Insights EDU

How to Boost your Brand’s Voice through VR Marketing

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Jane Metlikovec | Managing Director | Upstride

05 Apr 2019 | 5 min read

Been to a major event, trade show or conference lately?

No matter your industry or where you live in the world, chances are that in 2019, some event floor space is dedicated to a VR experience (or what we marketers like to call a VR ‘activation’).

Just last week, I was joined by 300,000 others at Australia’s Formula 1 Grand Prix in Melbourne – the kick off event for the global top tier motorsport season. As expected across the massive event site, cutting edge auto-tech and huge merchandising tents were everywhere. But, far bigger than the Maserati and Lamborghini showcases combined, was Renault’s VR Pitstop Experience.

Why are Big Brands Gravitating toward VR Marketing? 

The line to participate in the VR experience was, at times, even longer than the line to sit and have your photo snapped in a $2.4 million (AUD) Maserati MC12.

Was I surprised? Of course not.

The Renault VR Pitstop Experience

The Renault experience was, for many, an F1 enthusiasts dream – from young kids right up to ‘big kids’ in their 60s. To them, having a chance to immerse themselves in their sport and to feel like they were a real, and very important , part of their chosen team was unparalleled.

Now Renault’s marketers certainly aren’t the only ones among big motorsport to give VR activations a go. Over the past few years, the Red Bull team, too, have joined them in rolling out a series of 360 video experiences and a full VR racing simulator where fans sit in a model Red Bull F1 racer – to the delight of fans the world over.

Judging by the uptake and positive feedback from those who took Renault’s VR pitstop experience in Melbourne and at other F1 events across the world over recent years – it seems their tried and tested VR formula is one that is well and truly a brand winner that we’ll continue to see in event marketing for the near future. The immersion of VR really lends itself to the world of marketing, gradually and subtly, Red Bull and Renault are raising brand awareness and loyalty amongst F1 fans and even converting those who had a mild interest in racing into active fans of the sport. 

Don’t Have the (sizeable) Marketing Budget of Renault or Red Bull’s F1 Teams? No Problem! 

VR marketing doesn’t start and stop with big budget activations at large events. Smaller VR tactics are now commonly being deployed at many smaller trade shows, conferences and festivals across the globe.

Over the past few years the whiskey industry has led the way – with a number of small-scale whisky tasting VR activations from brands including The Singleton, Macallan and Glenfiddich.

In the case of The Singleton, the team behind the activation at Singapore’s Epicurean Market created a short 360 video that transported visitors to the brand’s distillery in Scotland.

Singleton Whiskey – VR Experience

Via VR headsets, visitors to the stand were briefly transported into the heart of the brand, before being provided with tasting samples. The team behind the marketing activation said they sold a bottle of The Singleton to one in every five visitors to the stand, while 85 percent of visitors said the VR piece had enhanced their experience. Marketers will know that these are great results. Find out more here: How Diageo sold The Singleton whisky using virtual reality

Multi-sensory VR Activations – the Next Wave of Event Marketing Experiences

An exciting development in immersive technology will mean that soon, there will be multi-sensory experiences on offer for event marketers to make use of, well that’s if you trust the team behind Feelreal in the US.

Take a look at Feelreal’s sensory mask, a new add-on for your VR headset that provides smells synched with your experience (via 9 aroma capsules inside the mask).  

The Feel Real Sensory Mask

Using smell lifts brand immersion up another level, creating even stronger connections between you and your customer…if you are, of course, willing for everyone to look a little creepy while wearing the mask. 

When it comes to food and beverage marketing, integrating smell into VR experiences has the potential to be a seriously powerful sales conversion tool. Thinking of the successful whisky activations mentioned previously, there’s no doubt these would be lifted another level when it comes to providing consumers with a truly immersive and therefore more memorable experience. Imagine the smells of The Singleton’s distillery, combined with the 360 visuals, and it’s hard to not feel completely transported into (and very connected with) this brand.

But beware of allergy triggers, too. If you’re throwing out fresh grass smells to a customer who has hayfever, or nut scents to an anaphylactic, you may quickly undo your forward-thinking marketing by unintentionally making your users feel uncomfortable.

Let’s see if this or similar approaches do actually roll out soon.

Event Activations Aside, Enter Corporate Social Responsibility

VR is an accessible marketing communication tactic for brands both big and small, public sector agencies and not-for-profits – events well and truly aside.

Marketers interested in Corporate Social Responsibility (often big mining and resources companies, governments and others requiring a ‘social licence to operate’) should take particular note of Oculus’ VR for Good and HTC Vive’s VR for Impact programs.

These platforms are great ways for the public, private and philanthropic sectors to work together to generate truly inspiring VR projects that connect with particular target markets and audiences.

Take a look at how Sony’s charity arm, the Sony Foundation, has recently partnered with an Australian cancer charity to create a VR experience to assist young cancer patients.

Deloitte, too, are also building up in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) space when it comes to VR. They partnered with a Luxembourg-based NGO to deliver an experience to raise awareness of teenage poverty and social exclusion in the Philippines, and are now using this as a case study for future CSR /VR endeavours. Find out more here: Fostering social impact through virtual reality

About the author:

Jane is the Founder and Managing Director of Upstride Creative Agency. She was formerly Digital Director at Think HQ and in 2015 she won GovHack Melbourne with her team who created the app Pick a Park. Jane was also deeply involved in the creation and launch of SchoolMate App for DET. She is a specialist in PR, digital communications and marketing and leading, motivating teams.