The love affair between marketing and virtual reality (VR) has been blossoming for a fair few years now. So much so that these days it’s not uncommon to see VR included in a campaign brief.
Although VR may be high on the wishlist, not every brand can afford it. Or at least, that’s what they think. And yet VR is harbouring a salient but untapped secret: it can be used as a near-instantaneous content solution that, far from draining budgets, enhances long-term ROI.
For a seductive new channel that’s so tightly associated with vast budgets, this statement might seem to good to be true. But the truth is that once a brand has invested in its first VR experience, the initial outlay will pay dividends. How? By establishing – almost incidentally – a real time content pipeline that can create everything from apps to augmented reality (AR) for multiple departments within the same company, and all at the touch of a button.
Let me explain…
Once assets have been digitized for a VR experience, the initial hard work is complete and these assets can go on to have a life beyond their original purpose. They become the foundations of a future-proofed content solution where everything is already in place to create multiple formats and versions of the original content further down the line.
This means that departments outside of marketing, from new product development to training via sales, can reap rewards from the upfront investment. But not only will they benefit financially; they will also benefit by gaining enhanced content. Imagine how much more engaging and effective training sessions or presentations would be if content were presented as powerfully immersive VR, rather than through a screen or pages.
Real-time data-driven content also has the added benefited of updating itself automatically, with users receiving a pushed notification alert. What could be simpler?
In addition to being an engagement-driving, company-wide and cost-saving initiative, this approach is also a significant time-saver: having a suite of ‘live’ digitized assets helps us shift from clunky linear workflows to real-time. That’s because VR experiences are heavily dependent on game engines: an amazing piece of software, long used by the video game industry, that renders content sequences in an instant. If it weren’t for game engines, video game players wouldn’t be able to control their avatars in real-time.
So, game engines are the magic ingredient that give VR experiences their real-time interactivity.
Game engines are now so sophisticated that they’re capable of taking existing data assets and displaying them in near photo-real quality whilst simultaneously allowing users to interact with virtual products in real-time. Combine this with a powerfully immersive virtual world and you get a formidable tool for communicating brand stories and much, much more.
Many amongst you will at this point be thinking: “That’s all well and good, but how do I get started?”.
Fortunately, the answer is a lot simpler than most marketers think:
Brands often hold a library of useful but underused data; for example, computer-aided design (aka CAD), GIS or 3D product scans. We can use this existing and readily available data to create a VR experience’s building blocks by simply digitizing them into assets suited for real-time applications such as VR, AR and immersive apps.
When this approach is taken, it creates an unexpectedly low barrier to entry for VR, which begs the question: why is VR seen as a medium that’s exclusively suited to big established brands with their big established budgets? It seems rather undemocratic to me that only brands with vast resources can reap the amazing benefits that come from VR.
Brand use of VR is, understandably, synonymous with a marketer’s two biggest goals: entertainment and engagement. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore VR’s more functional potential. Once there is more awareness around the fact that digitized assets can be combined with a VR game engine to create a myriad of content in a near-instant, marketers from brands of all shapes and sizes will be able to make a more convincing case for VR.
They will also be credited with developing an initiative that unlocks the industry’s much-talked-about-but-little-delivered imperative of digital transformation.
In an era when brands need to be ‘always-on’ whilst serving up endless personalization-driven multiple versioning, VR’s use as an automatically updated, real-time and cost-effective content solution becomes utterly compelling. And the ramifications could go far:
VR’s use as a content solution poses a threat to the conventional but highly inefficient model where brands commission agencies to create individual pieces of content. Once brand-world wakes up to VR’s secret functional side, they may feel so empowered by creating their own engaging content at speed and at cost, that agencies will feel the pinch.
– by Mark Miles