VR Marketing: How Brands Can Use VR and AR to Stand Out

VR marketing sounds futuristic, but it’s a great opportunity for brands right now. Here’s everything you need to know, plus examples to inspire your campaigns.
Fanbytes | VR Marketing

In 30 seconds:

  • Stop thinking VR is only relevant within the video games market: the economic impact of virtual and augmented reality has already reached $58.7 billion.
  • And even as far back as 2018, 78% of people were familiar with VR technology.
  • The potential uses for VR and AR tech in marketing campaigns are many and varied. We’ve got examples and tips for brands who want their content marketing to stand out.

You might think that VR is a new technology, but in reality it has been gaining popularity steadily since 2015. 

It’s not particularly niche, either. Statistica predicted that by the end of 2020, the number of VR headsets sold would reach 82 million. That was an increase of 1,507% from the 2017 predicted totals.

Consider that the majority of consumers online spend upwards of 4 and a half hours a day on their phones. And younger generations, like the elusive and lucrative Gen Z, are even more digital-forward – so used to seeing ads that 69% of them take steps to avoid them altogether. 

With that in mind, VR marketing offers brands the chance to stand out from the crowd, and to capture the attention of a group of young consumers with a reported attention span of only 8 seconds.

What is AR and VR in marketing?

Augmented and virtual reality… they certainly sound futuristic. In truth though, they’re more commonplace than you might think. Chances are you’ve come across AR/VR marketing plenty of times. 

VR refers to a type of software that immerses users in a fictional 3D environment, often by way of a headset. This functionality allows users to experience a whole new reality in a full 360 degrees, providing a user experience that’s completely immersive

But not all types of VR require access to Oculus Rift eyegear. Augmented reality is popular for this exact reason. Unlike VR, AR refers to virtual images overlaid on the real world. Think Pokemon Go, the viral mobile phone game which allowed users to see Pokemon creatures dancing on their kitchen tables through their phone cameras, or branded effects and filters on social media

For advertisers, both VR digital marketing and augmented reality marketing represent exciting opportunities to offer their target audience more immersive brand experiences.

VR Marketing 2022: Why should brands care?

If the past couple of years have proven anything, it’s that you can’t underestimate the power of the online world. 

From students attending all their lectures online, virtual tours and fashion shows which took place with virtual audiences, the impact of Covid-19 led many to look to the virtual world for experiences which could no longer take place in person. 

Now, 2022 users are comfortable with attending events virtually, and brands and marketing agencies have the opportunity to experiment with embracing these attitudes to create exciting marketing campaigns – and taking it further with immersive experiences

While classic VR experiences might require tech that not all consumers own, AR is a far more accessible form of virtual reality marketing, given that it requires little more than a smartphone or augmented reality app

So what does it look like? AR tech can allow users to trial products virtually, to participate in immersive gamified campaigns, to share entertaining branded content… There are many paths for these virtual campaigns to take, but they all have one thing in common: they alter the real world in ways that enhance the branded experience for users.

VR marketing examples

Implementing a VR marketing campaign means deciding which style of campaign you want to create. 

Whether that means creating a filter to showcase your products in users’ homes, or fashioning entirely new, branded, worlds, virtual reality isn’t constrained by real world rules. 

With that in mind, here are 8 VR case studies to inspire your marketing strategy:

Fanbytes | McDonalds Virtual Reality

1. McDonalds - Happy Meal Box

How do you offer your customers a full VR experience when you can’t know for sure if they have the headsets? You give them a way to make them, of course. 

At least, that’s what McDonald’s did. 

Now most companies who are experimenting with VR marketing on a larger scale opt for AR campaigns, but the fast food brand’s VR offering hit headlines, and for good reason. They released a limited run of special Happy Meal Boxes, which could be folded to make a rudimentary headset, through which customers could play a special game. 

The program was called Happy Goggles, and around 3500 headsets were initially released across Sweden. 

By giving consumers a way to craft the headsets themselves, McDonald’s succeeded in not only gamifying their campaign, but gamifying the route *into* the campaign too. It gave users something to be involved with, and something unique to share with one another. 

