At last year’s MarTech (Marketing Technology) conference in Boston, tech evangelist and author Robert Scoble predicted that VR and AR will soon profoundly transform marketing. He claimed that the main role of AR and VR, will be to apply “new meaning to the world” – redefining the way we perceive and purchase products.
It is generally agreed that advertising reflects shifts and trends within societies. Now, thanks to technology it can swiftly adjust to changing social and economic conditions, and therefore also to consumers’ attitudes. It is worth noting that technology itself also plays a key role in this equation, contributing to shaping our needs and desires. It does so by transforming the way we communicate, but also how we perceive brands, and how engaged we are with advertising messages.
It is difficult to imagine progress in advertising and marketing without constantly searching for new ways to engage potential customers. On the other hand, the overload of advertising that reaches us every single day is becoming too overwhelming. It also pushes away customers rather than help them to make a decision. Our attention span is limited and too much advertising messaging makes us less likely to choose our products wisely. Very often, we are physically present but emotionally absent, which translates to poor purchasing choices. It also affects our perception of brands, that are battling for our attention, but mostly fail to grab it. As it turns out, this information overload is impossible to sustain even by brands themselves.
This has triggered a discernible shift in the way brands communicate with potential and existing customers. Businesses now understand that their marketing mix needs to be better adjusted, and that value should be placed on the quality of the marketing messages over quantity. Old methods of value creation are now being seriously challenged by new technological tools as brands experiment with more innovative, forward-thinking ways to engage customers.
Virtual Reality is becoming an increasingly popular element of marketing for big brands, particularly those offering services and products within the creative sectors such as architecture, interior design and décor, as well as fashion. VR helps convey complex data, creative visions and complicated 3D patterns, as well as trigger emotional reactions. VR provides a genuine opportunity to get a deeper emotional reaction from customers through multisensory stimulation via immersive, full-body experience. It also captures 100 percent of user attention which makes it the only true audience-focused marketing medium.
David Ogilvy famously said that “a brand is not just a logo or an ad. It’s an experience”. Engaging experiences is what distinguishes great communications of big brands. Indeed, most people equate their view of the brand with the experience that they have with it, and Virtual Reality is not only about content, but primarily about the user experience. VR content should offer customers an immersive, interactive journey through a product catalogue, encouraging a better experience with the brand. VR must be an integrated part of the marketing mix, not just a technology gimmick. It must be harnessed strategically to enhance the brand story, and offer a genuine experience of the presented product.
VR facilitates a more multisensory communication that allows prospective customers to see, hear, feel and experience a business’s content, enabling better identification with the brand. It offers a unique opportunity not only to test a product, but also to experience it in a complete vision, in a “true-to-life” environment that includes all surrounding elements that the product may interact with. Creative industries such as architecture, interior design and fashion can benefit most from VR for branding purposes, as the product and shopping experiences are an extension of the brand. Mastercard and Swarovski recently launched a virtual reality shopping app for the Atelier Swarovski home décor line which is a fine example of using VR in customer engagement and brand promotion. The enourmous potential of VR is also harnessed in B2B marketing. The development of an app in Virtual Reality is still relatively expensive and some brands choose to use already existing platforms. One app that can be customized by many brands is a cost-effective solution that is more and more popular particularly in interior design and décor. One of the most compelling examples of an effective B2B VR tool is TrueScale. It is an interactive and immersive communication tool born out of a collaboration between Immersion and HTC VIVE Studios.
Is Virtual Reality the ultimate brand experience?
VR is definitely not a silver bullet for the marketing industry, but it creates a new platform for communication with customers, and for presenting a brand through immersive experience that helps define that brand in a more detailed, engaging way. An additional benefit for businesses is that they are often perceived as being more innovative, and forward-thinking when they adopt technology such as VR.
The ultimate goal of every technology is to put the human at the centre, to help them do things better, easier and in a more enjoyable way. VR facilitates communication in many ways, promising a brand new, customer focused approach. The immersive experience it delivers, helps capture our sometimes flaky attention, gives us the opportunity to get to know the brand and test their catalogue of products in real environments, and ultimately help us make a conscious purchase decision. It makes the relationship between companies and customers more profound, where well designed high quality VR content can tell more about the brand than any campaign slogan.