Virtual reality is straight out of science fiction, one of those amazing technologies that makes the whole world stand up and take notice. The idea of entering into a virtual world completely unchained from the tethers of reality is truly exciting. It has plenty of practical applications, as well, and it can be used to safely simulate everything from an airplane landing, to an impossible dinner beneath the waves. With the amount of media and public attention VR is garnering, it’s no surprise that it has made major inroads into the world of marketing and advertising.
The best marketing is splashy, attention-grabbing, and even thought-provoking. The use of virtual reality in marketing is a new art, but one that is taking hold as fast as the technology itself. There is already a directory for virtual reality advertising agencies and content studios. VR advertisements tend to have a great deal of “wow” factor, giving consumers memorable experiences that are talked about and discussed as much as the product itself.
Here are some of the most exciting developments in virtual reality marketing, as well as examples using augmented reality or mixed reality. Expect to see more and more as time goes on. Companies large and small are embracing the power of this new technology in creating brand awareness, as well as in selling individual products.
In an actually fairly delightful display of reuse and recycling, fast food icon McDonald’s recently turned their Happy Meal boxes into Google Goggles. Dubbed Happy Goggles and billed as “the evolution of the Happy Meal”, the familiar red and yellow box can be folded up into a custom branded mobile-based VR headset.
In many ways, this is a natural step for Ronald, Mayor McCheese, and the rest. After all, McDonald’s PlayPlace playgrounds have been a critical piece of their marketing for many years. What kid doesn’t want to come eat a juicy burger and then go run around the plastic playground? Bringing that time-honored tradition into the virtual world makes it more appealing to today’s modern children, as well as making the whole experience much safer and more sanitary.
Today’s children are technologically savvy and very demanding in their entertainment experiences, and offering a virtual experience with the Happy Meal seems very much like a modern replacement for the slide and ball pit. The goggles come bundled with a game, and it seems likely that McDonald’s will invest in more apps if this first one is a success. Just be sure to dab the fry grease off the box before slipping that brand new iPhone inside.
At the polar opposite of McDonald’s is De Beers. The jewelry giant has had some very unique marketing campaigns over the years, and one of their most striking examples was their “My Forevermark Fitting” campaign. The marketing play was one of the first mainstream uses of augmented reality in marketing, and is still held as one of the best examples.
Targeted at women shopping for diamond necklaces, rings, earrings, and other jewelry in the Forevermark line, the campaign had shoppers print out a specially marked piece of paper. Visit the Forevermark site and hold the paper in front of a webcam, and it is magically replaced by any piece of jewelry in the line.
By simply clicking the mouse, the symbol could be transformed into a variety of pendants, earrings, and other pieces. By holding it up to their faces, hands, or wrists, shoppers could virtually try on a genuine diamond without leaving home. By leveraging a physical object, the augmented reality advertisement was highly effective. It let women see how the jewelry would look against their skin, and created a fun, shareable experience for potential buyers to enjoy.
The most amazing thing of all? This happened all the way back in 2011, well before the term “augmented reality” was even on the public’s lips. The campaign has ended, but still stands as a testament to the power and flexibility of augmented reality marketing.
At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Coca-Cola took advantage of the opportunity presented by the nearly 3.5 million people in attendance to promote their already very strong brand even further.
At the Casa Coca-Cola VR experience, participants were first guided into a physical replica of a locker room. Outfitted with custom branded Oculus Rift head-mounted displays, visitors were virtually guided out of the locker room and onto the field, where they played a game of soccer. Afterwards, a virtual salsa dance completed the experience, and participants presumably worked up a thirst for a cold can of Coke.
This is the type of lavish branded experience that is difficult to come by in the home. Much like video arcades and their ability to surpass home systems with custom seating and controller setups, Coca-Cola leveraged their ability to bring together the physical world (the locker room replica) with the virtual to create an unforgettable experience.
This wasn’t the soft drink mogul’s last foray into the world of VR marketing, either. Taking a page from McDonald’s, 12-pack boxes might soon be foldable into Google Cardboard headsets. Google’s low-budget and highly accessible entry into the low-end, mobile-based VR market has proven to be a boon for companies looking to expand their marketing reach. Building them into packaging, like a modern-day version of the word searches and mazes on the back of a cereal box, is a stroke of simple genius.
In the home arena, custom branded virtual experiences are taking hold. Essentially VR commercials, they are highly effective thanks to virtual reality’s built-in sense of fun and fascination. Owners of Oculus Rift or HTC Vive head-mounted displays are enthusiasts, and appreciate quality content regardless of its message or intent.
One of the best examples is the Patrón Oculus Virtual Reality Experience. With lavish cinematography and computer animation, the tequila distiller takes home viewers on a guided tour of their production process, from the agave field to a tasty margarita in this mini documentary.
By treating the viewer with respect and creating some genuinely good content around their brand, Patrón found a welcoming audience eager to learn about how the tasty beverage is made.
On the more interactive end of the spectrum is the IKEA VR Experience, available for the HTC Vive. Structured as a virtual visit to an IKEA store, users can wander through a kitchen stocked full of IKEA furniture, appliances, and organization solutions.
The most interesting feature of the app is its child mode, in which users are virtually shrunken to the size of a small child. In this way, the advertisement exceeds the capabilities of a visit to a brick-and-mortar store. Homeowners planning out their Swedish-inspired kitchens can take into account the needs of their young ones, potentially spotting hidden safety issues are not apparent from a real world perspective.
This is the kind of magic that virtual reality brings to the table. Giving the child’s-eye-view is simply not possible in brick and mortar, and still photos and even videos can only do so much. VR has enormous potential in almost any industry. Marketing is leveraging the technology to transform the way it reaches us.