Beyond 2D: What It Takes to Create Effective Branded VR Content


Virtual reality has become the new darling of content, but why are some brands getting it wrong? The answer: Many marketers don’t know what makes effective branded content and what doesn’t. Many are stuck in a 2D mindset, instead of making the shift to 3D, and how 360-degree video content can be used to exceed the constraints of a flat screen.

So the question is: What does it take to create effective branded VR content? This post will dispel several myths about VR content and share best practices for brands.

MYTH: Writing for VR and shooting 360-degree video is something any creative can do.

FACT: Storyboarding and writing for VR content is a completely new discipline.

Many brands assume that their creative team can just dive into creating VR content. In most instances, this just isn’t the case. Brands are better served by working with professional studios that have logged many hours creating branded content, and who already know what works and what doesn’t. Pushing the boundaries of content comes naturally to creatives. When they don’t fully understand what it takes to create effective VR branded content, the end result could be a less-than-thrilling experience for consumers. (Not to mention the thousands of dollars that just went down the drain.) It’s important for brands to seek expert help to create the best VR content possible. Plus, hiring a crew that can shoot 360-degree video professionally can lessen the chances of a viewer feeling motion sickness, which is never a feeling you want to associate with your brand!

VR branded content has to be done by professionals who understand the craft and how subtle product placement needs to be.

MYTH: Shooting 360-degree video on my phone is VR.

FACT: In order for 360-degree video to be VR, it must meet several requirements.

There’s a great debate in the VR community as to whether 360-degree-video is really VR. For many, the answer depends on how the 360-degree video was shot and the quality of the video. In order for 360-degree video to be considered VR, it needs to have spatial audio, which lets users experience audio from all directions, just as they do in the real world. Higher quality VR video capture is proven to make 360-degree experiences more comfortable than just filming with a consumer-grade camera.

MYTH: VR content and 2D assets don’t mix.

FACT: Adding 2D elements to VR experiences helps bring the familiar into the immersive.

According to Adweek, brands spend on average more than $10 million annually on digital video that is 2D. Video has definitely become of grave importance for brands seeking to reach audiences across multiple platforms. The good news: there are easy ways to integrate this high-quality content into a VR experience. YouVisit’s Aria platform allows brands to easily integrate existing 2D assets into experiences. This is a big advantage for brands who’ve already invested in video and photo assets.

While the focus should be on the VR experience, adding those 2D assets can amplify the investment made to produce other assets. Additionally, the fact that consumers can interact and click on these 2D assets can help drive the story and further engage them. The fact that content is clickable within the YouVisit platform can truly benefit a brand’s bottom line by being able to repurpose content.

If brands create VR content without accounting for audience autonomy that 360-degree content provides, they’ll likely fail at enhancing a consumer’s brand loyalty.

MYTH: Adding your logo and your products across a VR experience is branded content.

FACT: Blatant selling doesn’t work in VR because viewers have agency and can choose where they want to look.

Nowhere in the content world are people more aware that they are being sold to than in virtual reality. VR content created by brands should be focused on how a consumer experiences a brand and not on how much “ad” space brands can fit in a 360-degree experience. It’s about creating content that’s aligned with your brand, not blatantly selling to them. In VR, your audience can choose to engage with your brand or not. That’s why VR branded content has to be created by professionals who understand the craft and how subtle product placement needs to be.

If brands create VR content without accounting for audience autonomy that 360-degree content provides, they’ll likely fail at enhancing a consumer’s brand loyalty. On the other hand, VR branded content done right can strengthen brand loyalty.

As the quantity of branded content continues to grow, so will be the appetite for great content. VR consumers are only getting more sophisticated. That’s why brands need to seek partners in the industry that can help them create content that’s not only effective, but that takes their customers into an immersive experience that’s carefully curated and designed to seamlessly align with their brand.

Cathy Hackl (@CathyHackl) is an Emmy-nominated communicator turned virtual reality and augmented reality speaker and futuristic content creator. She’s also the founder of Latinos in VR/AR and one of the women leading the virtual revolution.

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