We’ve always found it difficult to accept technology that we either don’t understand or can’t experience for ourselves. Three years ago the concept of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) seemed like a pipe dream. However, 2016 is the year that we will see VR and AR go mainstream and become more accessible than ever.
The AR and VR industry is growing at a rapid rate. Facebook and Instagram are already offering 360° video across their feeds. Digi-Capital are reporting that a staggering $1.1billion was invested into AR and VR technology in January and February. This becomes even more impressive when you realise that, in 2015, this industry only saw $700million worth of investment for the entire year. Thus we can likely expect massive leaps forward in the usability and expansion of AR and VR this year. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg believes that AR and VR is the next pivotal step forward within the technology industry. So is it time that brand managers start considering the possibilities for AR and VR moving forward? I think the answer is pretty straightforward.
So what is ‘AR’ and ‘VR’ and how do they differ?
IKEA has used AR for a few years now, allowing consumers to use their smartphone or tablet to see what a piece of furniture would like in a room at their home. The ability to see whether a couch or table will fit within their room takes a lot of the guess work out of choosing furniture. This use of AR was well received by customers and in turn helped to drive sales.
The biggest push in terms of VR recently has been the rise of the Samsung Gear VR Goggles. These are VR goggles that work with a Samsung Galaxy phone to immerse users into a virtual reality world of 360° images and videos. Surprisingly, the Gear VR costs only $160, and more importantly they are easy to use and overall just a really cool piece of technology.
We now wait in anticipation to see how the Oculus Rift and Microsoft Hololens respond when they launch their own VR initiative this year with higher-end models.
What are the opportunities that AR and VR present for Brand Managers and Chief Marketing Officers?
AR and VR offer a medium that goes beyond anything that currently exists in the holistic brand experience space. It will allow consumers not only to be driven by physical product, but also the emotional experience that that product gives them through the virtual world. In essence, the opportunities are endless for advertising. AR and VR can allow everyday people to experience emotional memories to accompany a brand’s physical product in many ways:
At Bastion Brands we pride ourselves on our creative thinking when solving problems and capturing opportunities. We are currently using AR and VR technology to allow healthcare professionals to witness the mode of action of certain drugs. Users will be able to see how the drug interacts within the body, thus gaining a greater understanding of the benefits provided.
Inevitably AR and VR will be part of a brands conversations this year, and it’s likely that most brands will do something with either of these reality platforms. However, in order to truly capture a share of the market, brand managers will need to think creatively and have a keen understanding of the limitations, or more notably the expansive strengths of AR and VR. 2016 is the year that AR and VR goes mainstream. Therefore, the brands that will stand out are those that use the same technology as their competition in new, different, and exciting ways to improve their customer’s experience.
I know I’m excited about the chance to change peoples realities, and brands should be equally as eager to do so, too.
Managing Director, MBA