VR is the most powerful marketing tool mankind has ever seen. It has the power to immerse the viewers in mind boggling experiences, teleport them to faraway places, thrill, delight and even strike fear in their hearts. With VR the sky is NOT the limit. Only human imagination is the limit.
If you are new to VR it can seem like somewhat of a jungle. But don’t worry! It’s really not that complicated. In this article we will go over a few ways you can leverage the power of VR in your marketing efforts. This guide will explain the various forms of VR that are out there. Once you know what’s available, deciding on what road to take will be so much easier.
How to view 360/VR
VR and 360 video can be viewed on HMD:s (Head Mounted Displays) like Oculus, Vive or Gear VR for example. But it can also be viewed on computer screens, smart phones and tablets. High end HMD:s cost hundreds of dollars and require a powerful computer to run them. On the other side of the cost spectrum there’s Google Cardboard that places the user’s smart phone inside a very cheap folded cardboard box.
“True” Virtual Reality, as seen in movies like The Lawnmower Man, The Matrix and shows like Star Trek consists of a computer generated virtual world. It’s what sci-fi nerds have been dreaming of for decades. A “true” VR experience allows the user to interact with his or hers surroundings in the same way a user interacts with a computer game. The user can pick up objects, shoot, jump, throw, run, duck and hide. There really is no limit to what can be done with this type of VR marketing experience. Usually a “true” VR experience comes with a pretty hefty price tag as it requires many man-hours to create. But then again, a quality VR experience will most likely give you quality returns on your investment. A good VR marketing experience will have people actively seeking it out just to try it and forcing their friends and family to try it too. That is the power of VR over other forms of marketing.
360 video is (as the name implies) a 360 degree video, projected inside a VR headset. Either in 2D or 3D. Mind you, 360 videos can also be viewed on other screens, for example mobile phones, and uploaded to platforms like Facebook and Youtube. But the most immersive experience will always be through a VR headset. An important aspect is that your head always remains in a “fixed” position inside a 360 video. You can move about to the right or left, up or down, but your vantage point will always remain the same. This is called 3DoF (3 Degrees of Freedom). There are companies currently working on implementing 6DoF. This technology will allow for an even more immersive experience where the viewer can peek around corners, under tables and so on. But this technology is not ready for prime time just yet.
360 videos are cheaper to produce than “true” VR but (generally) more costly than traditional flat screen videos. The reason is that there is a lot more time consuming post production that goes into the making of a 360 video compared to regular video. 360 video also requires a different storytelling language than traditional video since there is no way to direct the viewer’s eyes through traditional editing tricks like close ups or panning of the camera. The upside is of course that 360 video is so much more immersive than traditional video. Some of the more obvious use cases for 360 video are in destination marketing and real estate marketing.
There is also 180 video. Although less immersive than 360, 180 video has some distinct advantages. For one it makes production a lot more straightforward (and therefore in theory also cheaper) as there is no need to hide the film crew as you have to do with 360 video production (since the viewer can just turn around and see the crew if they don’t hide out of sight). 180 also allows for a storytelling language more familiar to most people as the director can guide the gaze of the viewer through editing to a much larger extent than with 360 video.
We won’t get all technical here, but WebXR (where the “XR” part stands for “Extended Reality”) is basically a standard for presenting VR, AR (Augmented Reality) and MR (Mixed Reality) online. The big benefit of WebXR content is that it is very easy to distribute to a massive audience. WebXR content can be made available directly through an internet browser like Firefox or Chrome without the need to download anything. Consumers don’t have to go through an app store to access the content and they can easily share experiences by simply linking to it, on any headset. WebXR is also great for developers that can easily share their content without having to deal with the various requirements put up by app stores, saving time and money. On the flipside, the fact that WebXR experiences are streamed through the viewer’s internet connection is also its most limiting aspect. Limitations in the internet speed tend to make WebXR experiences less visually impressive than “traditional” VR apps that are downloaded and accessed locally by the user. When 5G internet access becomes commonplace in the coming years the quality of WebXR experiences will massively improve.
Location-based VR is basically about adding intensity to VR experiences by tinkering with our senses. This can be done by haptic (touch) feedback, smell, temperature, wind or motion for example. Many amusement parks are now creating location-based VR by adding VR headsets to their roller coasters. But there are infinite ways of doing this. For example it’s easy to imagine a travel agency setting up a “try before you fly”- VR room, complete with a sand beach, warm breeze and exotic spices filling the air. Location-based VR is great for permanent installations and exhibitions. The biggest benefit is the extreme immersion possible when stimulating multiple senses. The drawback is that the number of people that you can reach is limited to how many you can fit in your schedule and venue.
Haptic technology allows the user to “feel” things while in VR. This can for example come in the form of a buzzing hand controller as you hit the ping pong ball with your racket, an electric jolt when you are “shot” or as a gush of wind as you soar between skyscrapers. Good haptics have the power to really enhance the sense of immersion in a VR experience. This field is rapidly evolving and there is already a wide variety of haptic gadgets like scent devices (so called “Smell-o-Vision”), treadmills, exercise bikes, bird simulators, gloves, suits, chairs and as you might have guessed – adult toys.
Audio is one of the tricks that a director can use to guide a viewer through a VR experience. Unlike surround sound, spatial audio (or 3D audio as it’s also called) mimics our natural hearing. Surround systems, like the name implies, is like being surrounded by speakers. You can hear if a sound is coming from the left or right. Spatial audio is the next level, and allows you to hear sounds coming from above or below. Sound can make or break a VR experience.
VR is not yet mainstream and it is therefore difficult to distribute it to a mass audience. You can’t just put your brand new experience out there and expect people to absorb it like they would with a video ad or a TV commercial. There simply isn’t enough headsets out in the wild yet. The content you make therefore needs to be promoted on other platforms to be effective. As a brand you need to take your audience by the hand and lead them to your VR experience.
The good news is that this situation is rapidly changing. If you are old enough you will remember how it could take minutes to load a simple image back when the internet was young. And look where we are now – streaming movies, music and games straight to our phones. The same thing will happen to VR. Giants like Facebook, Youtube, Google, Sony, Microsoft and Samsung are all working hard to get us there sooner rather than later by reducing hardware costs and improving quality. VR is already amazing. Soon it will also be mainstream and a necessity for any brand that wants to stay in the game.
Not sure what studio you should hire for your project? Check out our guide “How to find the right 360/VR studio” or send us your project brief and we will put together a short list of suitable studios for you. You can learn more about that option here.