The video gaming industry was quick to jump on the virtual reality bandwagon, offering gamers a chance to really get into the game and pretend the action was actually happening. Movie makers were also quick on the draw, allowing moviegoers to experience the events of the story as if they were in the film with the characters. But this new technology holds immense potential for promoting brands like never before. Can your business take advantage of this tool, and if so, how?
How Can Virtual Reality Benefit Your Brand?
What can virtual reality (VR) do for your company that traditional marketing (commercials, online ads, product samples, etc.) cannot? VR has the ability to take your customers right into the action, no matter where in the world they might be. For example, Mountain Dew is using VR to put consumers on ski slopes with professional athletes. Formula 1 racing is using VR to sell virtual tickets for race events to people who can’t attend the real thing. Merrell outdoor apparel is using VR to promote their hiking boots, virtually putting consumers on hiking trails with mountain goats in the Italian Dolomite Mountains.
The uses of VR haven’t begun to be tapped. Hotels can take guests to their exotic and luxurious locations, showing them how wonderful it is to wake up to a view of Paris or doze off to the waves of the Caribbean. Non-profits can benefit, too, placing potential donors into endangered rainforests or threatened lion habitats to illustrate the need for additional funding.
Obviously, there is not just potential for event sponsors, but also for sponsorships. For example, perhaps your company can’t provide a VR experience at this time, but you might be able to sponsor an event via VR. Say your demographic has a high correlation to fans of Lady Gaga — you could put fans at her next concert via virtual reality. Maybe your customers are typical golf fans — take them to the Masters Tournament via VR.
What Are the Advantages of Using Virtual Reality to Promote Your Brand?
One advantage, which won’t last long, is the newness of VR. If you become one of the first in your industry to leverage VR, you’ll be automatically catapulted to fame. This advantage won’t stick around, though, as industries from hospitality to entertainment to retail apparel to soft drinks have already jumped on the bandwagon.
Another advantage is the ability to differentiate your brand name. Companies able to find new, unique, and interesting ways to provide a great consumer experience with VR get a free pass to stardom (at least for a while). VR is definitely going to pay off for the top creative thinkers. Perhaps your competitor snapped up VR first, but you did it 100 times better — this is good marketing stuff.
VR can also improve consumer understanding of your brand, especially with products that aren’t easy for people to grasp. Is it hard to convey to consumers how your new product is different or beneficial? VR can be invaluable in showing — rather than telling — people what you want them to understand.
There are also advantages to the consumer. Can’t get tickets to the biggest event of the year? Boom! VR can take you there. Handicapped people can enjoy climbing Mount Everest. Teens can experience that concert their parents would never allow them to attend. Stay-at-home moms might tour the French wine country without leaving the children. Lower-income consumers could experience an expensive European vacation. The possibilities are endless.
What Are the Potential Pitfalls of Using Virtual Reality to Promote Your Brand?
VR in itself doesn’t ensure marketing success. It has to be used correctly. Unfortunately, that use hasn’t yet been fully explored and defined. One common mistake is to try to use VR like one would video. To illustrate, when radio first became popular, most of the content involved reading books. That wasn’t nearly as engaging as today’s popular banter and musical entertainment. Then, when film came into being, it was first used to show stage plays. This was a far cry from today’s action-packed, engaging movies with top-notch CGI. Eventually, both radio and film came into their own as media and evolved into their full potential. This hasn’t yet happened with VR.
Don’t be tempted to use VR to tape your next commercial or simply show the next festival or fashion show. Instead, find ways to draw the consumer in with a truly interactive experience. Along with showing and hearing (which video already does quite well), VR needs to enable viewers to feel and experience the action and actually feel like they’ve gone somewhere and done something. Before you attempt to promote your brand via VR, explore what you can offer consumers with this technology that you can’t using traditional media.
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