BY CHRIS MILBORROW
MARKETING MANAGER, SOLUIS GROUP
It’s an exciting time for virtual reality (VR), a technology that is quickly becoming an industry in its own right. We’re still in Q1 and what a year we’ve enjoyed already, with Oculus pre-launching the most hotly anticipated VR headset in history and a number of others, including HTC and Playstation, set to follow suit over the coming months.
In addition to advancements in hardware, there are two other noticeable gear-shifts in the industry throughout 2015 and moving into 2016:
These components have combined to see VR go from a relatively obscure concept adopted by a niche audience to it now being on its way to becoming a widely acknowledged consumer technology. This has resulted in an arms race, with some of the world’s largest, most influential consumer-facing organisations battling to get to market quickly with VR hardware and content aimed at the mass market.
The launch and popularity of Google’s cardboard headsets can also be greatly attributed to accelerating the democratisation of VR. This cheap headset, combined with free VR content channels like VRSE, Jaunt and Next VR, means immersive experiences are now becoming increasingly accessible, both in terms of price and availability.
Oculus pre-launched the Rift in January 2016. © Oculus
VR-specific consumer insight
The existence of a recent consumer research report by Greenlight VR and SuperAwesome into attitudes towards virtual reality serves as an acknowledgement of the attention VR now commands in a consumer context. The report, which contains insight into a broad number of topics relating to how VR is perceived by consumers across generations, highlights an inherent interest particularly by Generation Z to engage with virtual reality as a mainstream technology.
So what does this mean for brands?
Almost every industry is now waking up to VR as an attractive commercial proposition, and asking how it be applied usefully, with the food and beverage industry being no exception. Chicago-based food scientist Dr. Gail Barnes wrote an article recently for Snapmunk titled “How VR may revolutionize the food and beverage industry”. In the piece, Dr. Barnes draws on her experience in FMCG to present some predictions on how the industry might use virtual reality to unlock a number of opportunities, positively impacting workers, marketing efforts and consumer experiences.
The article includes the example of how Nestlé, historically an early adopter of digital technology within the food and beverage industry, recently used VR content coupled with Google Cardboard to provide consumers with an immersive brand experience. Users visited, in VR, the fields in Brazil where the company sources its coffee beans for its Nescafé products. Nestlé’s aim, Dr. Barnes speculates, was to promote transparency and sustainability to millennial consumers by allowing them to experience the origins of their beverage as opposed to just reading about it.
A similar campaign by The Patrón Spirits Company was launched in May 2015 as a new way to market its tequila. The virtual hacienda tour, which featured on Fortune.com, was described by Lee Applbaum, global chief marketing officer at Patrón Spirits, who said: “Virtual reality paves the way to opening up a dialogue about how most anything is intricately produced, particularly for brands that are interested in a high level of transparency.”
How can VR elevate events marketing activity?
From a marketing perspective, I believe that VR creates an interesting paradox, where a cutting edge technology is allowing marketers to better satisfy one of the fundamental principles of customer engagement: creating genuine trust and empathy.
In events marketing, the need to provide an entertaining experience that creates a lasting impression is constantly challenging marketers to think differently to surprise and delight their audience. Virtual reality can provide endless ways to do that by creating a bridge between the customer and wherever a marketer chooses to send them in time and space to convey an engaging message.
An example of VR being used in events will be on display at the upcoming Hotelympia event in London’s Excel. Show organisers Fresh Montgomery will be using a walk-in immersive experience, which will give event visitors the opportunity to virtually step into three iconic London hospitality locations. Like Nestlé and Patrón, Fresh Montgomery identified an opportunity to use VR to overcome physical limitations, bringing three venues onto the exhibition floor. Toby Wand, managing director of Fresh Montgomery, described the value in bringing an immersive showpiece to the event, saying: “It doesn’t matter if you’re an operator in search of new ideas or a designer or architect searching for the next big thing in design, a visit to our walk-in immersive experience will offer something truly unique – a Hotelympia world first.”
If you’d like to attend the event and experience the attraction from 29 February – 3 March, you can book tickets on the Hotelympia site.
Hotelympia will offer a walk-in immersive experience at its upcoming show.
Things to consider before launching into a VR event marketing campaign
There’s so much to be gained from using VR in events marketing but it also, like adopting any new technology, presents the risk of doing it just for the sake of doing it. In addition, regardless of how advanced VR technology becomes, the human elements of creating an experience will always be as important as the content itself.
With this in mind, here’s a few fundamental questions to ask to ensure that VR achieves maximum marketing impact for your brand.
Selecting and creating content
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2017