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DECEMBER 6, 2017 //     

FISH OUT OF WATER: VR is more than just entertainment, it's a way to impact consumers

By: Milena Stancati

Kimonos, geishas and shojis were everywhere. Living in traditional Kyoto, Japan, was exactly how I imagined it. Tokyo however, was an entirely different game. It was mostly modern and one of the busiest cities I’ve traveled to along my global journey. After two separate visits in the month, I still need another trip back to see/understand it all.

The city and its neighborhoods were unique, colorful and incredibly electric. When I stumbled upon the VR Park Tokyo, I just had to go in. I’d been to arcades when I was younger, but this place brought “arcade” to a whole new level. In just one location, I could use virtual reality (VR) to bungee jump, fly and fight every villain ever created.

During my experience, I started thinking about how VR can truly transport a person’s mind and influence their opinions. This is why more and more brands are using this innovative technology in their marketing campaigns. Why not give the consumer a feeling when they see your product, especially if that feeling is triggered by something they can experience without any effort?

VR can engage a consumer and leave a mark that lasts longer than an ad that’s out of sight then instantly out of mind. The way you remember an epic sunset over the city from the rooftop bar or the way your grandfather laughed at Christmas dinner when your six-month-old nephew blew raspberries for the first time -- VR gives you those same “feels.”

According to Forbes, there are several best practices in using VR for marketing that have been established -- and it’s only just the beginning. The product is expensive, however. And while VR headsets haven’t reached the level of ownership that video game systems have, in-store promotions, events and online advertisements have made good use of them. Below are a few brands I think have successfully used VR to impact their consumers and show what they’ve accomplished.

Toms, a California-based nonprofit shoe company that has donated more than 45 million shoes for children in need, has a VR experience for customers who enter their flagship store. I own three pairs myself. Like most people, I’m aware of the good Tom’s does for the world. But it wasn’t until I saw this video, and experienced a virtual giving trip myself, that I could fully understand the impact my three purchases made. Charitable companies like Toms can really benefit from using VR when the purpose of their business is cause marketing and they need their consumers to advocate a specific point of view.

After completing almost four months of travel in Asia, I’ve come to know AirAsia as if it were my own car. I’ve been fortunate enough to see a large percentage of the lesser known Association of Southeast Asian Nations locations. For those not as lucky, the 50-year-old airline put out 360 degrees short VR films that offer a taste of the places you can visit. Being able to experience the destination before you go, helps consumers feel more confident about their purchase.

Delivering the VR experience to consumers has come in different forms. There are VR headsets on the market for purchase, apps like IKEA Place (an Allison+Partners client) that use VR to drive sales and video game apps like Pokémon Go. So what’s next for VR marketing? There is no doubt VR product sales will increase, but I think content marketing will be VR’s biggest marketing strength. It bridges the gap between consumers’ hesitation and conversion, and it opens doors for marketers to be more creative. VR is on the rise and content marketing needs to keep up with it.

Milena Stancati is marketing + business development manager for Allison+Partners who is currently spending one year working, traveling and living in 12 different cities throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

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