I was catching up with a good friend last weekend who recently started working for a top digital agency.
We got onto the top of virtual reality (VR) as a fast emerging digital platform not just for gaming, but a whole host of different uses.
When Facebook acquired Oculus for a cool $2 billion in 2014, ears pricked around the world. Who was the 21 year old prodigy who’d built a product that The Zuck thought was worth that much?
In the same year, Google launched Google Cardboard in an effort to make VR accessible to the masses, or potentially to get everyone primed for what’s to come.
Over the last few months I’ve started theorising just how much VR is likely to impact marketing in the future. In short, I think it will be pretty significant.
We live in a world where as consumers we’re constantly being served ads supposedly tailored to us. I love you Amazon, but just because I viewed a product once as a potential birthday present doesn’t mean I want to see it for the next six months. It’s not fun.
The customer decision journey is now more like a maze than a linear progression and everyone’s suffering from information overload and the paradox of choice. Micro-moments have become a hot topic, so every brand is fighting over exact pinpoint moments to deliver the tiniest brand message.
The ‘hallelujah’ moment for marketers is for consumers to have a totally immersive experience with your brand. I’m talking full engagement. Not banner ads or emails or passive TV watching.
If you then take this one step further, the holy grail is an experience they’ve actively opted into. And then is so amazing that they share it.
VR is exactly that. As a consumer you’re in total control — put a headset to your face or don’t. Nobody can make you do it so there’s nothing passive about it.
As a marketer, you get the opportunity to take people on a brand journey like no other. It’s completely immersive with a captive audience. You get to not only tell, but show your story in a completely different way.
Airlines can give you a taste of being on that holiday they so desperately need. Nike can make customers feel what it’s like to be an Olympic stadium standing about to race Usain Bolt. Porsche can make you feel what it’s like to own a new car without leaving your house.
The possibilities are endless and coming fast. This year the first wave of consumer headsets are due to be released, giving marketers and ad agencies the potential to introduce an entire new medium.
At the end of the day though, the focus should of course always remain on creating meaningful, remarkable and relevant experiences, regardless of touch point.
Watch this space.
Side note: If you haven’t checked out Google Cardboard yet, I highly recommend it. You can get a headset on eBay for under $20 (or make one yourself) and the Google Cardboard app is free. Another amazing app is VRSE by New York Times Magazine. It gives you a glimpse into how VR could also change the way we digest news stories forever, and give more traditional publishers the leg up they so desperately need. But that’s a whole other story…
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