What’s next for AR/VR Marketing

Trifecta augmented reality campaign

By Laura Puente, Director, Marketing Communications at BrandExtract

Technology, content and marketing are all swiftly evolving aspects of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.

At the May 18, 2017 Houston IMA luncheon, Brent Wheelbarger, CEO, and Patrick Glueck, Technologist, both from Trifecta Communications in Oklahoma, presented an overview of how AR/VR is projected to become an integral marketing tool. A “show and tell” highlighting VR experiences led to case studies that the audience could experience real-time via the Trifecta app. We learned about the different use cases, technologies and budgets that work with AR/VR right now.

Shell’s digital team let attendees pass around a VR headset with an app developed by Imagination simulating experiences such as a helicopter ride and deep dive into the ocean to give users a better understanding of their offshore drilling technology. Despite the loud conversation in the tight room, it provided an immersive and almost soothing experience.

The main takeaway from the event is that AR and particularly VR are full of powerful opportunities for consumers and brands. But among consumers and marketers, the level of sophistication for the technology, real-world application and even general understanding ranges dramatically.

What opportunities are available through AR/VR?
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are expected to become a multi-billion-dollar business that promises to revolutionize the way we shop, play, work and communicate. TechCrunch says that by 2021, we’ll be spending $94 billion on AR and $25 billion on VR. While Wheelbarger feels those numbers might be ambitious, he compares the rapid adoption with how marketers implemented social media over the last 10 years. In 2007, when Facebook had just opened its virtual doors to a broader community outside college and universities, most of us wouldn’t have considered social media a “given” when planning a marketing campaign. In 2017, brands across industries sometimes use multiple social media channels as their sole campaign medium. Wheelbarger’s hypothesis is that AR/VR will be a requirement in marketing campaigns in another 10 years.

Other thought leaders offer these forecasts:
•Tim Cook of Apple calls AR “a core technology,” not just a product, a testament to its versatility and likely ability to permeate brand experiences
•Forbes believes we may see Apple’s first generation version in the iPhone 8, as early as September

What is AR/VR, and how is it used for marketing?
One of the biggest draws to marketers is that AR/VR allows customers to experience products without having to be physically present. But beyond some high level similarities, VR and AR are very different.

Virtual Reality is apparently where the money is. Although the quality of the technology does impact the experience, VR is generally more sophisticated and requires from companies bigger resource, time and financial investment.

Typical VR experiences include:
•Completely 3D or 360 immersive experiments. These trick your brain into thinking you’re in the environment
•Video games
•360 videos
•Interactive on-site experiences, i.e. the Virtual Coaster at Six Flags in Dallas, which allows visitors to ride a roller coaster but see something different via VR technology
•Online web browsing, like multi monitor experiences or Facebook Spaces

“There are so many stories you can put into VR experiences,” says Glueck.

Examples of today’s most common VR hardware are:
•Samsung Gear: a portable, affordable choice typically sold for $99
•Occulus and HTC, which are run by really powerful computers, so resolution and experiences are better. Users wear headphones so there’s a more immersive experience. These run $400-800
•PlayStation VR: In the first 3 months of release, this product sold more headsets than any of the others combined, likely because of the gaming tie-in

Augmented Reality can be more accessible for marketers because it isn’t a totally immersive experience. Digital elements are added to the real world to augment the overall experience.

Examples of brands using AR range from being incredibly sophisticated and expensive to pretty basic.
•PepsiMax created a bus stop “pop up” experience in London
•Snapchat is the AR leader in the consumer market and has introduced a feature called World Lenses that is an evolution of its simpler technology and content.
•Pokemon Go is super simple, uses GPS AR. It’s probably the most popular example right now.

Examples of today’s most common AR hardware are:
•Phones and tablets: AR hardware is not nearly as far along as VR hardware, and most people create and use it with a phone or tablet
oAlmost 90% of smart phones can use AR via a downloaded application
•Companies like Meta and Microsoft are developing products like Holo lense, but Glueck thinks wearables are so far away from being really ready for consumer use.

How is AR used for marketing?
AR applications in marketing are still small-scale in most cases.
•Direct mail and print ads offer a more compelling use of print media but are also attractive to marketers and brands because apps track analytics from the campaigns
•Onsite experiences: Holograms and other “pop-up” experiences support brand awareness, customer loyalty and social media sharing
•News Content incorporates videos, photos, infographics, and other interactive digital experiences

AR on a small marketing budget:
Brands like Blippar, Layar, Zappar, and Vuforia are AR content creators. They offer easy ways to DIY the content or offer custom design and development services

How can marketers ramp up?
Attendees asked each other questions and talked with Wheelbarger and Glueck about how they could develop AR/VR experiences for their companies and clients. Some of the discussion revolved around:
•How long does it take to complete an AR project? Simpler projects could take 6 weeks, while others may take months
•How does the technology need to evolve? Shell brought up the point that Samsung VRs are not made for heavy duty usage and during the Super Bowl Live experiences: they needed to have multiple headsets on hand when they overheated. Occulus helmets, on the other hand, are more heavy duty since they run off a computer and may be a better fit for high-traffic events.
•Can AR rejuvenate print/traditional advertising? It will most likely see a boost but most aren’t optimistic about a total rejuvenation.
•What are the demographics of people who use/want to use AR/VR, from the customer side and the client side? So far it has been difficult to get more conservative audiences to wrap their minds around it. In general, younger audiences are easier to onboard and kids “are no brainers” for this type of technology, said Wheelbarger.

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