Virtual Reality: How It’s Affecting Marketing

Virtual Reality: How It’s Affecting Marketing

For years Hollywood has inadvertently been pushing virtual reality as a “cool device of the future.” With popular movies like The Minority Report, Hackers, Tron, and who could forget The Matrix, Hollywood might have just inadvertently predicted the next big marketing tool. The question now is “how.” How will virtual reality affect marketing in the upcoming year(s)?

Defining Virtual Reality Is Harder Than You Might Think

When people hear the phrase, virtual reality, they often think of the Hollywood definition, i.e. a fully immersive, computer-generated experience that is achieved when an individual wears a head-mounted display. This type of virtual reality allows individuals to not only look around but to affect and interact with their surrounding. However, there is another definition of virtual reality that is influenced by YouTube and Facebook.

The secondary definition stems from 360-degree videos that are prevalent on the aforementioned social media networks. It permits less user interaction and suggests that a 360-degree video should be considered “virtual reality.” Some industry experts will say that the first definition is the only acceptable type of virtual reality, others will say that the 360-degree video is not virtual reality, and the third camp will suggest that a 360-degree video could be considered virtual reality, so long as it is watched via a virtual reality head-mounted display. The discrepancy between these three views will shape the future of the virtual reality industry, as well as its impact on marketing.

Will Virtual Reality Go The Way Of 3-D TVs?

There is a fourth view amongst industry experts, although it is more of a whisper and has less to do with strictly defining virtual reality. This final view is a fear that newly realized virtual reality devices could go the unfortunate way of 3-D TVs. That is to say, that despite the hype, virtual reality might, like 3-D TVs, fail to take off for the simple fact that consumers won’t want to wear something on their faces while they are watching something at home. The heavier, more obstructive, and costlier head-mounted displays increase this challenge.

There is, however, a bright note. Marketers are already able to promote virtual reality to the tough-to-reach young consumers aged 12 – 17 and 18 – 34, simply by marketing the technology side of the devices. Additionally, marketers can promote the 360-degree video to an even larger audience, i.e. anyone on YouTube or Facebook, with the ideal goal that the audience will eventually choose to watch via a head-mounted display rather than on their laptop.

Potential Marketing Influences

For any companies thinking about making the jump to virtual reality marketing, there is one vital question that must be asked first: “Do they have a clear content marketing strategy?” The next question to ask is, “Will my marketing benefit if I make my videos immersive using virtual reality technology?” With these two questions in mind, there are several ways that virtual reality might change or affect the marketing world.

  1. Visual Transmission. — If you read any article on social media marketing, you will see that visually stimulating posts, such as videos, outperform all other posts in terms of user engagement. In fact, as visual marketing continues to boom, virtual reality might just be the tool that marketers turn to in an effort to attract and engage with a larger audience. Live-streamed video will continue to become more popular and virtual reality will be waiting in the wings to help users achieve the real-time interactions that they will come to expect from the media they consume on a daily basis.
  2. Immersion. — We said it in the opening of this article, but we’ll say it again, Hollywood has already done the heavy lifting of popularizing virtual reality as the “cool device of the future.” In fact, one of the biggest selling points of virtual reality is its immersive factor, which will inevitably become a large influence on the marketing world. From interviews to tutorials and demonstrations, users will expect to be immersed within the viewing experience. And, in a marketing world that is driven by increasing user engagement, immersion statistics will become the new driving factor of a “successful marketing campaign.”
  3. Interactivity. — Like its immersion factor, virtual reality offers additional opportunities for users to interact with their content. Marketers know that users want to have their voices heard; as a direct result, they demand increasingly higher levels of interactivity from brands, content, and the media that they consume. Virtual reality could shape this marketing expectation by delivering the interactivity that users desire.

Successful Virtual Reality Marketing Campaigns

It is no secret that some industries naturally lend themselves more easily to virtual reality. Entertainment, travel, and auto are three industries that will see marketers leveraging the power of virtual reality to sell more products, interact more effectively with users, and gain traction in hard-to-sell target audiences. To date, McDonald’s and Marriott have two of the most successful virtual reality marketing campaigns.

McDonald’s recently introduced a Happy Meal box in Sweden that can be repurposed into a Google cardboard virtual reality headset. Through this ingenious marketing campaign, McDonald’s has encouraged both adults and children to order the Happy Meal box. When the meal is finished, the child (or possibly adult) can strap on the cardboard virtual reality headset and become immersed in playing Slope Stars, a skiing game.

In an effort to promote vacation getaways, Marriott created “teleportation devices” that used 360 degree video streams, heaters, and wind jets, to virtually transport users from a telephone booth in one city to a beach destination across the globe in “90 seconds.” This marketing tactic allowed clients to gain a taste of an exotic destination without reminding them about the travel time or the airport queues. Marriott representatives for the far-off destinations were conveniently situated to help clients book their vacation getaway before the sensory virtual reality experience wore off.

The future of marketing is clear, and for many companies it will involve virtual reality in some capacity. Whether it is a fully immersive experience that relies on a head-mounted display or an advanced version of 360-degree videos, so long as users are clamoring for increased interactions with brands, virtual reality will affect the marketing world in the years to come.

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