VR marketing is arguably the most powerful tool put in the hands of brand. It has the power to teleport the viewers 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
You can view VR and 360 video on HMD:s (Head Mounted Displays) like Oculus, Vive or Gear VR. But you can also view it 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 the almost-for-free Google Cardboard.
“True” Virtual Reality, as seen in movies like The Lawnmower Man and The Matrix consists of a computer generated world. Sci-fi nerds have been dreaming of true VR for decades. “True” VR allows the user to interact with the surroundings in the same way one 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, forcing their friends 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. 360 videos can also be viewed on 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 cheap!
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. The reason is that here is no way to direct the viewer’s eyes. For traditional video this is done by 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). For example there is no need to hide the film crew, as you have to do when shooting 360 video. 180 also allows the director to 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. You can view WebXR content directly through an internet browser like Firefox or Chrome. No 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. They can easily share their content without having to deal with various requirements put up by app stores. This helps them save time and money. But the fact that WebXR experiences are streamed through the viewer’s internet connection is also its most limiting aspect. WebXR experiences take up a lot of bandwith and therefore tend to be less visually impressive than locally installed VR. 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 is 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. Unfortunately the number of people that you can reach is limited to how many you can fit in your schedule and venue.
Haptics in VR marketing
Haptic technology allows the user to “feel” things while in VR. When you hit a ping pong ball with your racket the controller vibrates. You get an electric jolt when you are shot and when you are soaring between skyscrapers you can feel the wind on your face. Good haptics have the power to really enhance the sense of immersion in a VR marketing experience. There is already a wide variety of haptic gadgets. For example scent devices (so called “Smell-o-Vision”), treadmills, exercise bikes, bird simulators, gloves, suits and chairs. And as you might have guessed – adult toys.
A VR director uses audio to guide a viewer through the experience. Spatial audio mimics our natural hearing. This is different from surround sound. Surround sound lets you 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 marketing experience.
VR marketing distribution
VR marketing is not yet mainstream and is therefore difficult to distribute 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 aren’t enough headsets out in the wild yet. Therefore you need to promote your content 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 marketing 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.