How the Use of Virtual Reality can fit into your Marketing Strategy
Virtual Reality has changed the way brands can engage with their audiences; giving them the ability to reach levels of engagement higher than with more traditional advertising techniques. The tech has been around for a while now, but as it evolves how can virtual reality be fully integrated into a brand’s marketing strategy?
Use VR to achieve a purpose
A strategy exists to help you reach a goal, a purpose.
For VR campaigns, a popular purpose is ‘try before you buy’. Whether it’s a product launch, boosting product awareness or helping consumers choose between various options, it’s a logical step to create VR campaigns that let users experience a product.
Of course, a ‘try before you buy’ VR experience isn’t relevant for all sectors. But for travel, hospitality and interior design, where a purchase rests on visual appeal or visualisation, this type of VR content makes perfect sense.
As well as ‘entertainment’, seen across the gaming and media industries, ‘education’ as a purpose is where VR campaigns can be more versatile. Obviously, this purpose works well in the healthcare sector, where VR allows trainee surgeons to observe and learn from actual operating procedures, but it also opens up VR possibilities in other industries.
For instance, philanthropic shoe brand TOMS used a VR campaign to underline their ‘One for One’ mission. The campaign brought viewers on a TOMS Virtual Giving Trip, documenting a real experience handing shoes to children in need in Peru. As well as the feel-good nature of the piece, it educates consumers on the TOMS brand values in a moving and truly authentic way.
Following on, VR is also a powerful tool to raise awareness for charities, such as when Amnesty boosted donations by using virtual reality headsets to bring war-torn Syria to the UK public.
Tailor the experience to your audience
Like any marketing strategy, you need to pinpoint who your audience is for a VR campaign. Your audience will tie directly to your purpose – and it won’t be ‘everybody’.
Given the new tech involved, it’s important to bear in mind how your audience will best experience a VR campaign. You’ll want to deliver it when people are curious, interested, receptive.
Maybe the right audience is a subset of existing customers reached through direct mail, allowing them to experience your VR campaign in the comfort of their own home. Google Cardboard offers a simple, affordable way for audiences to take their first steps into the VR world.
Perhaps you want to generate buzz for a product launch. Because VR is still fairly novel, an in-store VR pop up experience – for a limited time only – can generate a lot of viral exposure if done right.
Take hiking boot company Merill as a great example. Tying in with the launch of their most technically accomplished boot to date, they created a terrifying ‘Mountainside Hike’ VR experience at Sundance in 2015. The immersive walk-around experience saw participants don Merill’s new boots and go on a thrilling hike along a precarious route in the Italian Dolomites.
While the campaign was only live for a few days, earned media impressions totalled over 150M, successfully executing its purpose: reaching a younger demographic in an unexpected way.
A VR experience needs to have an emotional impact on the audience. Whether it’s terrifying, awe-inspiring, or moving, the experience needs to be worth having in the first place.
The joy of VR is taking participants on an incredible journey. From adrenaline-pumping real-world situations like a virtual cage-dive with great white sharks, to fantastical scenarios like Oreo’s ‘World of a Flavoured Cookie’, VR is the medium to push imaginative boundaries.
Your message needs to be wrapped around the experience, not shoehorned in front and centre. For your consumer, a VR experience that has a real emotional impact can go a long way for shifting perceptions and building brand advocacy.
By understanding the unique benefits of VR and acting fast to be adopt this technology before it becomes fully mainstream, a brand can harness VR in a marketing strategy to gain awareness and shift perception.
Virtual Reality is an incredible way to make a connection with consumers, and, when deployed properly, can go far deeper than just a ‘new tech gimmick’.
This really is just the beginning of a whole new wave of exciting creation.
By Shona O’Leary – Senior Account Manager at Studio Black Tomato