The internet is no longer flat. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experiences have become incredibly engaging, entertaining, and educational for consumers. But how will VR/AR change the game for marketers — especially those who don't yet see the effects in their company's industry?
To talk us through the lay of the land, we talked to one of the prime experts in VR storytelling: Sarah Hill. Sarah is the CEO and chief storyteller at StoryUP.
In their own words, "StoryUP is a tribe of immersive journalists, developers, game designers, filmmakers, graphic artists and other digital creatives who use virtual reality storytelling to create a sense of empathy that affects change."
Sarah has a background in journalism as a news anchor and is a twelve-time mid-America Emmy award winner. Her message is all about how marketers can use this new form of content to give people new experiences, create empathy, and inspire.
For our full conversation, download this week's episode of the Marketing Cloudcast — the marketing podcast from Salesforce. If you’re not yet a subscriber, check out the Marketing Cloudcast on iTunes, Google Play Music, or Stitcher.
Take a listen here:
You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Sarah Hill.
VR stand for virtual reality, experienced through a 360° 3D video. It uses computer-generated environments that enable the viewer to observe everything around themselves, touch, and even pick up 3D objects inside a space.
Everything in the VR world can be viewed via headset, which can be as simple as the Google Cardboard device. “It’s just a cardboard box, costs about $5, and has some velcro on it. These experiences are just deployed on your smartphone,” Sarah explains.
From a marketing perspective, VR has proven to be a uniquely successful storytelling format, as consumers don't mind spending minutes or hours immersing themselves in it. Sarah says that videos done in 360 also tend to get more views. “You don’t even need a cardboard device or headset. As we know from Youtube 360° and Facebook 360°, you can view those experiences in the browser.”
Sarah first became involved with VR after learning about a volunteer program called The Honor Flight Network, which provides physical flights for veterans to visit Washington D.C. to see their memorial in person. However, about 90% of World War II veterans aren't phyically able to take that journey.
StoryUP wanted to find a solution that would enable these veterans to experience their memorial through virtual reality, and the program they came up with is called honoreverywhere.com.
“Virtual reality allows veterans the ability to travel without leaving their hospital beds or their room, and a lot of the content out on our apps right now is for people looking for that escape,” she says.
So as you're thinking about marketing-plus-VR experiences for your own company, think about the in-person experiences you want customers and prospects to have. Is it important for them to do that physically, or might VR be a less expensive (but still effective) option?
You probably already use some form of video in your marketing strategy. When comparing a 360° video with a fixed-frame video, StoryUP determined that “VR video is a stickier kind of video.” It had thousands more views, with higher rates of total length of video watched and more shares. And remember that these videos don't have to be viewed through a VR headset. Sarah is confident that “even outside the headset, this is a better way to do video.”
If you’re developing a marketing strategy with a heavy VR component, Sarah, recommends that you reach out to StoryUP or a similar company. But for those who are just curious or want to test the limits of what VR can do for your brand, she shares some really great, affordable equipment you can use in the full episode. Either way, Sarah points out, “It’s a great way for brands and marketers to stick their toe in the water of immersive content.”
For marketers working with charities, VR is an excellent way to reach a specific group of people with your message. This type of media, when viewed in a headset, has been proven to light up empathy centers in the brain.
“VR has the ability to place your audience inside that story and to have a greater sense of empathy for what that charity or foundation is experiencing,” Sarah says. Plus, VR is actually increasing donations for charities and nonprofits who've tried it.
Sarah explains that “VR isn’t about reach — it’s about depth.” If you are looking to reach millions of consumers with a quick tweet, VR might not be the right tool for you. But if you have a group of people that you would like to reach on a deeper level, VR may be the perfect tool.
Many companies and industries are starting to integrate mixed reality in their marketing with interactive websites. This gives them the ability to personalize the whole shopping experience for the customer.
Some furniture companies even allow the customer the option to add a piece of furniture to their living room. “You can be in your living room and decide where you want that couch to go and you can superimpose that couch that you saw in a store to see if it will fit,” Sarah says.
“When people talk to you in VR, when people are looking at you in the camera, it’s really like they’re talking to you and it feels like you’re having this solitary experience with somebody on the other side of the screen. It does something to your brain to trick you into thinking it’s real,” Sarah says.
Tons of possibilities for marketers here. And that’s just scratching the surface of our conversation with Sarah Hill (@SarahMidMO). Get the complete scoop on the latest immersive content experiences you can create through virtual reality in this episode of the Marketing Cloudcast.
New to podcast subscriptions in iTunes? Search for “Marketing Cloudcast” in the iTunes Store and hit Subscribe, as shown below.
Tweet @youngheike with marketing questions or topics you’d like to see covered next on the Marketing Cloudcast.