It’s likely that you’ve heard the term ‘virtual reality’ and regarded it as part of the gaming industry’s evolution and therefore doesn’t apply to your business. Wrong. Did you know that “According to the Virtual Reality Brand Power Index released this morning by YouVisit, 75 percent of the Forbes World’s Most Valuable Brands have created some form of virtual or augmented reality experience for customers or employees or are themselves innovating and developing these technologies.”?

You’ve probably even used it before. Ever looked up an address using Google Street View or Google Earth? That’s virtual reality. The true challenge is how businesses can use this technology to create innovative ways that will allow prospective customers to ‘experience a brand’ instead of being told or reading about it. The possibilities are endless with VR.


The VR basics

The history of virtual reality

If VR is an entirely new concept for you, here’s a breakdown of what you need to know. VR is not a new concept; in fact, the first virtual reality headset was created in 1968 by American computer scientist Ivan Sutherland and his student, Bob Sproull.

According to an article written by Pebble Studios, “The notion of ‘virtual reality’ entered the zeitgeist via science fiction, with Stanley G. Weinbaum’s 1935 short story ‘Pygmalion’s Spectacles’. This vision of VR told of a goggle-based contraption that offered users a holistic holographic experience that went as far as to include touch and olfactory elements.”


What is virtual reality?

Virtual reality (VR) is a broad term for an experience that immerses an individual ‘in’ another world. This can be referenced to digital-centric worlds or ones that combine real and virtual elements.

In a nutshell, VR software can immerse viewers in a 360-degree, 3D environment. VR marketing can be used to enhance the customer experience in any industry if applied and implemented correctly.

Don’t confuse Virtual reality (VR) with augmented reality (AR)

Virtual and augmented reality are sometimes used interchangeably; this is incorrect.

  • Virtual reality provides an all-inclusive immersive experience. By using VR devices, viewers can be transported into real-world or fictional environments.
  • Augmented reality adds digital elements such as filters via a smartphone’s camera, e.g. Instagram is an AR platform. The popular game Pokémon Go is an example of an AR-based game.

The tech sector is in the lead in adopting virtual reality technology. Still, automotive is also notable in being an early mover, Endri Tolka, COO and co-founder of YouVisit, told Hypergrid Business. “Brands like BMW, Audi, Porsche, KIA, Volkswagen, Lexus, Chevrolet, and Honda have all incorporated virtual reality and augmented reality experiences into their marketing strategy. Examples include mobile applications where potential buyers can check out the latest model from Mercedes-Benz or test-drive Audi’s fastest car,” he said.


A successful VR marketing example

Volvo Test Drive

One of the most successful applications of VR is using it to test drive a car. It’s an easy, safe way to decide if the vehicle meets your needs before going to view it at the dealership. This is precisely what Volvo implemented a few years ago, known as Volvo Test Drive, and it was a sensational marketing victory.

Why it worked

  • Easily accessible

Volvo Test Drive is a Google Cardboard initiative. For those of you who don’t know, Google Cardboard is an affordable, easy to use VR viewer that is literally made from cardboard.

All that individuals needed to do was download the Google Cardboard app (you don’t even need to have a Google Cardboard VR viewer). It could be experienced from anywhere in the world, which immediately prompted a sense of ‘limitlessness’, which was automatically attached to the Volvo brand.  

  • A safe, innovative and immersive experience

Today, people want to have experiences when, where and how they want; this element of ‘freedom’ is a vital touchpoint that brands need to hit strategically. Also, the experience was completely safe. Every aspect of the car could be tried and tested without the ‘driver’ having to feel nervous about using functions they may not have been familiar with, such as ‘Sport Mode’, for example. 

The Digital Marketing Institute comments, “This is a brilliant marketing move because, not only has it put Volvo on the map (again) for something innovative, it’s also accessible. They’re now offering a “weekend escape” version of the app which includes 360-degree landscapes, allowing adventurers a chance to cement the pairing of “adventure” and ‘Volvo’ in their heads, something which, given the practical element of Volvo’s branding, may never have occurred before.”

The foresight and adaption of immersive technology that Volvo combined to allow people to virtually test drive a car are absolutely incredible. Practical, exciting, safe and interactive – the perfect ingredients for a supercharged brand experience that will appeal to a broad consumer base.

“Today’s VR-based campaigns prove that now more than ever, innovative marketing strategies involve offering some sort of unique, immersive experience—something that touches people’s lives and hearts, in a brand-new way,” says the Digital Marketing Institute.

VR marketing has successfully been used in the travel, property, tech, gaming and even retail industry. The software is ready and waiting for you. Do you have an idea that you feel could be the next big thing but need some assistance bringing it to fruition? Speak to a business consultancy that can provide you with access to a world-class marketing team. Are you ready to see your business’s future, now?