The Value of VR
By Shannon Bradley As marketers look for new ways to differentiate their brands from competitors, they are increasingly turning to virtual reality (VR) to create unique experiences for consumers and engage a global audience that is tired of traditional advertising methods. VR technology has the potential to drastically change how marketers promote their brands and products. Unlike traditional storytelling mediums, VR is a medium where the audience becomes active participants rather than simply passive observers. VR leaves a lasting impression on users long after the initial interaction. Often, users are so engaged they share their experiences on social media, thereby extending the brand’s reach. With so many consumers looking to social media to help make purchasing decisions, VR provides the opportunity for a brand to stand out. By blurring the lines between marketing and content, companies provide something of value to consumers while still promoting their brand. Recently, Six Flags teamed up with Samsung to create North America’s first VR Roller coasters, using Samsung Gear VR powered by Oculus. VR turns Six Flags’ roller coasters into a fully immersive sensorial experience, synchronizing the action on the VR screen with the movement of the roller coaster, creating a ride unlike anything patrons have ever experienced. On August 5, 2016, Six Flags announced a more interactive gaming experience, “Rage of the Gargoyles”, would be added to eight roller coasters in parks across the country. The new technology allows Six Flags to refresh a roller coaster by changing the VR visuals, rather than having to build something new. This convergence between traditional entertainment and virtual reality is just the beginning. Brands are also able to venture into nontraditional spaces to showcase their products. For the 2015 Major League Baseball All Star Game weekend, PIXO Group created a complete Oculus Rift Virtual Reality experience for Chevrolet, where the user becomes a major league umpire and has to ‘make the call’ from behind the plate. The VR game allowed fans to engage with the Chevrolet brand and the All Star Game experience. Aside from entertainment, VR can be used by shoppers to design and experience their dream kitchen or bath with Lowe’s Holoroom. VR also has a place in hospitals, where patients can immerse themselves in a therapeutic experience to relieve stress and promote healing. In terms of cost savings, just as Six Flags is disrupting the traditional roller coaster model with VR, so too did the United States Navy with their training. PIXO Group created an immersive underwater world where users pilot a ship, replacing the literal physical fabrication of a vehicle in a swimming pool. The VR simulation was more cost effective and portable for the US Navy. As new VR headsets like the HTC Vive and Sony PlayStation VR continue to enter the marketplace, it will become easier for companies to add VR to their existing marketing strategies because of consumer familiarity with the hardware. It will be exciting to see how brands utilize this technology for experiential marketing to engage consumers. The possibilities for VR are truly limitless.