VR/AR: Marketing’s New Realities

Jaron Lanier founded VPL research in 1984 and is credited with coining and popularizing the term “virtual reality.” Lanier’s company developed a variety of VR hardware and software, included glove, audio enhancements, and a visual device called the EyePhone (no relation).

Unfortunately, VR’s popularity growth failed to match public expectations of the technology. People soon became dissatisfied with VR, and Lanier’s company became one of several that scaled back their VR research or went bankrupt altogether.

30 years later, VR and its sister, augmented reality (AR) are back in vogue and more popular than ever. Mark Zuckerberg, confident that the technology is within grasp, bought Oculus in 2014 for two billion dollars. He believes that VR/AR will be “the most social platform ever.” Facebook has since doubled down on this theory and has priced the Oculus Go at $199 with the intent of integrating more people into the VR/AR experience.

With the Oculus Go and other VR/AR-related devices, consumers can not only see a product but also interact with it. Thus, VR/AR provides a platform for businesses to discover new, innovative ways to stand out among their rivals.

Imagine a Facebook where you aren’t watching an ad, but also interacting with it. Companies like Cadillac won’t just show you a car, but invite you into their a virtual showroom. NASCAR can take you on a ride, and the New York Times can bring you on location to the stories they’re reporting on.

VR/AR lets people experience a 360-degree view of their place and offers them the freedom to explore their surroundings. They become immersed in a world where they can go anywhere, as opposed to merely watching a 30-second commercial created by a filmmaker.

By understanding what this content looks like and how your customer can interact with your product in VR/AR, you’ll have the blueprints to prepare a successful VR/AR campaign.

VR in the Social Media Era

We remain far away from the social integration that VR/AR provided in Ready Player One. However, Facebook is finding ways to make VR a more socially-integrating experience. One such way is with Facebook Spaces, which allows people to interact with one another in VR, make and receive Messenger video calls, and take VR selfies.

For Facebook, VR ties right in with the theme of connecting people. Whether it’s from across the world or right next door, Facebook strives to create a virtual space where people can interact with one another. Pricing the Oculus Go at only $199 will help bolster the number of users and quickly take the concept mainstream.

VR is making rapid headway when it comes to the kind of integration that Facebook is looking to achieve:

Instagram and AR

While Facebook is focused on VR, Instagram is taking full advantage of augmented reality. Augmented reality is the integration of digital information with the user’s environment in real time. This is done by taking an existing environment and overlaying new information on top of it. While this sounds futuristic, it’s actually a very common occurrence. Instagram users do it every day.

At the F8 Conference, Instagram revealed that businesses and influencers would be able to create custom AR filters for Instagram Stories using Facebook’s Spark AR Studio. This allows users to superimpose objects onto the real camera, like this #2 pencil:

(Photo Credit: AnthonyGreerWA)

These AR filters give brands new and creative ways to reach out to their consumers. The ability to overlay images gives companies the ability to integrate their color schemes, logos, and many other forms of messaging that they’d like when advertising to their base. You can even use AR in Instagram Stories ads.

Adidas, for example, is just one of the many IG accounts that have integrated AR into their marketing campaigns. Their IG account is full of AR that blends their message with their brand colors and cross-promoted with shows (like Dragon Ball Z, for instance).

On Rihanna’s account, you can find videos of the singer bobbing her head while wearing an AR circlet of diamonds. Meanwhile, Hugh Jackson and Ryan Reynolds use AR while plugging their Marvel movies and playfully jabbing at each other:

(Photo Credit: NeoParzival829)

Augmented Reality is a fun, easy-to-use way of enhancing images with vast and exciting potential. It’s also quickly converting from one-off use to being used as an “always-on” communication channel, and something you should expect to see a lot more of this year.

Heightened Customer Interaction

VR/AR campaigns offer consumers new ways to interact with your product that wasn’t possible before.

VR can bring your customers into the workroom and give them a virtual tour behind the curtain. Instead of watching a product demonstration, consumers can partake in demonstrations themselves. You can get a 360-degree view of the product and interact with it in various ways without ever leaving your living room.

Meanwhile, AR’s overlaying of images allows for people to better forecast and address issues, and log and capture photos and videos. VR may be better known, but AR is considered by many to be an advertising game-changer. Michael Terrill, a technician for Coca Cola who regularly uses AR glasses for work, claims that “we’ve only scratched the surface of how this technology can be used.”

For social media giants like Facebook and Instagram, regular VR/AR ad campaigns are likely to become a new normal.

Are VR/AR Ads Right for Your Company?

VR/AR technology has grown and improved tremendously. While it still has a long way to go, running VR/AR campaigns are among the most popular marketing strategies you can expect to see this year.

While this technology is enamoring, it’s important for advertisers to keep their brand message in mind. Know who your customers are and how they can benefit from a VR/AR campaign. What about your product can be used in VR/AR to help connect your target customer with the experience you’re trying to provide? By understanding this and utilizing VR/AR technology in a fun, creative way, you’ll stand out among the competition.

Anthony Greer is a twice-published author and content marketer with a focus in marketing, brand, and product development.

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