Using VR in marketing
Henry Stuart is founder and CEO of Visualise, one of the world’s premier virtual reality studios. He has provided VR content for major events including Wimbledon, the Olympics, and for brands such as Google, The Economist, Audi, Mercedes F1, and others. Since the launch of the Oculus Rift Headset in 2012, he has focused solely on producing VR and 360 content for marketing, churning out over 150 experiences for brands worldwide.
The main point of the book. Virtual reality technology today is good enough to create more shareable and talked-about content with huge emotional impact and influence which means that VR is a great marketing tool.
There was a lot of practical information and useful facts in the book. Sometimes it feels like a light textbook about VR which is great for people that don’t know much about virtual reality, but want to meet its world closer. I described and quoted the points I find important and give my comments about them. One of my current projects is an educational VR game for learning chemistry beautifully named Blasterhyde (blasterhyde.com), so I will also think about how can I integrate the ideas and points of the book into that project.
Point number one. 360 video is will help VR become adopted by mass. Amara’s law, coined by Roy Amara, states that “we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run”. VR is a good example of this law. The hype of VR has tailed off and now it’s growing naturally. Geoffrey Moore’s technology adoption life cycle represents different types of customers: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. The “early majority” is the biggest group of customers. Another important feature of that idea is “the chasm” which takes its place when “early adopters” are adopting the technology. Speaking about VR innovators we could see as people buying Oculus DK1 headset from Kickstarter. Now we are on the “early adopter” stage when people buy second-generation headset (note that the book was written in 2017, now we have Oculus Quest headset and I’m not sure are we still on “early adopter” stage or a little bit further). ‘Crossing the chasm’ is the big challenge for VR and that’s, according to Stuart, where 360 video comes in. The author says that 360 video is a bridge to cross chasm towards mass adoption. Adoption comes from education (e.g., how to set up a headset) and affordability.
As soon as Blasterhyde is an educational game mainly oriented to schools, the adoption of VR technology in schools is a crucial factor in selling the game. No VR headsets in schools, no sales of the game. So, it might be pretty smart to sell not only the game but also VR headsets, because it may increase adoption. Presentations of the game and other VR apps in schools and public places will also help.
Point number two. VR headset was invented as a concept more than 60 years ago. In 1960 Morton Heilig patented and produced (in prototype) the world’s first head-mounted display, which he called the Telesphere. It is uncannily like modern VR headsets.
Point number three. Oculus was founded by Palmer Luckey a 17-year-old living with his parents. He was frustrated that there is no affordable, low-latency VR headset on the market and so set about making one. Oculus was one of the most successful Kickstarter projects of all time, reaching nearly 1000% of its anticipated target. In 2014 Facebook bought Oculus for US 2$ billion.
Point number four. VR and AR is the next step of merging digital and real worlds. Now billions of people are walking down the street looking at their phones. There will devices that much easier to use and more hands-free. People want to combine the digital and the real world seamlessly. VR and AR are like water. they are basic elements. I think by “basic element” Jonathan Waldern meant that VR will become something like phones nowadays. We use our phones without thinking about them, they are just medium to the content inside them and VR and AR will probably also become an invisible medium. People often say they have used VR when they have just seen 360 videos. VR is much more than 360 video and we have to protect VR in its purest form. The only thing that is stopping VR from being everywhere right now is adoption. That is a very good point. It simply means that technology is enough good, developers are ready to create content, the only ones not ready are customers. Nowadays all the content should be shareable and that is an important challenge to VR.
Blasterhyde is the game for teenagers, so it should look as shareable (in social media) as possible. In practice, it means bold colors, funny and trendy moves (like dancing in Fortnite), free, non-academic and sometimes even rude language (words like “damn”, “shit”), lots of humor.
Point number five. A resolution has a long way until we don’t see pixels in VR. 8k by 8k, rather than the approx 1.5k by 1.5k we have now, will be needed. 1600 by 1440 pixels per eye each is huge pixel density – you cannot see the pixels if you have this screen in your hand. However you can see the pixels if you put two magnifying glasses in front of your eye and put the screen behind them. And that’s exactly what’s happening when you are wearing a VR headset.
Point number six. Feeling presence in VR. Here are a few things that can improve presence-feeling in VR. Seeing hands, interaction with the environment (picking up and kicking an object), social interaction (with people sharing the same VR scene and NPCs) can greatly increase the feeling of presence in VR.
The visual style of Blasterhyde is sci-fi, so adding doors like in Star Wars, vehicles and other small objects that can be found on the spaceship can improve the presence-feeling. Before that moment I didn’t think about adding enemies, but maybe I should do that.
Point number seven. Why VR in marketing. Anthony Ganjou, a co-founder at Visualise, told that VR is the most immersive, engaging, and interactive channel in the world. “It fundamentally allows you to put people at the heart of your brand and marketing communications, in a way no other channel does.” That’s why you should do VR in marketing. VR can be a cool marketing tool because it generates an emotional connection between person and brand.
Emotional connection can be very a good point to prove why schools should use VR games. Paraphrasing the quote above, I think it’s fair to say that VR can generate an emotional connection between student and subject (chemistry). Using sci-fi stuff like blasters can generate a feeling that chemistry is cool, technological, and not boring.
Point number eight. Experiential marketing. “Experiential marketing is all about customer experiencing a brand or product physically – immersing the customer in your brand so they feel a part of it, helping them understand the brand story on more deeply understand a product offering. The customer will feel what it is like to be part of your brand, your values, your vision. Experiential marketing is allowing customers to feel and interact with the product, rather than just passively observe it. For example, a VR marketing campaign for a movie can allow customers to meet a protagonist in a bar and grab a beer in his favorite bar on Pluton.
Point number nine. Google research about 360 videos. The key points of the research are: 360 video motivates viewers to watch more and interact, 360 video drives viewers to share, subscribe, and view other videos. As a result, the 360 ad was a more efficient buy since its cost-per-view was lower when organic and paid views were combined.
Point number ten. Make it social. The human race is inherently social and isolating ourselves in headsets is quite frightening. Apps that allow you to enjoy VR experience with your friend are the key.
Multiplayer will be an important part of Blasterhyde in the future. Students can go through different levels of completing chemistry tasks together which will probably be much more fun.
Point number eleven. Pre-production of 360 videos. Before diving into production you have to deeply understand the reasoning behind making the project and necessary outcomes. A project must have a vision that is understood by both the content creator and the client. Answer these questions before production: what problem is this solving (why), who do you want to see this, what do you want people to see, feel and do, how do you want them to see this (VR).
Point number twelve. Key performance indicators. They help measure the success of the project. It’s good to establish these early, as knowing that there are some solid figures you are aiming for can help focus the project. Some examples of KPIs for VR projects: number of downloads, number of views, number of likes and shares, dwell times, amount of press generated – blog posts, newspapers, etc., increased number of sales.
Of course we will use KPIs when launching the project (publishing the game). Using KPIs may also be useful in testing the game on teenagers, so before testing our team’s researcher can set them to test if the game works in the way we want.
Point number thirteen. Foveated rendering. “This is the idea that you can maintain a higher resolution on only the exact area of vision that is being looked at any moment, the other parts on the periphery of the view will be lower resolution and focus. On many respects this mimics how the eye works in the real world, and in theory, means greater resolution at a lower cost in processor power and componentry.”
In conclusion I want to say that there were good thoughts about using VR technology in marketing, the history of VR, and other useful practical information such as the pre-production checklist. I can recommend that book to the people that are new to VR; it’s an informative and easy-to-understand introduction into VR and 360 video production. I also found some ideas that can be used in my educational VR game.