For me, I’ve been mostly observing and mulling over the possibilities and impact – for the world and our profession. And to start with the bottom line – it has the potential to have MASSIVE impact on the branding domain! Many of you by now may have been toying with a cardboard VR-kit on their phones, immersing yourselves in the experience. To me, the most compelling thing that modern VR devices bring, is multisensory experience. The great thing about this, is that with multisensory experience, the imprint on one’s soul is lasting.
If I go back only a few years, we were responsible for the feasibility study of one of BMW’s newest flagship stores, quite a large outfit. BMW’s key concept is based on creating multisensory brand experiences – they attract you to the dealership and you walk through the entrance. You hear the brand-music, see the brand-movie, and the (artificial) breeze blows around you. And when walking in, you’re greeted by a BMW brand-genius, a true product expert. The purpose is to create 4-dimensional interaction with the consumer, and thus creating a full blown multi-sensory experience – and one that will last. Why? Because if you’re able to involve multiple senses in one go, you imprint feelings on a person’s hard disk, or in other words, convey the emotion around a brand and win over someone’s heart for a long time. In terms of brand engagement and effectiveness, that’s what brand managers want to achieve. One can imagine how much stronger and lasting this imprint is, compared to seeing a banner ad or TV advertisement – which involves only 1 or 2 senses at once.
How will Virtual Reality influence all of this, going forward?
First of all, VR is multisensory by default. Whatever you do, you immerse people in the experience and stimulate multiple senses – and with new technologies ahead this will increase even more. When this happens to you the first time, you can really be blown away. A friend of mine tried the Oculus Rift roller-coaster, and threw the device off his head within 5 seconds, as he immediately couldn’t deal with the sensory overload and impact ,-).
Secondly, you can have it, or deploy it, everywhere. You don’t need to go to a showroom anymore to get car customer experience, you don’t have to go to a cinema to immerse yourself into a movie, you can enjoy it while sitting at home or anywhere you please.
Thirdly, the business case for creating a multisensory experience will dramatically change, and for the positive. In the example of BMW, you can imagine the investment required for equipping a whole dealership with multisensory equipment, and for one showroom only. With VR you’ll be able to create much stronger impact, with much smaller investment.
Fourthly, and related to the business case implication as mentioned before, we’ll be seeing completely new customer journeys being created for brands. In the case of the automotive industry, one can easily understand how the dealership world will change especially if you consider online buying and ordering of cars, and the ability of customers to enjoy the multisensory experience at home or in a convenient car café. Equally, if you imagine working with an architect to create a model, drawings and impressions for a new house, the leap forward will be predictable, allowing people to explore a new home before it has even been built.
Lastly, if we imagine a world where everyone has decent VR gear available, where virtually meeting each other is hardly distinguishable from real life, it will change the way we travel and work. For example, why would we need screens (PCs, laptops, phones etc.), if everything happens through VR gear. By then they won’t of course be ugly devices that you have to put over your face, they will be tiny and either externally or internally applied.
Is it all positive, and the impact immediate? I don’t think so, yet. The devices have just come out for larger audiences, and price points are not yet affordable for everyone. Also, the software array is only limited at this point. The VR-community is continually developing this, and it will continue to emerge as it gets better and more versatile – all of which will take some time.
Anyway, back to the professional impact for brand managers. A new world of opportunities has arisen for all of us, and my only advice to you is, try it and start exploring – immersing yourself into it will spur your creativity and imagination of what can be done for and with your brand. And rest assured, if you don’t do it, your competitors will.
Should you want to discuss further, or try our on-site VR-brand management lab – just let me know.