Virtual reality is blowing up in the experiential marketing world (this summer's Comic-Con was proof of that). Last month, Greenlight VR released results from its survey of 1,300 adults that found that 71 percent of consumers feel that VR makes brands seem "forward-thinking and modern." Even better news for brands' bottom lines - 53 percent of respondents said they'd be more likely to purchase from a brand that uses VR than from one that doesn't.
Even consumers who have never experienced VR have great things to say about the technology, with 91 percent reporting positive feelings after watching an informational video about it. Among those who haven't tried VR, 65 percent were interested, 32 percent were surprised at what it could do, 25 percent felt "happy" and 58 percent reported being "amazed."
While household VR headsets are still new to the market (and come with a price tag to match), virtual reality-based experiential marketing is taking off like a rocket - due in part to consumer demand for the experience as well as the viral responses they generate. Some brands have created in-store or event-based VR experiences showing off the most prestigious, high quality gear, while others are sharing the love with a broader audience using low-tech resources like cell phones and Google Cardboard.
Check out five brands that are creating remarkable virtual reality experiences, showing off the range of ways VR can achieve brand marketing objectives:
1. Patrón: The Art of Patrón
Too often, brands implement gimmicky virtual reality activations in which there is no clear connection between the technology and the company. Patrón didn't fall into that trap and instead executed a compelling and educational product story, mixing computer graphics with live action and creating a 360 degree journey following the tequila lifecycle from agave field to shot glass. The entire production took six months to create, using binaural (3D) audio and a custom built drone attached with a GoPro - the video has accumulated more than 20k YouTube views.
2. USA Network: Mr. Robot Experience
A 13-minute narrative took viewers on a flashback journey with lead character Elliot Alderson as he remembers an early encounter with his dealer-turned-love-interest, Shayla. The storytelling experience captured the atmosphere and sensibilities of the show and brought it into an entirely new medium — pushing into territory that television would never allow. From the outside, the shop looked like a complete reproduction of the Mr. Robot computer store from the show; inside there was a dusty office with display cases of used Commodore computers, video games, and circuit boards.
3. Sports Illustrated: SI Swimsuit Edition
This year's annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition included cardboard-compatible headsets with its magazine. However, instead of hitting subscribers' mailboxes, the headsets were included in 500,000 special newsstand versions of the Swimsuit issue, which cost around $10 (up from $8 last year). The VR content features a behind-the-scenes look at SI models, Nina Agdal, Hannah Davis, and Irina Shayk shooting on location in the Dominican Republic. Since it was shot during the actual magazine photoshoot, the 360 degree experience drops the viewer in the middle of the action - even the crew is apart of the experience!
4. McDonald's: Happy GogglesMcDonald’s Swedish promotion lets children transform their happy meal boxes into VR headsets (similar to Google Cardboard). "Happy Goggles" cost about $4 and tie in with Sportlov, a recreational holiday in which many Swedish families go skiing. This foray into VR is temporary – there were about 3,500 headsets made, only available at select McDonald’s over the holiday weekend. With their goggles, kids can play a ski-themed VR game, "Slope Stars," (though they work just as well with any mobile VR experience). The game can also be played in a less immersive fashion without them.
5. Volvo: #VolvoReality XC90 Test Drive
Buying a car is a seriously involved process, so VR is a perfect opportunity to improve the customer journey within the auto industry. VolvoReality gave potential customers a chance to virtually test drive its XC90 SUV in November 2014, experiencing the car from a driver’s perspective. The experience was optimized for Google Cardboard, but the brand made sure that it was more widely available, as well. Like Happy Goggles, VolvoReality could be watched as a video on a regular smartphone, which it was - the teaser has 195,000 views on YouTube.
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