Which is a great idea, since interactive content is largely considered the best way to grab – and keep – consumers’ fleeting attention.

@ellesseofficial Ready, set, DANCE. Do you have what it takes to dance with Zara Larsson on stage? Learn the dance and post your video for the chance to be featured alongside her! #BeBold #ellesse ♬ Right Here - Zara Larsson

2. Ellesse - Shoppable Concert

It sounds almost too futuristic to have already happened, but that’s AR marketing for you: in October 2021, Ellesse became the first brand to debut its latest collection via a shoppable real-life concert. 

Swedish singer Zara Larsson is the face of the Italian apparel brand, and fans were able to bask in the sounds of her latest album via a history-making campaign: TikTok’s first-ever shoppable live stream. TikTok users tuning in could shop products based on the outfits seen onstage at the real-life concert, while TikTok influencers featured behind the singer as the concert display.

AR was a key part of this campaign. Fanbytes worked with TikTok influencers to create slick dance moves and style Ellesse products to reflect their personalities. To create a unified aesthetic, the influencers used a TikTok branded effect (a type of AR video filter). This filter was made widely available to TikTok users.

After this, we created a TikTok top-view ad using the influencer videos. This went live before the concert, and asked TikTokers to create their own video using the dance routine, branded effect and hashtag #BeBold, for the chance to feature at the live concert.

As well as over 1.8 million influencer views, the challenge secured a further 4.8 billion views. By celebrating individuals and using a stylish filter, we jump-started user-generated content. TikTokers wanted to join in – and AR made it easy to look good. 

3. L’Oreal - Makeup Genius

L’Oreal’s Makeup Genius is an example of a virtual try-on service, which is becoming more and more popular with beauty brands. (Sephora has one too, for example.) 

These services allow consumers to try out products in the virtual world before they buy them – using the users’ cameras to show the effect of certain products or looks. 

During the pandemic, these kinds of apps meant that users could still experiment with products without the concern of cross-contamination through product samples in stores. 

L’Oreal’s Makeup Genius is available both on desktop and mobile, meaning the experience is accessible to most consumers, and it offers personalised recommendations to users as they experiment. 

That personalisation has made it extremely popular. 91% of consumers report preferring brands who offer them personal recommendations – and Makeup Genius has been downloaded over 20 million times. 

VR marketing allows brands to capitalise on consumers’ preference for personalised experiences in a time-effective, fun way.

4. Boursin - The Sensorium

Despite being a familiar name to many UK customers, Bel UK (the owners of Boursin) found that awareness of the soft cheese brand’s flavours and formats was relatively low. Their solution? Virtual reality, bespoke CGI animation and live product sampling, of course.

Boursin created a roadshow with a difference: a run-of-the-mill experience wasn’t likely to help them stand out, so they created the sensorium: a live multi-sensory experience with virtual reality and a bespoke 360-degree CGI film to immerse consumers, who found themselves flying through the inside of a fridge.

The sensorium required customers to wear Oculus Rift VR headsets, and featured a sound track, moving chairs, cool air, scented fans and – naturally – Boursin product samples. 

The VR experience launched at Westfield Shopping Centre in London, before visiting a series of county shows and food festivals. Reactions of every participant reaction in the VR experience were filmed in short clips for easy sharing on social media, with the hashtag #BoursinSensorium. The activity was supported by influencers, who also encouraged the public to take photos inside a special photo booth that looked like the inside of a fridge.

The result? Two months after the event, 98% of participants accurately recalled the experience. 62% felt they’d learnt new things about Boursin, and 74% said it made them more likely to choose the brand in the future.

5. Ray-Ban - Game On

With TikTok getting more traffic than Google, a strong TikTok presence is at the top of brands’ wishlists. In particular, brands ask us how they can stand out. The nature of TikTok means an original marketing strategy – one that really understands the platform and its userbase – means that’s possible for any brand. But TikTok is also a platform known for “firsts”. And for brands willing to go big, they can make headlines.

An example of this is Ray-Ban, who were the first brand in Europe to launch a Gamified Branded Effect campaign on TikTok. This was the latest in TikTok’s portfolio of augmented reality tools, and featured an interactive element: called “Game On”, the AR resembled a pinball game, and users could play by moving their eyebrows. 

