Jul 19 2016
Ryan Manchee

(Virtual) Reality Check: A New Way Marketers Can Tell Their Story


Throughout this year, we’re seeing more and more excitement around Virtual Reality (VR). You couldn’t walk the floor at CES without seeing dozens of people wearing the headsets. It was all the buzz at SXSW this year (even having its own dedicated content track). Nearly every Digital Newfronts presentation included some mention of content being produced for it. It overtook ‘programmatic’ as the most talked-about (and showcased) technology at Cannes. It’s time for a Virtual Reality check!

With an expected 6.5 million VR users worldwide this year, and what’s expected to be nearly 25 million by 2020 (according to Deutsche Bank), Virtual Reality is hitting its stride and moving beyond a novelty to something more brands and marketers need to take note of.

From a demographic perspective, eMarketer, Greenlight VR and Touchstone Research found that Gen Z (those kids between 10 and 17 years of age) have the biggest appetite for VR at 79%. But what is even more fascinating is that nearly 64% of Baby Boomers are interested in VR as well.

While 360° is not true VR, it is still an incredibly immersive experience and it is what most consumers, and more brands, will identify as Virtual Reality content. You’ve likely scrolled through Facebook and have seen extremely compelling 360° video content filling your feed from the likes of GoPro, Vice, Discovery or Royal Caribbean.

Of course, great content is not enough by itself -- the price point on VR devices has dramatically come down and driven increased adoption. The Samsung Gear VR is only $99, a Google Cardboard is less than $10, and even the Facebook or YouTube 360 videos can be viewed in their full spherical glory on just about any smartphone. If you haven’t yet to strapped on an Oculus headset, or even held a Google Cardboard up to your face, find someone to show you how the innovations in this technology are opening the door to a completely new three-dimensional canvas to communicate.

As consumers continue to show their disdain for traditional digital banner ads, and more native ads become in-favor, the larger theme that marketers are gravitating towards is better storytelling. What is fascinating is that it is not just consumer-focused brands that are taking advantage of virtual reality and 360° video, but also some forward-thinking B2B brands. Our partner, Bluetext, is at the forefront of developing VR experiences for B2B clients. One of its recent campaigns launched a VR experience for security tech firm Varonis at a massive IT conference to help it stand out from other booths on the conference floor. Bluetext is now helping the company drive online prospects to view a variety of VR experiences on their own via the tech firm’s site.

Seeing is believing, so check out this 360° video experience – where you can drag the  video around for different perspectives on desktop or literally turn yourself around on mobile. Bluetext co-founder Jason Siegel and I talk about the realities of virtual reality.

Keep an eye on this space. Marketing best practices with VR continue to emerge and perhaps it will inspire you to dip your toes in the VR pool.