The Year of Virtual Reality in Marketing

Last May, before the “year of VR” began in earnest, I posted this blog entry pondering the use of VR in marketing as forecasted for 2016. The new products have been released and marketing efforts using VR have begun in earnest. So, it’s a good time to revisit the subject.53230448_s

Looking back on last year’s prognostications, the major hardware players were expected to be Oculus Rift, Vive, Morpheus (Sony Playstation), and HoloLens.  A missed player on that early list: Google Cardboard.  With their legendary secrecy around hot new projects, Google’s VR product didn’t make it onto last year’s list but it has emerged as one of the hottest players in the VR Marketing space in 2016. We’ll explore some marketing use stories later, but Cardboard is definitely hot now in the hardware (or flimsy-ware) space and deserves an early mention.

Exploring the various VR products, you can safely say that Oculus Rift has had a successful early run and some evocative use in marketing applications. Otherwise, many other released products have been in the mobile space: Google Cardboard (as mentioned), Gear VR, LG 360 VR, Zeiss VR One, and Homido; and another major released tethered model (wired to a PC/console) aside from Oculus Rift is the HTC Vive. Playstation VR (Morpheus) is scheduled for October release. For the Microsoft developer, you’ll need to look to 2017 to get exposure to your work.  Microsoft began sending out developer kits at the end of March for HoloLens and the public release of the product is not expected until next year.

So, back to the marketing aspect, where is this used in action?  As you might guess, the expense of such early adoption in marketing requires a deeper wallet. Major consumer product brands like McDonald’s  and Volvo have produced some attention-grabbing marketing media in VR. Hospitality is also taking advantage of the immersive aspects of VR in Marriott’s Teleporter experience.  Companies that can afford to play in the VR marketing space are definitely doing so in 2016.

In the process, all of the rich, experiential upsides are naturally being exploited.  Merrell, the outdoor gear company, is successfully thrilling would-be adventure-seekers with their Trailscape VR experience, giving users such an emotionally jarring experience that you can safely surmise it will stick with everyone that scales those crumbling mountain ledges. VR is definitely now an active, serious marketing media format and, for those that can afford it, the usual goals of memorability and brand retention are proving to be definitely achieved when experienced in virtual reality.

We’d like to hear your thoughts on VR marketing, so leave us a comment below or send me an email.

Mark Salow, Marketing Consultant