Virtual reality (VR) is rapidly transforming from a novel medium used by gamers, into a mainstream tool used by all kinds of marketers. Goldman Sachs Research recently noted in its Virtual and Augmented Reality report that they “see qualities in VR/AR technology that can take this [technology] from niche use cases to a device as ubiquitous as the smartphone.” The benefits of immersive VR marketing messages is now clear to advertisers and destination marketing organizations in particular. What better way to entice someone to visit your property than to allow customers to experience it first?
But while VR boasts clear advantages over traditional marketing platforms, there are a few rules of the road for VR marketing success. Here’s my list of the three essential elements of an effective VR campaign–and three pitfalls to avoid.
DO: Know why you want to use VR
To take full advantage of the marketing returns that VR can provide, you must be clear about the goals for each campaign, and to clearly document why VR is the key to making it work. If you’re using VR just because it seems like a fun tool you should have in your campaign, viewers will sense that. The virtual elements should make sense as part of your destination’s overall strategy. Give your viewers an experience that will impart a lasting emotional feeling–and you should know precisely what that emotion is–from the beginning of the VR production process.
To take full advantage of the marketing returns that VR can provide, you must be clear about the goals for each campaign, and to clearly document why VR is the key to making it work.
DON’T: Make it complicated
Because VR is still a relatively new technology, it’s important to be aware of two potential traps:
- Looking at VR as a daunting, involved process
- Becoming too ambitious and making the experience unnecessarily complicated.
In fact, it’s best to keep VR campaigns simple. Focus on a basic offering in your destinations–perhaps a tour of a local landmark or an immersive experience of a parade or citywide event. Don’t expect to change the whole way your audience interacts with your marketing messages. Aim to convey a simple story or idea.
DO: Make your experiences interactive
A recent study found that VR kept users engaged 34 percent longer than traditional 2D messaging and generated 27 percent higher reaction. The reason? Unlike traditional ads, VR gives users control over their experience. So be sure to build in elements of interactivity into your VR experiences. Make sure you empower the viewer with the freedom to take extra time to look around at scenery, select which story-line they’d like to see, or make choices within the virtual experience.
If your team is schooled in traditional video you might be tempted to rely on the legacy habits and knowledge accrued from that mode of film-making. For instance, you might be tempted to present a linear story, with a lot of quick cuts. Instead, think of VR as a virtual world into which your viewers are invited and encouraged to explore at their own pace. When creating VR content, think of the viewers themselves as participants and collaborators in the experience.
DON’T: Make people sick
Marketing teams fluent in traditional video may be tempted to default to standard film-making mode, trying to present a linear story, with plenty of quick cuts. VR is better thought of as a virtual world in which the viewer can explore at their own pace. When filming experiences, directors need to keep viewers top of mind and be sure to keep everything at a leisurely pace, keeping cuts to a minimum.
VR can be so convincing that it can actually induce dizziness or discomfort, even if an experience is properly presented. When your body isn’t moving, but your eyes think it is, it can create unpleasant results. Marketers should retain an experienced VR partner to ensure they are delivering an experience that is enjoyable for viewers and on message for the brand.
It’s important for destination marketers to engage viewers with the traditional storytelling elements of compelling characters and story-line.
DO: Engage the viewer’s emotions
While VR is more interactive than traditional linear storytelling media, it’s important for destination marketers to engage viewers with the traditional storytelling elements of compelling characters and story-line. Placing the viewer in a virtual experience and letting them walk around can be impressive, it’s even better to give them a reason to explore. Give them a guide to follow, or a series of clues, to make the experience seem like a mystery. Effective experiences don’t just show off a destination, they incorporate an element of interactivity, too.
DON’T: Neglect text and audio
While striking visuals are central components of an effective VR experience, audio and written text are elements that you shouldn’t overlook. Though best used sparingly, text and branded elements can provide guidance to the viewer and assist with narrative flow. Carefully executed audio helps create a fully immersive experience while helping drive home your destination’s message–whether that’s music, chirping birds, crashing waves, or some other sound effects.
DO: Start exploring VR for your business
Now’s the time to explore if VR has potential to transform the way you market to your customers. With VR technology evolving so rapidly, some marketers may feel overwhelmed by the possibilities. But by following these best practices–or working with seasoned partners in the VR space-even VR newbies will be able to fully reap the benefits of effective VR campaigns.
Alex Daniel is a travel writer and content strategist living in Brooklyn.