If the media pundits are right, 2016 could be a turning point for virtual reality technology with more advances, cheaper units and better market take up as we all start to get the VR bug. That in turn has implications for companies who want to advertise their brands. The next couple of years could see virtual reality as a new and exciting frontier for corporate marketing.

With companies such as Samsung and Facebook launching virtual reality gear, the problem brands are going to have is how to leverage this newish technology so that it engages consumers. On the surface, it seems simple. VR provides a more immersive experience where consumers can not only view great video but also interact with it.

What is Virtual Reality (VR)

Simply put, VR is a computer generated environment simulation in 3D, that can be interacted with in a seemingly physical way byt the person or persons using the VR Equipment, like a headset.

Way to experience your offering

If you are an estate agent, providing a VR tour of a house for sale could be just the ticket for attracting more offers. Perhaps you are a restaurant and want to give customers a chance to experience the ambience of your dining area or how the kitchen works before they book a seat. There are holiday destinations where you can tour local landmarks or experience a famous festival in far flung locations such as Brazil or Australia.

Then there are product demonstrations where customers can get a real feeling for what they are interested in buying. You could invite potential buyers to instore fashion shows, demonstrate the latest mobile device or put consumers in the driving seat of a new car.

Engage your Audience                                                                                        

Some organisations have already begun to experiment with virtual reality and video production. Unicef recently produced a film called Clouds Over Sidra that gave users a story with 360° views which, when released in New Zealand, led to a significant increase in donations.

How brands use the technology is going to be key and it shouldn’t be seen as a new marketing plaything. Video production is going to be costly in the first instance until the technology beds in and the content produced will have to be carefully thought out to provide a decent return on investment. The range of devices and the way they work is also going to be an issue. You have full headsets such as Oculus Rift and others that use the mobile phone such as Samsung’s Gear VR and experiences vary between each.

Corporate Video Production Values

Businesses might also be able to combine VR with augmented reality where information can be fed to a screen when consumers click on something like a QR code. AR is already used by brands to add information for products such as food and drink but has struggled to catch the consumer’s attention fully. Virtual Reality could certainly change all that.

To get it right, brands need to work closely with video production companies and develop an approach that succeeds for them and engages their customers. It’s not just about providing a quirky 360° view. There has to be a greater degree of interaction and it has to be quality – research has already suggested that badly shot VR experiences can cause balance issues and even, in some circumstances, make the wearer feel sick.

The truth is that Virtual Reality will be a powerful tool for immersing customers in the experience of a brand and can help create an attachment that is more real and more effective. These are early days but things are looking good for brands who want to provide their users with something entertaining and a lot more powerful in the future.

This UNICEF video is a great example of how VR can be used to good effect.