Virtual reality and augmented reality seem to be full of promise, but they're still far from having a solid "place" in the market. Like Artificial Intelligence and the rush to understand its marketing applications, VR and AR exist on the outside of regular marketing usage. This means that, although it might be tough to find the right way to apply it to your marketing efforts, once it's being used regularly you'll be well ahead of the curve.
In some ways, virtual reality and augmented reality are in the same developmental position as AI was a few years ago. However, there are important differences that represent challenges. AI is a behind-the-scenes technology that the consumer never sees. The consumer doesn't have to buy any equipment - AI gets used on them. VR and AR are hands-on technologies. The consumer has to buy, rent, or borrow hardware in order to use it. When the consumer is using it, he or she knows it is being used. They wear it and hold it in their hands.
Marketing thought leaders believe in the coming utility of VR and AR for marketing, and they're working hard to place it directly in the hands of the consumer.
How big are the reality technologies in marketing?
VR has been "blowing minds" in the world of gaming for some time, letting players experience gaming in never-before-seen realism. Current estimates project that these new technologies are beginning to see serious business investment as well. According to Inc., the VR industry has seen an investment of over one billion dollars in 2016. Digi-Capital projects that by 2020, the VR industry is expected to reach $30 billion and the AR industry is expected to reach $90 billion.
Coca-Cola and McDonald's are said to have made investments in using VR to create successful marketing campaigns. Facebook, Samsung, and Google are also betting on VR for marketing.
These companies use VR to completely immerse their consumers in the experience they create. VR and AR technologies can potentially give consumers a much more vivid feel for products and services than was ever possible before. However, VR and AR are still novelties. At this stage, relatively few companies are creating these immersive marketing campaigns.
How are VR and AR actually being used in marketing?
- McDonald's has released Happy Meal boxes that customers can fold into cardboard VR viewers (similar to the New York Times viewers). Then consumers can use their smartphones to load the McDonald's marketing campaign and view them with their cardboard viewers.
- In 2015, Coca-Cola made a Christmas commercial that would run on the Oculus Rift, Google's VR headset system that retails for $399. The commercial consists of a virtual sleigh-ride where the consumer becomes Santa Claus.
- The motion picture "Star Wars Rogue One" created a "Recon 360 Fly-through" video promotion which consumers could experience on VR equipment at Verizon business locations during 2016.
- One of the more ambitious VR marketing efforts was created by Marriott hotels. Using fully immersive equipment including the Oculus Rift system, users can visit a high-end hotel in London and a beach in Maui. The equipment will allow them to feel everything including the heat of the sun on their faces and the wind in their hair. The system was available at Marriott locations for eight weeks in the Fall of 2016.
- Marketing agencies are encouraging their clients to make 360-degree videos to create VR experiences that can be viewed from smartphones, tablets, computers or VR headsets (with different degrees of immersion of course).
Staying ahead of new marketing technology is an important part of any marketing campaign. More important still is learning to use and understand the technology's impact on your audience. Interested in partnering with an agency that stays ahead of the curve? Contact us today.