases, consumers can even interact in or with the VR-environment. For example, by using a keyboard, cyber gloves or bodysuits they can pick up, move, adapt or even create stuff within the virtual world. The possibilities are almost endless. It sounds like a great way to create an unforgettable experience and make your consumers interact with branded content, doesn’t it?
A virtual brand experience
Many marketers bump into huge problems when trying to create engagement and awareness these days. Using virtual reality can help them improve both these things. Why? We’ll give you 4 reasons.
1. VR is immersive – It reaches the ultimate level of surround, creating a sense of physical presence in real or imagined worlds. So there are fewer distractions and more attention is focused on the message.
2. VR is impactful – Intense experiences evoke strong emotions. And these are the kinds of emotions necessary for real behaviour changes.
3. VR is memorable – It’s scientifically proven that our brains remember events linked to locations more thoroughly. And that’s what virtual reality does. Actually it does even more. Virtual reality creates a whole new “location.”
4. VR is exciting – It’s new, it’s special, it generates a high level of media and public interest. Time to be an early adopter and benefit from favourable media exposure.
Virtual reality isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, however. It’s still pretty difficult to work with and when mistakes are made, it can be disastrous. Badly conceived virtual reality can make you feel sick for the rest of the day. That doesn’t sound like a great experience, right? So VR content has to be created with great care. Plus you have to keep in mind that it doesn’t operate like any other medium. It’s a whole new level of storytelling language, one that needs to be thought through very precisely. But if you add it all up, the advantages outnumber the disadvantages big time.
360 degrees of experiences
Let’s put the theory into practice and take a look at a few great examples of brands using virtual reality. There are many ways to do this, so let’s go over some.
1. Tangible experiences
Imagine yourself sitting at the beach-bar in a fancy hotel sipping margaritas. Can’t be hard to do, right? But what if you could actually “be” there and experience it? Much more convincing than some brochure or website of a travel company promising you’ll have a great time. This way, they can show that what you see is really what you get.
Marriott Hotels offered newlyweds a VR honeymoon experience while just standing in a telephone booth-like structure. First, they “visited” a Marriott Hotel and then they were teleported to a beach in Hawaii. What was so special about this VR experience was the addition of extra elements like a breeze (ventilators) and salt-water spray, so it really felt like they were taking a walk on the beach.
2. Product extension
Not only does virtual reality give brands the possibility to create an outstanding experience, it also offers them an opportunity to create new products. An opportunity McDonalds grabbed with both hands.
Drumroll please … McDonalds introduces … the “Happy Goggles”! Based on and named after their iconic and worldwide popular menu for kids, the Happy Meal. And though it sounds very strange, it’s actually very easy to “make.” The Happy Meal box can be reused to make a different, branded version of the Google Cardboards. But how do you do it? Pull out the perforated edges, fold the box, put the lens inside et voilà, presto change-o!
“We’re sorry. The seats for this football game are sold out.” BUMMER! But what if you could still be there, sitting in the best seat in the whole stadium? Together with live streaming content from a match or performance, VR makes this possible. Get the feeling of standing live in a stadium, theatre or festival – even if you are miles away.
A good example of this live-streaming technique is the match between Manchester United and FC Barcelona during the International Champion Cup of 2015. This match was sold out very quickly, but that didn’t stop the organization from letting all soccer fans experience this big game in real-time. Instead of giving up once the stadium was sold out, they joined forces with NextVR (a Californian VR start-up) and presented the first VR Soccer Live Streaming. And boy oh boy, did that ever make their fans happy!
Virtual reality is a great opportunity for brands to reach their customers in a new, exciting and thorough way, IF it is done right and fits their budget. So go on and explore the brave new virtual world.
YES YOU CAN (too)
Is virtual reality something you can implement for your brand? Yes you can! But be aware… There is a thin line between using VR as a fun gadget to get someone’s attention and using it to create added value for your brand. If you want to use VR be sure to keep in mind some of our advice:
- Make a clear link between your brand and your VR experience. Don’t just go on creating a spectacular experience that people will remember if they are going to forget about you.
- Give people the opportunity to “work with your brand.” VR creates the benefit of interaction. Let people make the experience their own, and they can make your brand “their own.”
- Connect message and place. Your brand’s virtual reality can be set up anywhere you want. But think about where your audience will experience it. At home or at a fair: this will make a huge difference in how you connect your sales story to your experience.
- Have fun, create fun! Virtual reality is a new and thrilling technique, open for exploration. So go ahead and have some fun while diving into this new world. Who knows what you might find?