Virtual Reality Is Changing Mobile Marketing Forever; You'd Best Keep Pace

At this year’s Mobile World Congress, there were many dazzling new gadgets, engaging talks, and more innovation than should be legal in one location. Marketers could also glean several insights about the future.

The biggest takeaway was that smartphones are now a utility (and a given) much like a television and computer. They aren’t the innovative new platform, they’re simply the platform.

If you aren’t marketing to smartphones users, you aren’t marketing at all. And what’s growing in popularity among smartphone users right now is virtual reality.

With campaigns aimed at making virtual reality accessible to anyone (such as the recent Coca-Cola packaging that could be folded into a VR viewer), global companies are pushing to make virtual reality a part of everyday life. 

Facebook’s multiple appearances on different stages throughout the event drove the message home that marketers who don’t get on board will soon be left in the dust.

When Virtual Reality Is Most Beneficial

Have you ever interacted with a skeptical potential customer (in person or on the phone) and wished you could just show him or her what you’re talking about? Let that person really take a look around what you’re selling?

If you work in tourism, automotive, or even e-commerce, that feeling is an everyday occurrence.

Virtual reality gives marketers a platform in which they can give a headset to customers, and they can experience visually what they’re purchasing. (The technology to let them touch and smell a product, however, isn’t available… yet.) Customers can walk around the resort, they can look around the cabin of the new sedan, or they can inspect a luxury furniture item up close.

For industries like tourism, this technology may end up being on par with the invention of television. However, if you’re working in industries that have no physical product, it may be wise to wait until virtual reality evolves, or consider ideas that provide utility to users.

The Best Virtual Reality Campaigns So Far

Virtual reality made its first real debut in 2015. Because most consumers lack permanent headsets, videos were targeted towards those with temporary (usually cardboard) headpieces or those provided by stores themselves.

Ocean Spray

Late last year, Ocean Spray shot a film on a custom camera rig fitted with six GoPro cameras, along with aerial drones and regular cameras, to show customers how its signature cranberries are harvested and prepared for sale.

If viewed from a desktop, users were able to control the camera at certain points with their arrow keys. However, the video was also Oculus-optimized, meaning that when viewed with a headset, users could turn their heads at these points and have the sensation of looking around from atop a truck or within the cranberry factory.

Volvo Reality: XC90 Test Drive

When the new XC90 came out from Volvo, the company wanted to find a way to put users—specifically those who wouldn’t have access to a physical car for months, as they hadn’t started shipping to showrooms yet—in the driver’s seat, so they could look around.

The solution was to bring in a camera crew with an immersive video capture rig and drive the car through the countryside of Vancouver, and optimizing Volvo’s campaign for Google Cardboard users. This campaign garnered 238 million impressions.

Lowe’s Holoroom

The home improvement store created an entire virtual reality experience. First, users will input their home dimensions and pick everything from the appliance to the paint color they’d like to use. Next, they put on a headset and are able to view the room that they’ve created, which takes away the guesswork in imagining what everything will look like together. Lastly, the user is given his or her virtual room and a Lowe’s branded Google Cardboard to take home and share with others.

Getting Started with Virtual Reality: Pain Points and First Steps

If you make a sloppy television advertisement, it’s forgotten. An ineffective billboard is just that—ineffective.

A badly done virtual reality experience? Viewers will become motion sick and may be nauseated for hours after they take the headset off.

Enter the ability to make your users fear your brand like the last meal that gave them food poisoning.

I caution restraint above all else when approaching this new medium. Carefully consider what you’d like to show your customers—including evaluating whether your video would be better done as a regular online video, at least for now, or really warrants a virtual reality video.

If you’ve landed on a virtual reality idea, pick your medium. The most popular one at the moment is the smartphone, which can be popped into a headset like Google Cardboard, as well as enjoyed without the add on.

The advantages of targeting the smartphone first are numerous:

  • Almost everyone has a smartphone.
  • Headsets are inexpensive.
  • Headsets also are easily distributed to store locations.
  • Videos are easily shared.

And so on.

The major downside is that you’ll have a higher chance of making your users nauseated, so be careful in how you shoot.

Now that you’re ready to shoot, you need to find a team or agency that has a rig (a 360 degree capable camera set up). GoPro announced its own rig a few months ago, and many smaller companies are stepping up to fill the gap.

The main detractor for many companies at this time is the cost associated with virtual reality. Between renting or buying a rig, and the much more extensive post-production requirements for the medium, creating a virtual reality experience can come with a big price tag. However, companies are announcing new innovations weekly. Expect cheaper materials in the future.

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