How to Break the Boundaries of Experiential Marketing with VR

By Matt Robison, CEO and founder, Robotproof

For 2023, 74% of B2B marketers and 70% of B2C marketers plan to include a virtual component for their next live experience. While that’s a great and impressive stat for the growth of virtual reality (VR), do those marketers really know how to leverage this technology effectively?

Facebook bought VR company Oculus in 2014 and since then, VR’s buzz traversed across industries reaching many consumers through its “flash in the pan” hype. Before we knew it, Big Tech invested billions into the fledgling VR market, and brand marketers were eager to jump on the bandwagon. However, the absence of well-defined strategic planning led to the current market situation, characterized by underwhelming results, weak stock performance, and widespread layoffs.

Almost a decade later since Meta’s purchase, it’s time for experiential marketers to more deeply integrate VR into their overall strategies to course correct where they were experimenting with new tech and appropriately leverage VR to enhance their strategies and achieve long-term success. If experiential marketers are to make lasting impressions utilizing VR that live beyond “the moment,” here’s how they can be realistic about the scale, content, and quality of the experience at play.

Take VR Past the Moment

The mistake we’re seeing many make in today’s experiential industry is selling consumers the allure of flashy brand activations that create momentary excitement and engagement. A lot of experiential work lives and dies in just one week, so how do marketers build value and long-term engagement with experiential?

When it comes to how VR can help build long-term value within the experiential space, it’s important to understand how it can be a tool to drive fully integrated campaigns. We spend much of our time and brain power thinking about the creative and strategy behind activations and pop-up experiences. However, you can extend that valuable thinking through more scalable formats and experiences.

Mountain Dew’s “Dew VR Beat Drop” is an older example, but the experience quality and strategy behind its scalability still stands today as an excellent case study. To launch a new flavor series, Mountain Dew created an integrated 360 campaign built around experience-driven creative, with VR at the heart. Viewers began in a classy lounge party and once the beat dropped, so did the club and the party continued with skydivers in free-fall over the desert. It was distributed on Samsung VR and used during in-person activations at Coachella and college campuses.

The video experience also came to life on YouTube 360 and Facebook 360 and drove the creation of a dedicated online hub for Mountain Dew’s entire product lineup. It was a buzz-building cohesive message that extended into digital paid media assets. To take VR beyond the moment, think big and think end-to-end.

Be realistic about scale, content, and messaging

VR is still built for solo experiences, and it can be tricky to pull off for the masses. If marketers are to leverage VR effectively, they need to be realistic about their product’s scale and content, and how they can strategically deliver a unique experiential campaign message that resonates with everyone.

Synchronized group experiences, for example, are rising in popularity for their innovative way of delivering VR experiences to multiple users participating simultaneously and sharing a common virtual environment. We have seen this with Wave VR and the interactive virtual space they have created for fans to directly interact with artists such as Justin Bieber and The Weeknd in real time. The result is users interacting with each other and fostering a sense of community and togetherness.

This approach can also be motivating to marketers who are looking to break through with social media because here is the reality – many within the VR market are not familiar with how to use alternative digital channels and platforms for a more inclusive and engaging experience. VR for social media platforms will continue to take off, especially as more TikTok content and content creators are able to be viewed in-headset.

It’s a timely marketing tactic that not only can help drive engagement and create a sense of anticipation around a VR experience; but it encourages users to share their VR experiences on social media, while also generating buzz and interest amongst their own social media network.

Don’t compromise on the quality of the experience

Quality always matters. Countless affordable solutions are entering the market, but there will be huge negative repercussions if the quality isn’t there. The metaverse’s buzzy hype may hurt brands more than it benefits them if VR starts to take off.

For instance, virtual house tours can provide prospective buyers with a comprehensive understanding of a property’s layout, design, and features. This eliminates the need for multiple physical visits. In education, immersive VR experiences can enhance learning by transporting students to historical sites, scientific laboratories, or even outer space. In professional training, VR can simulate real-life scenarios that help employees develop essential skills and competencies in a safe and controlled environment.

To truly advance the potential of VR technology, marketers must focus on delivering exceptional experiences that cater to real-world needs. This will not only foster lasting brand-consumer relationships but also pave the way for the widespread adoption of VR as a transformative tool in various industries.

If we’re looking to move the needle forward on VR’s effectiveness, we need to start with clear objectives on what it can do to make a better experience for consumers…not just a flashier one.

About the Author

Matt Robison is CEO and founder of Robotproof, an award-winning full-service marketing agency, committed to pioneering the future of creative brand innovation and experiences through its boundary-breaking services and solutions.