Behind the industry’s latest buzzwords like XR and the metaverse, there’s a lot to unpack. Extended realities (XR) and its two primary formats, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), have been making waves across the marketing industry at large. With VR, users are immersed in new, virtual worlds experienced through headsets. AR, on the other hand, adds a digital layer of imagery to the real world through a smartphone or special glasses—like the selfie filters you may encounter on platforms like Instagram.
Although it’s constantly evolving, this technology is not necessarily new—and neither are the opportunities that come with it. When done right, XR can push reality beyond its limits, creating new experiences that may be artificial, yet fuel real and lasting memories. At first, XR may seem like your typical sci-fi innovation, so it’s easy to get wrapped up in the novelty. However, where the experiences truly shine lies in their emotional resonance, making them a useful component to campaigns and activations across brands and industries.
Start at the Customer Journey
Even if more and more brands are finding the value in XR, some still feel it’s exclusive to the most digitally-mature. But in reality, XR has become accessible enough for every brand to adopt it. “Oftentimes, vendors focus on the technological aspect of it all, the tools they have and all this jargon,” explains Creative Director Patricio Berrios Lobos. “This makes it harder for brands to understand the real value of XR beyond the tech gimmick. We have to focus on the value for the user.”
Experiences both big and small, complex or simple, can each deliver impact. Think about product demonstrations in VR or trying on an outfit in AR—both of which can create a perception of ownership for users as they engage. By putting them at the center of an immersive experience, XR can help build a real connection between them and a brand’s product.
When you think about the stories you can tell from the lens of immersion and the emotions you can evoke, that’s when you realize the potential of XR.
A marketer’s goal is to turn the customer decision journey into engaging moments that resonate emotionally—and XR can impact these moments by transforming consumers, their spaces and their looks into the true protagonists. Especially with AR, the cherry on top is that it amplifies the shareability of the experience, as everyone feels enticed to share those they connect with.
“When you think about the stories you can tell from the lens of immersion and the emotions you can evoke, that’s when you realize the potential of XR,” says Berrios Lobos. “There’s an important element of play and joy that gets people actively engaged with the brand in a way that video or print just can’t achieve.” These moments of play are best served as part of a bigger narrative and strategy. Don’t build XR as just a one-off experiment; rather, truly consider how it can complement the overall journey.
Inspire Action Through Emotionally Driven XR
Again, XR’s value extends across industries—and isn’t just for commercial experiences. In fact, both VR and AR have become powerful tools in education and applied learning. Extended realities can turn complex concepts into interactive experiences—and although these may be artificial, a first-hand approach to learning can profoundly change a student’s perspective on a variety of subjects.
The multi-sensory VR education program virtually launches children into space to teach them about our planet.
Not long ago, we joined forces with SpaceBuzz, a nonprofit that focuses on teaching children about the importance of protecting planet Earth. Betting on the power of applied learning and technological advancement to further encourage curiosity, we built a multi-sensory VR education program that virtually launches them into space to see our planet in all its wonder and fragility. Seeing the Earth from space themselves instead of learning through the filter of others helped kids draw their own conclusions and create their own educational narrative.
But not all applications of XR have to be an out-of-this world journey. Partnering with Olay, we created a VR experience to immerse brand ambassadors in the science behind skincare—transporting them to the surface of the skin at a cellular level. Taking an entertaining approach to an otherwise complex topic, we helped the brand educate its advocates on the different causes of unhealthy skin, and challenged them to create their own treatments by mixing Olay ingredients. The result: better understanding of the brand’s unique formula.
More individual experiences without an on-site installation, like an AR game, can also build awareness. To help promote Red Bull’s national and regional activations, we built a suite of five AR games within the brand’s app—each one rendering a virtual landscape around a real Red Bull can. Users can play the games after purchasing a Red Bull product, with a chance to win a grand prize.
Each AR game renders a virtual landscape around a real Red Bull can.
Both on-site experiences and those at easy reach on everyone’s smartphone can positively impact your brand. While the latter offers greater accessibility and reach, dedicated venues can enable more immersive, technologically-advanced activations. “When people are on site, we can build more complex experiences and have more fun overall,” explains Quentin de La Martinière, Executive Producer, Extended Realities at Media.Monks. “We tend to take more risks, because we’re there to guide them every step of the way and to make sure our message is getting across.”
Greater Adoption Means More ROI
As we move forward, the evolution of this technology will make it easier for mainstream consumers to afford and adopt. VR has benefitted in the past two years by the release of consumer-friendly headsets like the Oculus Quest, while WebAR and 5G connections offer engaging AR experiences without the need to download an app. “With WebAR being just one tap away, you don’t have to ask that much from the users,” says de La Martinière. “A mobile browser is enough to see how a pair of shoes would look on you. This idea of frictionless access to content is becoming the norm.”
With more people having XR experiences within easy reach, the potential ROI becomes more enticing for brands. But to optimize it, one thing is key: “As long as your focus is in the right place, and you know what you want to accomplish with XR, the balance will be positive,” de La Martinière explains. Add to that the technological advances, and XR ceases to be out of reach. “When done right, there’s no need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to create XR experiences for your brand.”
The possibilities are endless with XR. Regardless of what you want to accomplish with it, having a clear goal in mind is pivotal to deliver on its promise. Adopting this technology for the sake of appearing innovative is not nearly as valuable as truly leveraging the opportunities that come with AR and VR to deliver compelling, emotionally rich experiences. And, as the technology continues to grow in fidelity, so too will it grow in user base and ease of access, making it crucial for modern brands to embrace its potential to impact the customer journey through personalized, user-driven experiences.
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