The Real Real on Virtual Reality Marketing

Turn on, Tune in, and Drop out of reality


Reality is boring. Who would want to live in the real world when you can explore far away magical worlds, brave amazing feats, or fly high in the sky as free as a bird? Virtual reality offers a captivating escape from the mundane experiences everyday life has to offer, but it’s so much more. From video games to healthcare to NASA, virtual reality has staked its claim as the next big medium to be integrated into the everyday life of consumers. As technology and accessibility continue to grow, more and more people are turning on, tuning in, and dropping out of this reality in favor of something more personal and engaging. Will your brand be ready for them?

What is the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality?

Before we explore how brands can leverage virtual reality (VR), it is important to first understand the differences between virtual reality and augmented reality.

  • Virtual reality: This is the generalized term for any type of digital experience that immerses users in a three-dimensional, computer-generated simulation. This includes environments that are entirely digital (like watching a video of space on an Oculus Rift headset) but it may also reference environments that incorporate a mix of real and virtual worlds which users can interact with in a physical way (like walking on a balance beam but feeling like you’re on a tightrope between two skyscrapers).
  • Augmented reality: This technology is a composite of a computer-generated image and a user’s view of the real world. Digital content is fused “into” the real world – typically by using a phone’s camera to alter the real-world view on a user’s screen. Popular examples are Pokémon Go, Snapchat lenses, and astrology apps.

71% of consumers perceive a brand that uses virtual reality as forward-thinking.

Why is VR important to your brand?

Virtual reality continues to expand in popularity as technology improves, prices continue to drop, and more content is developed. YouTube has helped opened the door for VR in social platforms with VR video, 360 video, and a growing list of immersive media formats. Even Facebook is rapidly getting in on the excitement with the recent launch of its Oculus Go headset and teasing more immersive video integration in their news feed. Apple is also experimenting with VR through Animojis on its newest mobile iOS devices. The growing number of VR users suggests that within a few years, it will become the next big channel of brand communication with audiences.

The advantage VR offers over more traditional forms of content is its immersive experience which builds deeper emotional connections. The ability to fully transport yourself into a new world is a unique and exciting experience that sticks with a user and feels very personal. Associating your brand with those key moments can build strong connections and reinforce brand recognition. Additionally, VR comes with the added value of positioning your brand as progressive — at least while it is still a hot and exciting medium over the next few years.  71% of consumers perceive a brand that uses virtual reality as forward-thinking.

How can your brand get active with VR?

Today there are three main ways for your brand to get involved with VR content – create, sponsor, and advertise. Each option offers value depending on your brand’s offering, audience, and content resources.

  1. Create: Many B2C brands have an opportunity to leverage VR content that excites customers and markets their products and services in action. From retail to realtors, brands are jumping on the digital bandwagon to bring their experience to life. Today, users can test drive a Volvo car, explore IKEA furniture, or strap on gear from The North Face to hike through Yosemite National Park all from the comfort of their living room. With the right resources, the possibilities are endless for brands to demonstrate their value and tell their story with immersive VR content. Just remember that VR is the medium, not the message. Focus on showcasing your brand’s value and experience.
  2. Sponsor: Much like sponsoring a podcast or partnering with a brand to create a video, VR offers opportunities for brands to associate their products and services within engaging content mediums. Brands can work with VR content creators to integrate product placements directly into content or sponsor relevant VR experiences to build relationships with target audiences. 62% of consumers say they would feel more engaged with a brand that sponsors a VR experience.
  3. Advertise: As more VR content and media outlets enter the market, virtual reality ad platforms are becoming a more common way for brands to engage without developing complete content experiences. Ad formats range from short pre-roll ads that play before an app loads to longer videos that may play between levels of a VR game. VR also offers marketers some unique data opportunities to monitor how users engage via tracked eye movement in order to identify what parts of the screen a viewer has chosen to engage with.

Virtual reality marketing is rapidly expanding its reach and brands need to be ready to evolve with the trends. While it may still seem like a far-off, futuristic utopia, total virtual reality integration may be closer than you think as media outlets and social content channels race to meet user demand. When VR reaches its full potential, brands and advertisers will be able to engage fully immersed customers on a platform unlike any other. Thus, brands positioned as early adopters will have a big advantage in defining the experience and positioning themselves amongst the competition.

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