winter / 2016

The magazine of branded content
The Future
is Virtual
Juliet Stott
Why content is taking on a new reality
Juliet Stott
Oct 6, 2016

Virtual Reality is set to become the content marketing medium of the future, with many calling it the ‘next frontier of branded content’. Deloitte valued the VR industry at $1bn this year, Goldman Sachs estimates that the market will be worth $80bn by 2025. The price of VR hardware is falling, and the Samsung VR Gear headset, at $100, is predicted (due to its price point, functionality and increasing availability of VR videos) to be this Christmas’ number one gift to give. VR specialist, at New York’s leading content agency Manifest, Nicholas Longano, said: “VR is a haven for content marketers. It's a way to engage an audience and immerse them in a message, like never before. If done right, and it's compelling, entertaining and serves a utility, then VR will become the most powerful advertising platform in generations.”

With brands such a Unicef, National Geographic, Marriott International, Coca-Cola, New York Times, and pop sensation Beyoncé already using VR, it’s only a matter of time before every brand incorporates some form of VR into their content strategy. Here we’ve spoken to three VR specialists who’ve shared their practical tips on how you can use it too:

1. At exhibitions or conferences:

VR is an accessible way to demonstrate products and/or services on a wider scale. VR specialists Mbryonic, in London, have been creating VR marketing materials for their clients to use in sales pitches, exhibitions or internal marketing events for several years. Mbryonic’s founding director Tom Szirtes said: “VR is a great way to start a conversation. It enables you tell stories about your product or brand in a unique way that engages your audience. If you use it at an exhibition, it can draw potential customers in and give them the wow factor. They’re going to have an amazing experience and they’re going to want to talk to you.”

2. In experiential marketing:

VR never fails to impress new audiences says Mbryonic’s Szirtes. “People using VR at the moment are benefiting from its novelty. Most people haven’t tried a headset on, but when they do [try it on] they get a big smile or scream; that’s a great reaction for a brand to associate themselves with,” he said. “We’ve seen VR being used a lot in experiential marketing pop-ups for that reason, as well as the PR angle it provides,” he said. “Due to the limited numbers of headsets in the market we’ve seen VR being mostly deployed in experiential marketing pop-ups,” said Szirtes. He cites Jaguar’s use of VR to promote its position as the ‘official car of The Wimbledon Championships’ this year, where the brand created a VR experience for tennis fans to “fly” into Centre Court and “feel” what it would be like to be the current British Champion Andy Murray, as an interesting example.

3. For driving sales:

VR should serve a purpose, says Manifest’s Nicholas Longano. “It should go beyond the ‘hello, I’m the next cool device, so go buy my brand’,” he said. “Each execution needs thought behind it, to understand the platform, the user, and the user experience with it,” Longano said. He believes Volvo's CX-90 test drive was an exemplary use of VR with utility. “Volvo allowed the user to have a cockpit view of the vehicle and a virtual test drive. It entertained, it showed off the features of the car, and it sold out their first run of orders in two days,” he said. Whether consumers are in the market for buying a car like Volvo or not, is irrelevant, says Longano because he believes VR is ‘all about discovery’. “When someone puts a headset on they will remember the experience, as the brain reacts very differently to something when it is fully immersed within it. People want to be informed – and there’s no better way to recollect information than when they put one of those headsets on,” he said.

4. To evoke emotions:

There has to be a level of authenticity to VR, says Creative Director of Imprint, Ashley Brenner. “The current fantasy/gaming style of VR has value, but is not realistic in the way consumers want a branded experience to be in real life,” she said. “Brands must be able to make a path for their consumers, and bring them through an experience or journey, and create an experience to which consumers feel emotionally connected,” said Brenner. She believes VR works when emotional cues are brought to life through a visual experience, and cites National Geographic’s 360 VR video, of the celebration of the centennial year of Yosemite National Park with President Obama, as a good example. “It was really well done, from a visually creative standpoint. National Geographic brought the reality of a physical environment, not a fantasy, to their audience. The experience had an emotional pull. It enabled the viewer to really connect with the national park and make it real [for them].”

Join our webinar at 1:30pm ET on Wednesday, October 19th, as a panel of senior leaders active in content marketing share their perspectives in a lively discussion on the of world augmented and virtual reality. For more information and to register, click here. This event is a part of Communications Week 2016. For more information and the complete calendar of events, please visit