Our real-world realities are already hard enough to get our heads around. Is there a god? Do we all see colours the same way? Why don’t Dominos offer chorizo as a pizza topping option? Mind boggling.
Now it seems we must deal with an even more confusing but highly compelling reality; virtual reality. This is the technology everybody is talking about. And rightfully so. The VR market is currently worth $4.7 billion (US) with that number set to increase to nearly $16 billon by 2020. With money like that, brands are getting a serious reality check.
What is it?
Fully immersive, true VR has the power to completely distort your senses and transport you to another world. The complete package involves a HMD (head mounted display), headphones and controllers. The visuals are fully digital and usually rendered in a 3D game engine making this highly engaging. As it stands, there are 3 major players who offer fully-immersive VR experiences. The HTC Vive, Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Playstation VR. And all of them are vying to be number one spot on the VR podium.
Rather than being a mere bystander VR throws you into the action and completely immerses you in the scene. You are no longer detached from the experience or able to look away. Unlike other mediums, true VR allows you to be an active participator in the story. Your head movements are always tracked and in some cases, you can even walk around and interact with the environment around you, giving you a huge amount of control in the brand experience.
Marketers love the idea that you can transport people to carefully designed, brand focused worlds. Once customers put on the HMD they’ve agreed to let the brand into their space. This means they’re willing to spend precious time with the brand in return for a wowing experience.
An interactive campaign built by Nice Shoes invited guests to drink a ‘magical’ can of Sapporo, which instantly whisked them away to a peaceful and playful Zen meditative garden. The experience was focused on the individual’s journey rather than an over-saturated brand plug. Although the parameters were set by the brand, the experience felt authentic and personal where the user was in complete control.
Rather than feel frustrated with constant pop-ups and skip-ad moments, the message is woven into an immersive and entertaining brand world, leaving a powerful impression on the guest and increasing valuable dwell time.
However, one problem lies in the price. HMDs range from $449 to $1,149, not including the additional price of the high-tech PC or games console you need to operate the VR kit. Until the price drops, mass adoption seems unlikely. Plus, the hard cost of creating immersive VR campaigns are expensive with some agencies charging up to $500,000.
Another issue is down to measuring ROI. It’s difficult for brands to record where their money’s going which means they’re reluctant to spend heavily on campaigns that don’t produce tangible results. However, the PR and media buzz that can erupt from innovative and out of the box VR launches can seriously boost online awareness.
No one knows what the winning formula is or what the rules are. But if you create an experience that manages to capture people’s imagination and have them walk away telling people about it, you’re already half way there. So it’s down to brands, agencies, game developers, and creative thinkers to work together and pave the way for VR success. With high price points and inaccessibility to reach the masses, VR may not be mainstream right now. But it’s certainly coming.