10 Virtual Reality
apps from brands
Brands have taken to virtual reality like fish to water. Virtual reality apps have the potential to create immersive brand experiences. A brief overview of virtual reality apps and what it means for brands.
Volvo was perhaps the first automobile brand to use the virtual reality medium as a serious marketing tool, around two years ago. To generate buzz for the launch of its XC90 SUV, Volvo launched a VR app - Volvo Reality, on Android. It made clever use of the medium to give the users a feeling of being in the driver’s seat, with a complete 360-degree view.
One of the elements contributing to the novelty factor of VR apps is that they offer a chance for the viewer to be in the centre of action. Last year, Hyundai Motor offered a new virtual reality application, Hyundai VR+, giving smartphone users a chance to experience the speed and thrill of being a part of the World Rally Championship. Fans could enjoy the experience of co-driving the Hyundai i20 WRC using a cardboard or any commercial VR device.
News brands are constantly seeking to engage viewers in digital media, especially in markets where traditional print has taken a beating. The powerful combination of audio-visual impact and an always-on personal mobile device makes VR a relevant tool for such brands. Last November, The New York Times delivered one million Google Cardboard viewers to its subscribers marking a milestone for virtual reality journalism. The average time spent with the NYT VR app is close to 15 minutes – an engagement metric many marketers would kill for.
Forget 3D, even the humble 2D cinema sometimes transports us into a world of make-believe, which we find thrilling. Can VR and movies be far behind? Back in 2012, Sundance was one of the first film festivals to feature VR content named, Hunger in Los Angeles. This year it went a step further to take the VR content to its audience through its Sundance VR app. The mobile app allows viewers from any place in the world to enjoy some of the most compelling stories created by independent story makers. Even though the content is a little sparse, it’s likely to grow with time. Last year, the movie Insidious had a VR app and this year Conjuring 2 from Warner Bros has some VR content in their promos.
The oldest player in streaming service, Rhapsody, has launched a VR music app on iOS and Android to bring audiences up, close and personal with live music performances. With the help of this app, listeners can share the stage with their favourite musician. It’s only a matter of time before we would be able to witness a rise in such apps. But, for now Rhapsody has definitely got the first-mover advantage.
For Discovery Channel, which has no dearth of exciting videos, it was a no brainer to enter VR space with its Discovery VR app for smartphones. At present the videos are mainly 360-degree but soon, as promised by the channel, every show would have a VR series.
After the announcement of Daydream, Google’s platform for high-quality mobile virtual reality, at the recently held Google I/O event, YouTube is going a step further in providing a truly immersive video experience with its VR app. To cater to the growing demand of quality content in VR, the YouTube VR app can play new video and audio formats like 360-degree videos, VR videos and Spatial Audio. In addition to that YouTube has even partnered with NBA, BuzzFeed and Tastemade to explore new ways of storytelling in virtual environments.
This year the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was not just limited to those present at the venue. The organizers went a step further to include fans from all over the world with their first virtual reality experience. They also sent out a complimentary custom Google Cardboard headset along with the tickets to all their attendees. The headsets were used to promote their new Coachella VR app. The app has a great collection of behind-the- scenes VR content built around the Coachella experience and performances of top artists for a mind blowing virtual reality experience even from the comfort of your living room.
Not long ago, GoPro launched Go Pro Omni to capture 360-degree videos and Odyssey for creating virtual reality content. Soon the company followed up with a VR app for mobile, thus creating a well-developed VR ecosystem built around its products. As a result, the GoPro VR app is going to be far ahead in the race with “original content” posted by company-sponsored athletes, users and the company itself.
The NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers are the first team to build VR technology into their official mobile app. Budweiser gave away cardboard VR headsets recently at a playoff game in Cleveland. The bonus: the cardboard headset doubles up as a handy beer carrying case.
The potential of VR is for all to see. Domains like news, advertising, tourism, e-commerce and gaming would be the first one to reap the benefits of VR. But it doesn’t mean all brands should jump into the virtual reality bandwagon right away. The novelty value of VR headsets and content is still high – so any VR content is likely to be lapped up.
However, over time the novelty factor will wear off and only the truly engaging, relevant content, which makes good use of features offered by VR, will rise up. That has an implication for brands contemplating a VR content-driven mobile app. Just as with a regular mobile app, you need to ask yourselves: (a) does your brand really need such an app? (b) what compelling reasons are you offering the consumer to download and use the app repeatedly?
Ultimately, it’s important for the brands to remember that virtual reality isn’t a magic potion to increase brand engagement. It is simply just another platform where consumers can potentially engage but only if they get something of value in return – be it entertainment or education.