VR in marketing
Bridging the gap between worlds
VR is not a marketing concept, but a piece of technology. The key to the experience is the story being told, and expertise from the fields of film, games and events.
VR is not a marketing concept, but a piece of technology. The key to the experience is the story being told. But there is something that sets it apart from other technologies: VR experiences are stored by the human brain in the same way as lived experiences, not just as images that have been seen. In comparison with the real world however, virtual reality lacks the sensation of physical touch, and it is also very difficult to integrate smells into the virtual world. The best way to present products that already exist is to do so in the real world, since these products can be touched and, quite literally, grasped in every sense.
The first question that decision-makers have to ask when it comes to VR projects is: “Is VR really necessary?” If you want to present worlds or objects that we cannot experience in real life, either because they do not exist, such as fantasy spaceships or dinosaurs, or because they are to be displayed from a perspective that people cannot otherwise take in, then the answer is yes. Exceptionally large or very small objects are particularly effective if viewed from an unusual perspective. For example, is anyone able to contemplate a human heart the size of a skyscraper?
The second reason for using virtual reality in marketing is the desire to induce strong feelings in the users. This includes the rush of adrenalin triggered by dangerous situations, as well as the rush of elation felt after overcoming fear, for example.
Expertise from the fields of film, games and events
VR projects involve an enormous amount of time and effort as it requires the development of a story that then needs to be made into a film before being programmed in 3D. This requires expertise from various fields: film experts know how to tell an exciting tale, games experts specialize in user interaction, architects design the setting, trade fair booth builders set the scene, event organizers create the appropriate offline experience, and marketing/PR experts draw public attention. This is why VR projects always involve people from a wide range of backgrounds.
In addition to that, a VR application should be integrated into the overall marketing concept for the product or brand so that funds for promotion can be included in the budget along with the production costs. It is at this point that a lot of pilot projects fail: even the best ideas cannot succeed if nobody knows about them. Because, the more realistic the virtual world is, the more expensive it is to create.
The story to be told depends on the marketing aims, and the way it is told depends on the target audience. The target audience includes any person suited to the brand and who can become so enthusiastic about virtual reality that they will tell others about it. It is true that stories hit home more powerfully than facts, so make sure to use as few words as possible. Since only a small number of users have experience with VR so far, even simple interactions are very difficult for many people. Some control conventions can be taken from smartphone usage or games, but others need to be made from scratch and learnt. This is why it makes sense to focus the VR experience on a powerful issue, a feeling. The simpler the setup of the experience is, the more enjoyment it will bring.
One thing is very clear right now: virtual reality, mixed reality and augmented reality will form part of our everyday lives in the future. And the stories they tell will enrich our lives.
A German version of this article is available on adzine.de: “VR im Marketing: Von der echten in die virtuelle Welt und wieder zurück”.