ABOUT: Children’s book illustrator turned graphic designer. After being fed up with no-heart-companies Josh Farkas started his own agency Cubicle Ninjas, “to craft joyful design for people that care”.
How did Cubicle Ninjas get into VR?
– We’re drawn to fresh and creative ways to tell stories! Our mission has always been to build creative that is emotionally impactful and functionally intuitive. VR allows us to achieve each goal in delightful ways. VR is where audio, visuals, UX, UI, and interactivity collide, making it the ultimate medium.
What is your company’s core expertise?
– Our biggest strength is not having a single expertise. VR is a collaborative medium, which is benefitted from a wide range of expertise. We pull from our expert composers, motion artists, brand experts, web UX idea folks, and more to come up with a richer experience than just a single disciplinary team.
What’s it like working with you guys?
– Every project is driven by a project manager who drives everything on time and on budget. As the process begins we bring in both our design, development, writing, and VR teams to learn the full vision of the app on the client end. After we have a chance to discuss all of the fine details, we come back with a structure, script, set of storyboards, concept art samples, and game plan. Often we will share multiple directions at once, allowing for a greater look at stylistic possibilities while sharing structure differences.
Once an art and content structure is defined we begin creating, gathering, or capturing production visuals. Our 3D team can scan or create models to best suit the need. Our designers can make beautiful 2D creations. And our video and audio teams can produce stunning, emotionally engaging work. The end result is a whole team moving in tandem towards a single, pre-defined goal.
Additionally we aim to get a basic working prototype up as quickly as possible. Some elements can only be seen in VR, so this allows us to test pre-art fully. Then once art is complete we can flow in and know the experience will be enhanced.
The final stages are all around polishing and testing the apps fully. The final 10% adds 90% of the benefit, as all of the little details begin to come together into a cohesive whole. Quality assurance and player testing is of key importance because user behavior in VR is still a growing field, so often we need to make enhancements which work best for clarity.
At the very end we help support our customers with their launch. Some clients launch internally or use virtual reality for events, where others go live in an app store. The key is providing them the tools to be as successful as possible with their debuts.
Then we eat cake in celebration. Ninjas love cake!
How would you describe your company culture?
– Playful and hardworking. We love what we do, and pour that passion into creating one of a kind creative.
Can your company handle campaign volume production?
– Ninjas are fast! We’ve completed 15+ virtual reality apps, while working on our own, so we’re pretty speedy.
Can you show me something you’ve done that you are extra proud of?
– Guided Meditation VR. Born from an internal prototype, it ballooned to 40,000 downloads in a few months. We’re excited to share the full version for Gear VR, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift this year. We also have a few others up our sleeve which we’ll be announcing soon.
What area, geographically speaking, are you available to work in?
– Everywhere! Most of our clients are larger organizations where we assist remotely. We’ve built VR apps for customers in the US, Canada, Netherlands, and Ireland.
Do you offer any type of satisfaction guarantee?
– Yes! 100% satisfaction guaranteed or your money back. We want your virtual reality app to exceed expectations.
Do you offer revisions of completed work?
– Most definitely. In some cases we build post launch revisions into the SOW, or we’re always there to continue to expand an app’s feature set as needed.
Can you give some examples of what you can do for a small company with limited resouces?
– Right now VR is very time consuming to produce. Our goal is to only make super high quality experiences, which make smaller budgets challenging. But we have seen the ROI for brands be exponentially larger than their expectations, so we see VR as an investment in innovation. Our starting cost for a VR app is around $15,000 for a VR video app and $25,000 for traditional apps.
I own a flash light factory and want to promote our latest flash light model. What sort of VR experience would you suggest for me? Money is not an issue. Go crazy!
– If looking to promote unique benefits of the flash light technology, I think focusing on the science would be engaging. Show how the flash light captures light, how it stores energy, how it reflects it through a series of amazing ways. If you can make the world around you more interesting, then I’d be more willing to buy because I understand.
If a bit more daring: a horror experience that is about being lost in the wilderness. The feel would be Blair Witch meets Slender, but you could use a Vive controller or Touch to shine your way around the world. Competitors flash lights would work okay, but break fast and not shine clearly. When you found the company’s flash light it would illuminate the world, removing the fear. There would also be bears. It’d be aimed at events or even at the ‘Let’s Play’ crowd.
I’ve been living in a cave the last few years and just got back to work at the marketing department, can you explain to me why I should invest in a VR marketing campaign?
– When was the last time you gave a customer a memory? VR allows you to place a customer in a world of your choosing. You can control time, size, space, and matter. The customer can visit the moon. They can pet a dinosaur. They can interact with your brand and products in impossible ways, turning a marketing channel into an unforgettable experience.
Are you noticing any increased interest from companies regarding VR?
– I’ve never seen such a high interest in any medium in my career. Last year pioneers dove in, but with Google Cardboard, 360 video support on YouTube or Facebook, and the Gear VR, businesses can share mass market VR experiences with less risk. And in an increasingly competitive market, VR provides an innovative way to differentiate. It is has gone from a ‘nice to have’ to a “why don’t we have this?!”
If you were to speculate freely. What sort of VR experiences do you think we will see in the future, in terms of marketing?
– The internet freed data, VR frees experiences. Virtual tourism will be more common than traditional tourism in 5 years. In 15 years it could overtake it as an industry. Everyone wants to see the world, but now we can see it in more enhanced chunks, greater interactivity than ever before. Those marketers that embrace this medium first will benefit.
I also think ecommerce is going to be huge. Social shopping with friends and 3D scan representations of yourself sound impossible, but the tech is right here. Suddenly guessing based on a few tiny pixels on screen feels archaic. This is ideal for those with physical products.
Education will be changed. Every day can be the Magic School Bus. This presents a challenge for our current education system, but I think the tech will prove a superior learning method.
We’ll get to be the actors in our favorite movies. I’m excited to be Neo. I’m excited about shared memories. When we can capture a 5th birthday and revisit this in 3D 20 years passed. Saying goodbye to the past may be in the past.
Analytics is going to be a delicate issue. Marketers will likely be able to track what users look at, which adds a new level of remarketing. If I look at food, am I hungry? Should I see ads for food? And if I do, where do we draw the line?
VR is a no doubt powerful tool and the industry is young. What are the risks and pitfalls with VR marketing?
Don’t get distracted by the tech. It is a means to an end. VR is a new medium. We’re all learning its unique capabilities. But try and think about how the app can be wholly unique to VR. Could this app exist in any other medium? If so, you’re likely not leveraging the potential.
Don’t let the infinite boundaries push you to create something that isn’t brand aligned. Subtly is just as beautiful as jumping from a plane. It is about taking a person someplace fresh in body or mind. And we still need a call to action. Having a VR experience with no punchline might as well not exist.
Pick a brand and product that you like and tell me what sort of campaign you would create, given total freedom.
– We’re honestly working on them right now. Every project we’re working on now is our favorite, that much better than the last.
How big can VR marketing get and what will it take for it to get there?
– I think this is like asking how big social will be. It is going to be a daily part of billions of lives very shortly. Whether that is 5 years or 10, Pandora’s box has been opened and it is a beauty.
How would you define a successful VR marketing experience?
– Many define this by awards. To be honest, awards are boring. I want to create experiences that illuminate the mundane, making our world feel bigger than ever before. A successful experience is when they take off the HMD and see the world as a different, brighter place.
What is it about VR that gets you excited?
– We’re just getting started. 😀
STUDIO: Cubicle Ninjas