Immersive technologies are closer to a marketer’s dream than most people realize.
Last year, the IAB reported that more than a quarter of Internet users worldwide now have ad blockers turned on. Once highly effective techniques, conventional methods of advertisement such as celebrity endorsements and bandwagon tactics are no longer enough to attract or maintain the attention of consumers. To stand out, marketers need to create an emotional relationship with the brand, by taking consumers on an interactive experience where they’ll perform or witness an engaging set of actions. This is called “experiential marketing,” and it has become increasingly popular over the past couple of years due in large part to the rise of immersive entertainment.
It’s all about the experience
From Red Bull and Snapchat, to Porsche and Google, pretty much every Fortune 500 company have given it a go at one point or another. Experiential marketing works because it creates a one on one interaction between the brand and consumer, as opposed to a simple, passive exchange of information. It’s fun, surprising, sometimes even shocking. Most importantly is that, if done correctly, it will always imprint a strong, lasting impression on its audience because they’ve “lived” it instead.
The limiting factor is the distribution – these events are expensive to put together, and the reach is limited, since it involves genuine interaction. That’s why most of these experiences are recorded and broadcasted on YouTube or Facebook to reach a global audience. Only a handful of the target market audiences are in the right place at the right time to actually experience it, while most people witness the experience from the outside.
People line-up for the Snapchat Spectacles – available for a limited time via custom vending machines at specific locations
I believe that VR and AR are the ultimate medium to distribute experiential marketing campaigns at scale. VR & AR tick all the boxes for a successful experiential campaign: they take your customers on an interactive journey, create one on one interactions with the brands, and build a long-lasting memory.
However, because they are digital, VR & AR experiences are significantly easier to distribute. Instead of letting a few customers experience the brand and broadcasting the results to others via video or the web, immersive technology allows everyone to experience the promotion from the comfort of their own homes, in arcades, at the mall, or during events. The engaging advertisements could be tailored for different customer segments, or different countries, creating even better, more tailor-made experiences for each demographic. They can also be updated regularly with new content or offers so that brand can stay ‘top of mind’. The budding format has all the advantages of real interactions, but none of the drawbacks.
An excellent example of this used in VR is the Boursin Sensorium 360 VR Experience, a creative advertisement from the popular cheese brand which takes their consumers on a sensorial journey across the ingredients necessary to make their product. This is a great example of how the technology can be used to provide an advertising experience that would be impossible to recreate in a real world environment.
An example use-case scenario on the AR front comes from City Social, a cocktail bar in London that developed the first-ever AR cocktail menu. Customers at the bar can experience the history of each of the drinks via augmented story-telling – delivering a unique experience to patrons that’s not only entertaining, but informative as well.
A scalable model
Not without its share of hurdles to overcome, today the cost of development on most of these experiences are still fairly high. There remains friction within the distribution as brands need to market their own personal experiences for users to download or stream in order to access. An updated form of experiential marketing is needed in order to drastically cut development and distribution costs of VR & AR marketing to an effective level.
I believe that interactive product placements are the low hanging fruit of experiential marketing in VR. Instead of being a standalone app, the experience is actually an interactive model of their product, or an object related to their brand. These models can be designed from scratch, or better yet, scanned directly into a 3D – therefore making them relatively cheap to produce as the technology matures. They can be static, or allow for basic interactions, such as touch, grab, share, or buy. A simple, but powerful one on one interaction that customers will surely remember.
Because they are light, these placements will be natively integrated within other VR and AR apps – such as games, entertainment, or social apps – leveraging their existing audience. To ensure that the placements are relevant to the content, platforms will allow owners to filter the type of advertisers which are allowed to appear in the experience. You can imagine cans of Pepsi in RecRoom, or a Samsung branded tablet in Bigscreen.
Examples of VR/AR product placements
These placements create a short but memorable experience with a level of interaction simply not possible in conventional 2D videos. That interactivity has been shown to increase product tangibility and incentivize purchases. The amount of views these placements receive could even be monitored via gaze-tracking, so advertisers can understand how people are consuming the experience.
At the end of the day, it is all about ROI, and it feels like for the first time, marketers will soon be able to distribute and quantify the performance of their VR & AR experiential marketing efforts at scale – all within a timeframe that could be much smaller than you may think.
Images credits: Snapchat / Admix / Phandroid / Virtex VR