Technology took its sweet time to create virtual reality environments and headsets as professed by the early 90s science-fiction movies but it’s better to be late than never.
Shy at first, virtual reality tech skyrocketed a few years back, and today it is more accessible, affordable and becoming all the rage. We now have VR sets (with Oculus Rift being probably the most popular), cameras able to shoot 360° videos, VR goggles and the wildly successful Google Cardboard (which will probably erase the very memory of Google Glass).
One might think that the primary market for all this tech and devices would be the hardcore fans of SF, the geeks, the gamers and the dreamers but, as history proves once and again, the first one to embrace everything new is marketing.
Do you have some cool buzzwords like “business storytelling” or “personalized live videos”? Marketing is the first one to place its bets there and win. Do you have a new gadget to make the world a better place? Marketing is there to take advantage.
This is a good thing, as new tech attracts more innovation and, luckily for all of us, virtual reality as a marketing strategy is still very new. It is at the start of its reign and marketers everywhere should consider learning more about it. A virtual reality strategy incorporation plan may still sound like a sci-fi flick for some, but it is not impossible to achieve. Let’s take a look at some major points regarding VR marketers might want to test and tweak in the near future.
What does VR bring new to marketing?
The question all marketers ask themselves when faced with new opportunities is: what does this do in terms of innovation? Once upon a time, Instagram was a nice toy people played with for fun. Today it is considered one of the most powerful business and marketing tools out there.
If we ask the same question about VR, the answers come instantly:
It has a high novelty factor: many are still experimenting with video content and new social media platforms, so it will take a while until we consider VR “so last year” regarding marketing strategies. Using VR offers media exposure, brand awareness, public appraisal, interest, and curiosity.
It offers an immersive environment for the users: and this is where everything else pales. Getting users completely immersed into your content creates a new experience, a new way of interacting with your message and brand.
It makes a powerful impact: no traditional media can offer the same emotional impact of VR. This impact becomes so memorable that people will want to talk about it and come back for more. Think beyond virtual tours of physical stores. Think about shopping around for Brighthouse Internet services through a VR app or any other online experience. Does it sound science-fiction? Experts say we’re closer to affordably incorporating VR into our marketing strategies than we think.
How can we incorporate VR in our marketing plans?
Some say companies should have a few hundred thousand dollars lying around to invest in VR gear, software engineers, videographers, artists and IT personnel. The same ones say you have to be McDonald’s, Volvo, Coca-Cola or The New York Times to pull off a VR marketing campaign. While they are not completely wrong, as VR is still expensive being in its early days, you can still stay ahead of your competition and create unique experiences for your users. Here are some ideas:
1. Create 360° videos as a Video Marketing Strategy upgrade
This is video content taken to the next level. There are already many cameras able to shoot in 360° (ranging in between $250 and $500), and companies should consider offering their audience an entirely new video environment. Once the video is shot, it can be edited with special software. It can be viewed via a VR headset but also enjoyed through the computer or a smartphone. Some pioneers tested such an idea getting up to 15 million views and gaining awareness and appraisal from their audiences.
Besides video tours, you can offer test drives, VR immersions into new universes (think architecture, interior design, factories, “behind the curtains” operations, immersive interviews and business storytelling, product design and so on). It is not cheap, granted, but with a competent marketing team by your side, you can come up with something completely new that keeps people loyal to your brand.
2. Consider Google Cardboards mixed with Influencer Marketing
You may hear that nobody has VR sets yet and that all this is way too speculative. We beg to differ. There are over 1 million New York Times subscribers having Google Cardboard VR glasses, courtesy of NYT. You don’t need to buy 1 million such pieces, but the idea still stands. Google Cardboard can be bought at the lowest prices possible in terms of VR sets or have their schemes downloaded for free.
You can make branded VR glasses and offer them to a selected few (influencer marketing is still one of the hottest marketing trends) to carry the name of your brand far and wide. The cardboards should be, of course, accompanied by a VR video. If you do things right, the influencers enjoying the experience will bring you positive reviews, traffic, backlinks, social buzz and media presence and this is a very good day for marketing.
3. Consider VR apps/games to momplement Your Mobile Marketing efforts
Just like all games and apps, a virtual reality app’s costs depend on the requirements. But you are probably already using apps and certainly many other mobile-centered marketing strategies, so VR apps are worth considering. Some automotive companies offered virtual test drives of their future cars, while others offered simple virtual store tours. IKEA, of course, created an entire game, offering the audience the possibility to make IKEA meatballs besides IKEA kitchen space exploration. While marketers should think big, not all companies have such budgets. However, VR apps and VR games can be incorporated into your long-term marketing plan.
What we should understand about VR today is that it is still expensive, and not worldwide accessible, but so was having your own website a decade ago. VR is here to stay, and it offers companies endless possibilities for internal development and management as well as for marketing.
Michelle Baker is a private business growth advisor and all tech enthusiast who has learned first-hand that businesses cannot succeed without an effective marketing strategy, so she’s doing her best to facilitate the process for all the startups and growth-focused SMBs out there.