Virtual reality: the avatar of art, property and sport

Virtual reality is arguably one of the most creative applications of technology, writes Rachel Service, so why aren’t Aussie marketers jumping to use the software?

Last week’s Isobar Summit Series in Melbourne got marketers talking the various ways that marketers can embrace virtual reality. American Football league NFL are using the software to supplement their training for quarterbacks and the NBA are embracing the technology to bring fans closer to the action.

I asked two clients of mine for their take on the industries most likely to thrive adopting the technology.

Bastion EBA sponsorship and branding expert Jack Watts, brokers on average $30 million worth of deals for brands every year, and says the software has huge potential for arts and lifestyle brands – just as much as sporting entities.

“Arts organisations have a huge opportunity to deliver engaging virtual reality experiences in innovative ways. They can deliver a completely curated experience around their exhibition or product, from bringing to life exactly how the artwork was created, to delivering an experiential and performance based element to engage the viewer in a new and compelling way.”

The opportunities for VR are immense for brands looking to bring their experiences to life – from curated art exhibitions, tourist attractions, sporting events and even property developments.

Property expert Sarah La Roche from Undertow Media has worked with every major developer in Melbourne. She says developers are spending millions of dollars on above-the-line marketing and virtual reality is the ‘missing link’ between conversation and conversion.

“The path to purchase is incredibly complex and many developers get it wrong – investing at time of market, rather than before, during and after. The biggest opportunity is around long-term advocacy, starting at the pre, during and after purchase cycle. Consumers require three major touch points in the path to purchase and in property, virtual reality is the missing link between communicating with potential buyers and securing the sale.”

La Roche says developers often undervalue the role of peer-to-peer discussions and external validation. “We operate in a shared media landscape where peer to peer validation is hugely important, particularly around major purchases. Having access to VR brings a significant purchase to life, extending the consumer ‘validation path’.”

La Roche says property buyers are incredibly well read and researched. The more access developers can give purchases to their ‘potential investment’ – the better. “The biggest concern for property developers is a fear that consumers won’t be able to grasp the technology. Our data indicates the reverse. Consumers are incredibly tech savvy and require more and more information at their fingertips before making one of the biggest financial decisions of their lives. There’s a huge opportunity here for developers and those who overlook it risk spending marketing budgets without seeing the sales results.

“In an industry that spends millions on ATL marketing, virtual reality is more cost effective than clients often think. Putting the customer experience first secures the sale – not the other way around.”

Both Watts and La Roche suggest validated experiences, combined with earned and paid media make for a compelling marketing mix.

Watts says, “Consumers digest information through first hand and validated experiences. Brands have to put themselves in the shoes of their customers and ask themselves what an outstanding brand experience feels like. Virtual reality gets you closer to your favourite experience and brands need to widen their thinking to incorporate the technology that delivers this.”

Virtual reality gives brands the opportunity to share their perspective and deliver a higher quality product to consumers in a way that wasn’t previously possible. Allowing fans to become the avatar of their favourite artist or athlete delivers an unforgettable experience and word of mouth you can’t buy.

Rachel Service is senior account manager at That Comms Co.