Why your marketing plan needs VR

Virtual Reality is no longer a gimmick; VR is the digital marketing tool to watch. In the last three years, the number of users using VR every day has increased 25 times to over 171 million. And By 2020, a third of global consumers are expected to be using virtual reality.

For brands and marketers VR is a marketing opportunity that cannot be missed. Here’s why:

1. It stimulates the senses

In a virtual environment our brain is tricked into believing we are actually living the real experience. Our sight, hearing, sense of movement, balance and body awareness are all stimulated. This is called ‘presence’. This makes us feel like we have had actually experienced something, which in turn will make it a powerful memory. The immersive capabilities of VR can create experiences like nothing else. For brands this is an opportunity to create experiences for customers and let these experiences shape how consumers see the brand.

Example: Boursin: The Sensorium.The cheese brand Boursin created a VR experience to take users on a multi-sensory journey through a fridge to increase brand awareness and showcase its products’ flavour profiles, food pairings, and recipe ideas.

2. It can take you anywhere

VR can transport users to places and experiences that they have previously been unable to access. Travel round the world or through time, the choice is yours. VR is an opportunity to make dreams come true and while brands may not be able to do exactly that, 66% of retail consumers now want VR shopping experiences. Brands can offer users the chance to try products or services before they buy or attend events they can’t get to.

Example: TopShop: Catwalk VR Experience . TopShop, partnered with Inition to give customers a virtual seat at their fashion show as it was happening – this put users next to the runway and next to the celebrities. They also launched a VR waterslide through central London to mark the start of the summer season and promote their summer lines.

3. It has replaced story-telling with story-living

Story-telling is powerful but instead of just watching a film, imagine if you could actually be there in it. The emotional connection makes users more focused and more engaged; it makes the experiences unforgettable.

Example: Adidas: Delicatessen . Adidas partnered with Somewhere Else to follow the mountain-climbing journey of two extreme athletes sponsored by TERREX (a division of Adidas). Using a VR headset and holding two sensory remote controls in each hand, users could climb the mountain right alongside the climbers.This served to “find an unforgettable way to market TERREX, [Adidas’s] line of outdoor apparel & accessories.” But it also introduced viewers to an activity they might have never tried before – this sparked interest and made the products even more appealing.

4. It evokes emotions

Good marketing makes us think and evokes emotions. If an ad makes us happy or sad we will remember it and link it to the brand, making it very effective indeed.

Example: Toms the shoe company give away a pair of shoes for every one that is purchased. Users can watch the Virtual Giving Experience through a cardboard viewer or on headsets at flagship stores. It creates an emotional experience of a giving trip in Peru where the user can gift someone a shoe.

5. It engages users like nothing else

Wearing a headset means that the user is 100% engaged, no distractions, no disturbances. You have their full attention. This is great news for teachers. According to research, 75% of students prefer to learn from a VR app rather than from traditional textbooks.

Example: Harvard University: French Culture and Language. Students meet native speakers in their homes or out and about in Parisian cafés, all without leaving their desks.

6. It increases brand awareness

Using VR in a marketing campaign will get you noticed – if you want media coverage, use VR.

Example: Volvo: Test drive a car. Experience a virtual ride using Google Cardboard. The campaign led to over 240 million PR impressions, 24 news stories, 19 million social impressions, over 6 million views on YouTube, and over 500.000 unique website visitors. They’re now offering a ‘weekend escape’ version of the app, transforming Volvo into a brand that users connect with ‘adventure’.

7. It is becoming more accessible

VR is flexible; it offers something for everyone. There are endless formats and budgets to suit us all. For example, we can watch 360 videos on YouTube and Facebook, we can use cardboard headsets or we can go fully interactive with connected headsets. Some argue that low user numbers are a barrier for VR. However, the release of more standalone headsets (no PCs or mobiles needed) means that VR is becoming more and more accessible and affordable.

Example: McDonald’s VR for the kids. A Happy Meal Box that easily folds into a VR headset. Based on Google Cardboard, it offers users an opportunity to build their own headset making it a simple to use technology that is even accessible for kids.