Walking the Plank with Virtual Reality

July 26, 2017   |   Christa Kramer

Gone are the days of thinking of Virtual Reality (VR) as bad special effects in The Thirteenth Floor or The Matrix. Over the last few years, VR has transformed from a flashy new technology into a creative playground. Artists and filmmakers are reimagining our cinematic experiences, while marketers are starting to use the technology to give brands a new 360˚ life.

Every year, the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival has a unique opportunity to engage the arts and film industry and spark interest in innovative filming techniques. This year, the festival had an exhibit aimed specifically at telling stories through VR experiences. Being in the storytelling business, the Preston Kelly team was excited to attend the event. The exhibit contained a selection of nine different VR projects that ranged from the thrilling Use Your Imagination Experience to the jaw-dropping Richie’s Plank Experience.

Walking a narrow wooden plank, jutting from the top of a skyscraper in the middle of a populated city, triggered fear and excitement (to name a few emotions) to run through me. With a passionate fear of heights, I tend to steer clear of skydiving, bungee jumping, ledges, edges or pretty much any experience that involves altitude higher than a street curb. But Richie’s VR Plank Experience allowed me to have the same feelings and emotions as accomplishing one of these jaw-dropping, sweat-popping experiences, but without actually going through with it.

After this dynamic experience at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, our team can’t help but feel that there are so many different emotion-inducing opportunities with VR and Augmented Reality (AR). This event was a good reminder that VR isn’t just for the entertainment business. This medium can also be used for commercial, practical and educational purposes.

Global tech gurus report that, “Growth in AR and VR is increasing at an exponential rate. Revenues for AR and VR could reach $150 billion by 2020” (TechCrunch). As VR and AR become more mainstream, brands should start thinking about creating more interactive experiences within their campaigns. Keeping three things in mind will increase the odds of making VR accelerate the impact of your consumer’s brand experience:

• Don’t just “tell” consumers a story; instead place them “within” the story.
• Create experiences that are powerful and emotionally relevant to your brand benefits.
• Avoid nausea-inducing “tricks” – instead focus on expanding your consumers’ perceptions of your brand and literally changing their perspective.

A great VR experience can bring a brand closer to consumers, almost literally inside their heads. So far, brands have been able to share their stories by telling them to consumers, but through the magic of well-designed virtual reality, you can one-up the old gold standard of “showing” your benefits and have them experienced first hand.

Lisa Donohue, Global Brand President of Starcom media, points out that in virtual reality, “You’re not watching the story. You’re part of the story. You’re in the story. That’s a huge difference and elicits more of an emotional reaction and a greater connection.”

Our goal as marketers is to involve consumers in our story, a compelling narrative that resonates on the deepest possible level. This means there is great potential to bring a brand emotionally closer to the consumer than ever before, something well worth the required investment of time and capital.

For many brands, VR offers the ability to mimic the reality of using their products. A great example of this is when Volvo created a VR app in order to attract people to their new XC90 model. Their goals were to scale the interest in their new vehicle before it hit showrooms and to create buzz around the launch. This app, the first of its kind, was downloaded over 40,000 times and as a direct result, 34,000 people showed interest in the vehicle.

The saying “try before you buy” has never been more real for different types of brands. Whether you’re Volvo, Northface, Red Bull or Delta Airlines, brands can now have their consumers “test” products and services in the virtual environment to “feel” if it is a good fit in their lives.

Are you ready to walk the plank with VR? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic: @prestonkelly

Here’s a short clip with 10 great examples of brands using VR to create an immersive experience, including the above Volvo example. Take a look!


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