Virtual Reality and Its Growing Impact as a Marketing Channel
Recently, the phrase “virtual reality” has become one of the largest buzz words within the tech industry. When I think of “virtual reality,” I associate that term with the future. And with the increased presence of virtual reality consoles and technology, it’s exciting to fathom that we now have a technology this innovative and unique available at our fingertips. Well, here we are. We are currently living within the threshold of the future.
When I go to the mall, I see people of all ages lined up at the Microsoft store to experience the thrill and excitement of the groundbreaking technology. I see advertisements about amusement parks incorporating the technology into their rollercoasters to create a unique experience for their visitors. And I even hear about people buying the Google Cardboard or the Samsung Gear VR so they can experience the amusement of virtual reality wherever they would like utilizing their mobile device. I was interested in learning about a recent study that found the majority of Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers are interested in utilizing virtual reality*. So, with the growing potential of a technology that sparks interest among diverse demographics, as a marketer, I naturally wondered how brands could utilize this flourishing technology within their branding strategy or even their DR strategy down the road.
After looking into some of the VR advertisement options that are currently available, there are a few options that can provide marketing benefits depending on the goal of a brand:
Sponsorship Ads: This type of VR ad is strictly a branding play that acts similarly to a billboard TV unit where the brand’s logo will be shown for 5-10 seconds. It allows a brand to generate awareness and align itself with an interest, event, game, activity, etc. by sponsoring a piece of VR content
360 Video Ads: This type of ad is perfect for capturing real places and events associated with your brand as it shows a 360-degree view of a location. This is an excellent way to show a user how a new product works, charitable activities that a brand is involved with, etc.
CGI (Computer Graphics): This VR ad type is similar to 360 video. However, it is not limited by reality and is a great option for encouraging engagement with a brand or product.
What we are currently seeing with virtual reality is only the beginning, and although the advertisement options within virtual reality are somewhat sparse right now, the intricacy of these VR ad capabilities will continue to grow and evolve, especially as virtual reality becomes exponentially more widespread.
Virtual reality has already started changing the world we live in. People aren’t having to physically go somewhere to experience or see something. Now we can see historical locations, concerts, and museum displays from all over the world without physically having to leave the comfort of our home. Is it possible that virtual reality marketing efforts will make it easier for users to understand products without physically seeing them, ultimately driving them to purchase online? With more than one-third of US internet users saying virtual reality would make them more open to purchasing online** there is significant potential for VR ads to not only expand their brand awareness capabilities but also to expand outside of awareness and into personalized and shoppable strategies that lead to conversions within the VR console. More advanced methods for engaging with brand’s core consumers will come with time, but the marketing capabilities of this technology are certainly off to an exciting start.
* Greenlight VR and Touchstone Research; October 2015
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**Walker Sands; December 2014