Technological advances in social media are driving marketing strategies. Like conversational apps that use AI and machine learning, virtual reality and augmented reality are becoming faster, easier, and cheaper. Brands can now create virtual reality experiences in Facebook with a few inexpensive pieces of hardware.
But is the trend a good fit for every brand? When should your brand jump on emerging technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality?
Producing VR and AR content for the sake of a cutting-edge brand identity is not only expensive, it’s pointless. Users will not see the point in the extra investment of time, and the learning curve, to get content they could have gotten in an easier format. VR and AR ask users to interact. For that extra work, users expect extra value: content they could not have accessed in other formats.
Salvation Army’s virtual reality Facebook video perfectly married the medium to the message. It wasn’t frivolous; users had to leverage the unique features of virtual reality video, the ability to pan around the footage, to uncover the message. It’s impossible to know whether the message or the medium came first for Salvation Army, but in this campaign, they’re a perfect fit. In 2017, virtual reality might collide with live video thanks to innovations like Facebook’s live 360 video. You can now live stream in a VR format; the feature would fit campaigns like Salvation Army’s well.
AMC tried augmented reality in its theatre lobbies, bringing live trailers to static movie posters with a special app.
Augmented reality is a good fit for the theatre chain, adding movement where it’s expected: movies. In 2017 and beyond, interactive movie posters might be even more accessible with AR-ready phones that don’t require an app. For a more seamless fit between medium and message, AMC might also try simply adding movement to the posters with AR, rather than a pop up trailer — using AR to provide content that viewers can’t get elsewhere.
Technology inspires marketing, but marketing challenges technology. If your brand can’t figure out how to use virtual reality or augmented reality, wait until a campaign idea demands it. Think beyond existing technologies when brainstorming new content themes, then use emerging tech like virtual or augmented reality to execute them.
In 2017 AR and VR will offer opportunities for brands to communicate with their audiences and immerse them. The challenge for brands lies in leveraging those technologies in a way that isn’t contrived or tacked on.
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