Immersive video is unarguably the next best thing to seeing a product in person, and that’s too good for brands to pass up.
The medium isn’t exactly new, with early forms of VR dating back to the 1950s, but what is new is the extent to which consumers are willing to explore it.
One poll cited by eMarketer found that 64% of smartphone owners would like to use VR to “see items in real size and form” when they shop online, while 57% like the sound of internet tech support that features “all-angle view.”
VR for watching sports, mobile games with 360-degree views, even a virtual reality dating service were all of interest to the survey’s global respondents.
We’ve seen brands experiment with immersive video of various kinds before.
A few years ago, Häagen-Dazs invited customers to watch a classical concert on their ice cream containers with an augmented reality mobile app.
Dos Equis, meanwhile, created a brand experience that allowed viewers to go inside a Halloween masquerade ball using 360-degree video.
Mercedes-Benz USA is the latest to launch an immersive video experience, this one taking viewers to the mountains of Colorado.
The video, which features both the Mercedes-Benz 2017 GLS and Loki the Wolfdog, is part content marketing, part social influencer campaign (Loki is an Instagram star).
It has also been integrated into MBUSA’s ongoing #MBPhotoPass campaign, which uses influencers to showcase the company’s vehicles in the wild.
According to Mark Aikman, general manager, Marketing Services for Mercedes-Benz USA:
The Loki MB Photo Pass was our first execution of Virtual Reality in the United State. It takes storytelling to the next level, allowing the viewer to immerse themselves in the experience and feel as if they have control over the story.
Aikman adds, “You will definitely see more VR from MBUSA in the future.”
A handful of other auto brands have begun to take immersive video seriously, MINI USA among them.
Last fall the automaker released two 360-degree brand films that are available to consumers on YouTube as well as the MINI site, where viewers can request a free cardboard VR viewer.
To further extend the films’ reach, MINI also made them accessible through the recently introduced virtual reality app from The New York Times.
What’s in it for consumers?
These examples aside, immersive video experiences are still relatively hard to come by.
Their novelty is appealing. Just 11% of online adults have tried VR to date, though 30 percent are eager to.
This creates an opportunity for brands to become consumers’ first VR or augmented reality experience.
With the ability of this technology to deliver intense and exciting content, brands stand to deepen their connection with the consumers they hope to convert into customers.
Viewers are also inclined to associate them with technological innovation, which for auto brands like Mercedes-Benz and MINI is a major benefit indeed.
But what about Häagen-Dazs – or General Mills? The latter is currently offering an augmented reality experience on its cereal boxes through a partnership with the producers of the upcoming film Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
In addition to containing DC Comics comic books, the boxes allow consumers to virtually interact with Superman or Batman through an interactive game that can be viewed using visual discovery mobile app Blippar.
In cases like this, employing immersive video is about delivering added value. Companies invest in entertainment in the form of films and web series to encourage engagement and keep brands top of mind.
With 360-degree video and augmented reality, they can get people talking and boost positive brand sentiment. If the experience is tied to product packaging, they’ll boost sales, too.
We can expect to see more brands experiment with immersive video in all of its formats in the months to come – and not just for the sake of entertainment.
Look for companies to use 360-degree video to highlight their products, as MBUSA does with its Loki video, and take potential customers behind the scenes to factories, race tracks, and runway shows where they can experience product performance and craftsmanship up close.
Immersive video is unarguably the next best thing to seeing a product in person – and that’s too good for brands to pass up.
In other words, digital marketing is about to get real.