Imagination has been at three major events in NA and EMEA in the last month, the Detroit and Toronto auto shows, and Mobile World Congress.
What struck me about the experience environments in all three places was the explosion of VR across brand experience. Not surprising at MWC, particularly with the Galaxy Gear 360 launch and Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance at their press conference to talk about the importance of VR (including Facebook’s Oculus of course).
But what about autoshows? In Detroit and Toronto we developed and installed an immersive experience for Ford. It was a way of showcasing the safety technologies of the latest Edge in a 3d environment. And Ford weren’t the only company using VR. Toyota had a Distracted Driving simulator for teens that used VR to recreate the every day dangers of driving And even the Detroit Free Press had a VR environment.
Why would car manufacturers use VR at autoshows? It’s not a product or part of a product – not yet. It’s all about the experience.
Firstly, VR offers manufacturers the opportunity to immerse your visitors in your messages with added richness. That creates the all important dwell time that raises brand favoraiblity. Secondly, use of VR is a signifier of a tech savvy attitude that is attractive in automotive brands and raises favorability.
But just because you can do VR doesn’t mean you will do it well. VR, like any engagement in an experience environment, has to have a purpose, has to tell a relevant story. That’s easy when you are promoting the new season of Game of Thrones and you have a ready made story universe to immerse people in. This Game of Thrones VR is a a great example what VR can do to completely immerse someone in a virtual space.
But what if you aren’t selling a story instead you are promoting a product? Here a couple of questions we ask ourselves when designing VR experiences.
- What is the link between the product and the experience? What message about the product are you giving to the user? There are a number of pretty VR experiences that don’t do anything for the brand except function like a host with a loud hailer shouting ‘We love tech, look over here’. If you do this you’ll look like you’re jumping on a bandwagon.
- Am I force feeding facts? Don’t go the other way and focus on information overload just to make sure you squeeze every last messaging moment from the platform. The power in VR is still the power to delight and surprise. Use it to create a delightful moment around your product.
- Is this idea just a replica of something you can do in real life? Rollercoasters – they’re everywhere in VR and no wonder, they create a visual and physical reaction. But it’s the oldest VR experience in the book. Instead try to look for places to take your audience – macro, micro, imagined or real but completely inaccessible.
- Are we engaging the senses? Does our visual arc create physical responses? Could we involve other senses? Smell, sound and touch, take the experience further. And why not taste?
VR allows brands to give ever deeper brand experiences to new and potential customers. It still has the wow otherwise you can be sure it wouldn’t have been so prominent at MWC. But it’s not just for tech brands and not just for stand alone spaces. Experiential environments provide the ideal platform for VR.
But let’s not have another rollercoaster.