From Gimmick to Gamechanger: How Brands Can Use VR to Captivate Audiences

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In today’s always-on world, consumers are constantly bombarded with information. On average, people see 4,000 ads per day. It’s harder than ever for brands to stand out, get noticed and be remembered – especially if they only rely on using flat 2D video.

VR has emerged as a way for advertisers, brands and online publishers to grab attention. 360° video in particular has become one of the preferred ways to drive engagement because it can be used to offer viewers a deeper experience and give them greater control over what they are looking at and how they want to watch it.

Research from MAGNA and YuMe by RhythmOne found that consumers show a strong interest in 360° videos created by brands, with the majority (69%) intending to interact with brand videos in the future. Engaged consumers also recalled the brand with +7% purchase intent increase on smartphones and +12% agreed that the brand “has a unique story to tell” compared with a traditional video ads.

A number of brands, including Greenpeace, Lonely Planet and Universal Music Group, have seized the opportunity to incorporate 360° video into their marketing strategies. These forward-thinking leaders are exploring how the medium can help their stories come to life.

We recently partnered with the agency M Booth to create a fully interactive VR/ 360° video experience for The Macallan whisky at Grand Central Station in New York. I’d like to share our learnings for creating meaningful audience connections:

Think outside the bottle

The Macallan wanted to showcase its rich Scottish heritage to a US audience living thousands of miles away. A new $186 million distillery and visitor centre presented the ideal opportunity to bring international customers closer to the brand. The Macallan knew that it could never take all its international customers to its 370-acre estate in Speyside, so it did the next best thing. It took them there in VR – using a 20-foot cube packed with six projectors.

Over the course of three days, visitors who entered the cube were immediately transported away from the hustle and bustle of New York to explore the oak forest surrounding the distillery and see the exceptional casks which characterize the famous Macallan taste. The end result was The Macallan’s US customers feeling closer to the brand’s heritage, despite being at the other side of the world.

It’s a great example of how international brands with strong local roots can share their story.

Appeal to every sense

One of the huge strengths of 360˚ is enabling viewers to look around and explore – to completely immerse themselves. If you want to make an experience feel even more real, then don’t hold back on including touch, smell and sound. The Macallan was able to do just that.  While viewers explored, they could actually smell the grass and hear the sound of running water. This multi-sensory experience made it possible to see, hear and smell the environment that contributes to the unique taste profile of The Macallan.

Put the experience in your pocket

Mobile is the route to creating an immersive experience that can be easily accessed by a global mass audience. We were able to deliver a fully integrated campaign that took The Macallan story to whisky enthusiasts around the globe – with an immersive experience that is fully viewable on mobile, online and through social media. We also brought the experience in-store – to select retailers, bars and restaurants. All in all, it’s a great example of a brand that sees immersive media as the central point in a mult-platform execution rather than a standalone experience.

Brands now recognise that VR/360 video is not a gimmick but a powerful tool for helping stories come to life. The Macallan project shows how immersive media can be a central tool rather than a fun add-on.

I look forward to seeing how brands will continue to innovate and captivate distracted and hard to reach audiences.

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