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Virtual reality is no longer the stuff of science fiction or the domain of video gamers.
It is predicted that VR will soon be ubiquitous across sectors as diverse as engineering, health care, tourism, journalism and certainly marketing. With the industry expected to hit the $30 billion mark by 2025, marketing companies that fail to embrace VR’s potential might be left in the dust.
As impressive as it is now, VR is still in its infancy. Just as cellphones evolved with technology, VR will become more common and more sophisticated.
How It Works
If you don’t play video games or attend trade shows, you might be unfamiliar with VR.
A computer program creates an artificial environment that is interactive and three-dimensional. Sensory stimuli, such as sights and sounds, round out the illusion. VR applications react to users’ movements to give them a sense of presence and immediacy. Driving a car or firing a weapon in a video game, for example, prompts a reaction.
You may be transported to a posh first-class cabin on an airplane. You might visit Machu Picchu, at least virtually, for the first time. In a VR environment, you could even get a close-up look at brain surgery.
Aside from a computer, VR requires a viewer and a mobile device. Google Cardboard is an inexpensive, fold-out viewer, but Oculus Rift, a high-end headset manufactured by a division of Facebook, provides an even more complex and realistic environment. Most VR experiences still take place while the participant is seated.
Room-scale VR, however, is the wave of the future. Allowing for greater motion, room-scale makes it possible to virtually tour a brewery, browse the aisles of a clothing store or disassemble a refrigerator to see how it works.
Why It’s Necessary
Consumers, as anyone in marketing knows, are easily bored. They’re increasingly difficult to impress even with dynamic text, amazing graphics and high-quality videos. Advertisers have precious little time to wow them. Indeed, consumers are so saturated with internet content that they install ad blockers left and right.
They want to be shown rather than told. They want to fully engage with brands and products in meaningful ways. VR’s immersive environment gives them the opportunity.
Some of the technology is pricey, though, and the investment won’t pay off if content is impersonal or of no value. Consumers may think that VR is cool, but they’re never going to buy products solely on that basis.
Simply put, no marketer should promote a brand with VR just for the sake of showing off the latest technology. The objective of VR is to tell a better story and leave a stronger and more lasting impression. An experience will only be memorable if its content has significance.
The savviest marketers are marrying highly relevant content with the right VR approach. They identify potential markets and thoughtfully decide between a wide variety of apps. They aim to achieve high levels of consumer engagement where conventional tactics have failed or grown stale.
Your Brain on VR
VR users aren’t merely idle observers. Studies have shown that changes take place in participants’ brain waves. They don’t just watch VR, they feel it. It prompts emotions such as hope, joy, humor or empathy.
The implications are fascinating. One charity that created a VR appeal for help reported a dramatic spike in donations. The technology is also being used to treat a number of mental problems like anxiety, depression, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Analytical software measures brain waves to show the effectiveness of VR experiences in real time. Marketing people are crazy about that feature because they don’t have to wait around for consumer feedback. The analysis reveals which part of a presentation was most engaging or which products drew the most favorable responses. Marketers study the results to gauge the appeal of a brand or interest in certain goods. This enables them to continually tailor VR experiences to specific markets.
Marketing Tactics Using VR
VR is meeting marketing objectives for all kinds of brands.
It’s the perfect vehicle for introducing new products, highlighting their features and demonstrating how they work. It allows for multiple users, so salespeople can step into the virtual environment with interested parties. They can show the functionality of a product and answer questions. They can even shake hands to seal the deal.
Marketers who utilize VR in this way know that educated consumers make better choices and are happier with their purchases.
VR is also a powerful tool in the hands of marketers who know how to appeal to aspirational consumers. Once someone has virtually test-driven a luxury car, the temptation to buy it is harder to resist.
Another tactic is to announce a pop-up multisensory event on Facebook or Twitter. A branded TV series and a tequila manufacturer drew instant crowds with this use of VR.
Many marketers take advantage of VR when they want to communicate a brand’s mission up front. Mission can be a big selling point for companies that donate a portion of their profits or practice fair trade. A moving VR experience is likely to endear consumers.
Endearing consumers is hard to do, but entities like Marriott Hotels & Resorts and Coca-Cola are succeeding with VR.
No amount of internet surfing can inspire travel like Marriott’s VR Postcards. Hotel guests simply request a viewing headset and headphones. In no time, they’re transported to remote destinations and immersed in travel stories. Travel agents and airlines around the globe have Marriott’s marketing team to thank for any increase in business.
In 2015, Coca-Cola wished thousands of Polish citizens a merry Christmas by creating a virtual sleigh ride. Participants took Santa’s place at the reins while soaring above the rooftops, careening through the clouds and circling a fireworks show.
Lamber Goodnow, a fellow law firm based out of Phoenix, has innovated VR – and used it as a tool in court. They are using virtual reality in order to help members of the jury understand how a victim was hurt, and so victims can visualize the scene of the accident.
Who doesn’t want to buy the world a Coke after a shrewd marketing tactic like that?
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