Marketing & VR - What’s the reality of it all?


Marketing & VR - What’s the reality of it all?

Oct 14 2016 | by RICHARD CARTWRIGHT


Throughout the 90’s, Virtual Reality (VR) was considered to be an exciting prospect, but other than for flight and driving simulator training, or even gaming in some instances, there wasn’t much use for it. Not only was the technology for consumers incredibly expensive, but the very basic polygon graphics that we all remember didn’t come close to what we would consider ’reality’.

Twenty years on (Yep…The 90’s were actually that long ago) - VR is back; And it’s happening right now.

So why the sudden return?

Since then, we’ve seen rapid development of technology that we take for granted such as the smartphone (which has become the standard device to view VR content on with the phone’s in-built motion sensor), advanced high pixel display screens, high speed internet connection and more recently, the introduction of 360* cameras; As well as extremely affordable VR headsets (that you can slot your smartphone into). Add all this together and you have a whole new playground that allows brands to make use of the technology and attract consumers into an exciting new world.

In the last year, we have seen some incredible creative use of VR by big brands.

Most notably, Volvo, Coca Cola & Nike

These are brands that you would expect to take advantage of new marketing avenues before anyone else. However, we have also seen excellent use of the medium by brands such as Boursin. You’re now probably thinking “How do you turn cheese into a VR experience?”. Well, see for yourself

In terms of conversions. VR allows consumers to get an immersive impression of the product/experience before taking them on to either purchase, register for more information and/or share the experience on social media, all via their smartphone. Content can either be a formed in a digitally created environment or recorded on a 360* camera (with some devices ranging between £110, to a not-so-accessible £45,000!).

Headsets range from as little as Google’s very own basic ‘Cardboard’ at £5.00, to the Oculus Rift at £499.00. Sony PlayStation are also due to release their own headset to raise the bar with VR gaming and is expected to sell big in the run up to Christmas with pre-orders selling out within minutes of announcement.

So despite the excitement, what are the drawbacks for brands?

Well it’s highly unlikely that consumers will view VR in public spaces where spatial awareness is required. Take for example, in circumstances on a busy train or bus where most people would browse content on their smartphones, they are unlikely to fetch a headset from their bag and blind themselves from what’s around them.

There is also the question of how often will users view VR content when prompted? It’s extremely rare for anyone to take a headset with them to most places they go, and the user will need to locate their headset from where they last left it before placing in their smartphone device, and adjusting to fit their head shape.

Depending on your target audience, there is also a distinctive difference in age range as the younger generation are more inclined to view VR than those of a later age. However from personal experience, I recently purchased the Samsung Gear headset to accompany my Galaxy S6 smartphone and introduced the concept to my now retired parents whilst visiting. I presented them with a VR app that allows you to view photos from millions of locations all over the world in 360* format.

Being the obsessed tourists that they are, they sat there in the comfort of their own living room whilst being immersed in the glorious mountain views of the Sierra Nevada in southern Spain, getting a good look around before going on to rustic, coastal towns in the Greek islands - something they’ve never been able to experience in their life up until this point.

It’s certainly a niche form of escapism in the home you could say, however it did inspire them to go and see some of these hot spots in reality for an upcoming trip around the Aegean sea. Just a small example of the engagement that brands can achieve from consumers through this concept.

So will this be the next primary content delivery platform?

Given what we know of it already and current user behaviour, quite simply - Not just yet. It is yet to become mass-market and as mentioned previously, it does have it’s limitations to meet the same numbers that existing platforms such as television, apps and the internet do.

But it is starting to become a welcomed extra arm to marketing. Especially for brands who want to flex their muscle among competition and become notable with their audience. Users are more likely to share and recommend good VR content that entertains and / or educates, especially as it offers new experiences that a vast majority of people have never witnessed first-hand before. But as with all digital marketing, if the content is poor, regardless of the fact you are using a flashy medium to present it, don’t expect a hike in your conversions or registered interest.


Marketing & VR - What’s the reality of it all?

BY RICHARD CARTWRIGHT