Virtual Reality technology may help businesses to engage with users on a deeper level through creating immersive experiences with powerful content that will create a lasting impact – but is its application just technology for technology’s sake? In this piece, Al Hutchison, motion content director at digital agency Manifesto (pictured below) addresses the hype – and the potential – of Virtual Reality.
The power of video content has been seized upon by advertisers; but brands across a multitude of industries are now starting to recognise the opportunities it provides for wider customer engagement. As such, it was only a question of time before video alone was not enough and new technology was introduced in order to up the ante.
Enter Virtual Reality (VR), the media’s favourite buzzword at the moment, which claims to represent the future of video content – but is it? The history of technology is littered with examples of innovative products that have not survived their own hype when first introduced to the market, 3D TV being the perfect example. Most of these products have disappeared from the limelight as soon as the novelty wore off, but VR feels different.
The technology is still in the early stages, so the potential benefits that VR can provide are yet to be fully realised. Brands and marketers will, therefore, need to monitor the development of VR carefully in order to gain advantage of the opportunities it can offer to build their brand and connect with their audience through new forms of storytelling.
Digital video allows brands to develop relatable content that helps to establish a connection with their audience through shared interests and values. Because it provides an interactive platform, VR technology can help businesses to engage with users on a deeper level through creating immersive experiences with powerful content that will create a lasting impact.
VR also allows a brand to become a media company in its own right. Big names, like PepsiCo, are already making strides towards achieving this goal. The brand, more commonly known for its soft drinks, has opened a content-creation studio that allows it to experiment with new technology and platforms and explore different ways to create content.
Crafting the story
There is a lot of hype around VR, and the interest it has generated from brands has been significant, largely due to the creative opportunities it offers. However, as with all new forms of technology and digital platforms, it’s important that the technology is not used just for ‘technology’s sake’.
Creating the right story is key to any brand-related content – and VR is no exception. Organisations looking to use new digital platforms should, therefore, make sure the brand’s core values are at the centre of any new content created.
With so many digital tools and social media platforms now available, it is important that a company remains true to its brand heritage – especially in an environment where everyone is increasingly creating their own brand, thanks to the likes of Instagram. As such, brands should not use VR for advertising purposes; instead, it should be used to engage with the audience and create a meaningful connection between them, the story and the brand.
The future of VR
VR is still in its infancy. And, at the moment, it is being used most effectively in the gaming industry, combining storytelling and consumer interaction to create an emotive link with the gamer. Building this type of relationship will be critical for brands and storytellers that are seeking to experiment with VR, regardless of the industry or product.
For example, VR is also beginning to appear in the charity sector, with Unicef leading the way, using the Gear VR headsets to give supporters the opportunity to experience the life of a Syrian child, again linking the storytelling with a strong interactive element to create the emotive connection with the consumer.
With the potential of VR still yet to be realised, now is the time to be creative and brave and experiment with this technology. However, in order for the technology to be a success, it will need to engage with the audience on a deeper level and take users on a journey that they have never been on before.