Naturally, the AR effect also included a range of Ray-Ban sunglasses that would seemingly appear over the user’s eyes.

According to TikTok, Gamified Branded Effects were spurred by a huge demand from advertisers wanting to go beyond what’s normally possible. Brands can develop a plethora of different game styles, using facial expressions and body movements to play.

6. Adidas - Delicatessen

Adidas’ Delicatessen campaign is where extreme sports meets frontier tech. Named after the ‘Delicatessen’ route in Punta Du Corbi, Corsica (known amongst climbers as “one of the most difficult multi-pitches in the world”), the campaign allowed the public to follow climbers Delaney Miller and Ben Rueck as they took on the challenge.

The campaign marketed Aidas’ TERREX, a line of outdoor apparel and accessories. The climbers were set up with 16 GoPros, including the Google Jump 8k resolution stereoscopic rig. Bespoke instillation zones outside Adidas retail stores in China gave customers the opportunity to immerse themselves in the mountain experience, following the climbers’ route via a VR headset – but it wasn’t just the views they could experience.

Yup, shoppers were also able to “tune in” to the sensory experience of climbing, via sensory remote controls. They could sense the “rock” under their fingers while taking in the 360-degree views as Miller and Rueck ascended.

With this VR marketing campaign, Adidas were able to allow customers to experience their products in context – literally. 

Stuart Wells, Global director of brand marketing of Adidas TERREX said “our athletes are always pushing the boundaries of what is possible … with this we’re able to introduce how exhilarating outdoor climbing can be, and help [customers] make informed choices about Adidas TERREX products.”

7. New York Times - The Displaced

This a powerful example of how VR can create a user experience that sticks in the mind. 

In 2015, the New York Times distributed a million free Google Cardboard VR headsets to their readers so that they could properly experience a VR film entitled The Displaced. The film detailed the impact of war on the 30 million children who have been driven from their homes. 

By offering the documentary through the medium of VR, the NY Times placed their readers in the very heart of the story, highlighting the experience in a way which the written word alone couldn’t have done. 

It’s a perfect example of how VR can add an entirely new angle to an experience, offering something beyond simple intrigue. 

Fanbytes | TikTok Kitchen

8. TikTok - TikTok Kitchen

Coming March 2022, TikTok Kitchen is a new initiative from the video-sharing platform most popular amongst Gen Z audiences. 

The plan? To offer “virtual restaurants” that will deliver the app’s most viral foods to delivery customers. 

From feta pasta to pasta chips, #FoodTok has sent multiple recipes viral over the past few years, and TikTok Kitchen is the brand’s way of bringing those recipes to its users in the real world – bridging the gap between what happens on-screen, and in reality.

It’s another way to have users feeling even more involved in the platform. 

Which is the whole point, according to TikTok spokesperson Elena Saavedra. She told The Verge that “[TikTok Kitchen] is a campaign to bring TikTok food to fans, not a venture into the restaurant business.”

A virtual experience with real food? Sign us up.

Is VR the future of marketing?

As these VR marketing examples prove, the term “VR marketing” can refer to a huge range of commercial advertisements and opportunities – and it has been around for a lot longer than you might think. 

Consumers of all ages, but especially those in the younger generations such as Gen Z, report preferring brands that offer personalised experiences. And, since the majority turn to social media for entertainment above all else, creating digital marketing campaigns that entertain is a surefire way to supercharge your brand awareness

It’s why big brands are successfully experimenting with virtual and augmented reality to enhance their digital offerings. 

Consider this: VR marketing is not the future, it’s already our present. If smaller brands want to get involved with VR or AR digital marketing campaigns, they can expect consumers to be well-versed in them already. 

That said, the excitement around VR marketing campaigns is still high, so there’s no better time for brands to expand their digital offerings into the virtual space.

There’s more to learn about digital campaigns and e-commerce experiences that effectively target Gen Z. Check out the links below to upgrade your marketing efforts,  be it through a vr campaign or Gen Z-ready messaging that packs a punch:

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