• angadraghavan

Experiential marketing is the new normal

The legacy methods of Sales & Marketing need an overhaul, with users craving engaging experiences over passive communiques. This is how VR/AR can help you solve this.

The human-race has evolved to appreciate and enjoy worldly experiences. The concept of traveling for leisure (and not vocation, food et al) has been recorded as early as 2000 BC. In Ancient Rome and Egypt, spas, coastal resorts and public baths were a common attraction and were even publicised in the commons. From thereon to the middle ages, where master cartographers and explorers from Megasthenes to Xuanzang, and Ibn Battuta to Marco Polo, travelled the world and lived to tell tales of their varied experiences – humankind has come far in its curiosity-fueled search for the next big thing.

Cinemas and concert halls, amusement-parks and off-beat getaways, the modern homosapien yearns to “buy experiences, and not things.

Social psychologists at Cornell conducted a study to comprehend this very aspect of human behaviour as to why we humans lean towards spending more on an experience than on materialistic effects.

Interestingly, their research findings reveal that experiences brings people more happiness than possessions. Basically, we value an experience more because the anticipation of what’s to come in an “experiential buy” is far more than in a “materialistic buy”, ergo the feel-good “hit” starts accumulating a little earlier.

Kumar et al (Psychological Science | The Atlantic)

In the words of Amit Kumar, one of the researchers on that Cornell paper, "You can think about waiting for a delicious meal at a nice restaurant or looking forward to a vacation…and how different that feels from waiting for, say, your pre-ordered iPhone to arrive. Or when the two-day shipping on Amazon Prime doesn’t seem fast enough.”

So, folks, the pursuit of happiness is truly the mantra of life!

This brings us to closer to understanding the new talk of the marketer’s town - Experiential Marketing. Essentially, it is a marketing activity that empowers brands big and small, to show rather than just speak about that brand’s products or services. The little psychological truth proven by the above study - that experiences make people happy, hence they are willing to spend on it - is exactly the focal point of this concept.

The idea here is to inform, entertain and stir a genuinely impactful feeling among people who are then liable to connect those feelings with that brand. By immersing people in a fun-filled memorable experience, it makes it easier for brands to cement what it wants its audience to believe in.

But how do brands capitalise on experiential marketing?

Enter immersive technologies - Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)!

In a nutshell, VR places people in an alternate reality, where AR overlays digital elements on the real world. Both enable people to interact with virtual objects, and when implemented correctly, have the power to fool the human brain into forgetting that said objects are in fact, virtual.

For brands, the benefit of using VR/AR for experiential marketing is obvious — by immersing them in worlds built around their brand, they can directly connect with their customers through experiences they’ll carry with them far longer than any brochure, pamphlet or TV ad.

Now, this ability to draw a person in and keep them engaged, make VR/AR powerful tools of communication, forging stronger connections between a brand’s offering and its customers.

How do we incorporate VR and AR for building Experiential Marketing campaigns?

There’s more than a few ways in which immersive media can be used to your advantage, and largely speaking, the key to deciding this is like any other marketing strategy that you would choose – identify your business goals, figure out your marketing goals, understand what your customers want, and how you can differentiate yourself from your customers. To be a bit more mainstream – stick to the gospel of the 7 Ps of marketing (Product, Price, Promotion, Place, People, Process and Physical Evidence), and you can’t go too wrong!

Product explainers in VR and AR

Immersive technologies allow you to create an entire virtual world customised around your brand and present your products or services in a manner that truly drives home the point. We’ve already established that today’s consumer likes to wooed, to be entertained so to speak, before they decide to make that crucial buying-decision. While we’ll jump to entertainment aspect a little further down this article; there is no denying that the key to capturing your customers’ (limited) attention-span is to put your product’s USP front and center, while giving them an experience that they will want to talk about.

No longer do your customers remain passive listeners, involve them in the experience and make them active participants in the experience. Let them explore, and indeed, break down your product in ways that would otherwise be impossible in the real world.

Here’s how we helped IFB build an experiential marketing campaign around their entire home appliances range, creating a host of interactive applications that sought to bridge the gap between people and product via a VR medium.

But, that’s not all. Google’s ARCore (Android) and Apple’s ARKit (iOS) are gaining increasingly more fidelity with each new version update. Consequently, photo-realistic AR applications for phones and tablets are far more common. Importing seemingly life-like, holographic models into the real world has never been more achievable, and companies with consumer-products have a real opportunity to impress the virtual shopper like never before. It is conceivable, nay, almost imperative we would assert, for brands to allow their prospective customers to “trial” products in AR in order to coax them towards the right buying decision.

At IFA 2018, we helped BSH design an AR walkthrough for new, innovative smart-garden product they had called SmartGrow. Have a look for yourself, and know that the art of the possible is stretching the boundaries a little further each day!

Gamification in VR and AR

All that talk about experiential marketing – nowhere does the essence permeate stronger than in engaging customers with an actual game, built around your product. Now, the feel-good factor onset by gaming, powered by an endorphin-rush, is a well-documented theory postulated by scientists, far more experienced at neuroscience than us! Indeed, with games these days catering ever-broader interest, a 2017 report estimated that there were about 2.2 Billion active-gamers worldwide. As any marketing professional would understand, this is a target-group, that by sheer volume, demands to be taken seriously.

Without delving too deep into how immersive technologies stand poised to disrupt the gaming industry (looking at you, Half-Life: Alyx!), what we can state without any reservations is that a VR/AR game built and customized for your product is a definite force-multiplier for your marketing goals.

At AutoVRse, we helped Gojek make a statement about their entry into India as a premium recruiter of tech-talent, by designing an immersive VR FPS game. It was designed, specifically keeping two issues in mind:

  1. While the product-placement of the Gojek’s various offerings/brands shouldn’t be overt, thus breaking potentially breaking immersion, it had to generate positive recall-value with the User, after they’ve played the game,

  2. It needed to be fun, exciting, and memorable - ergo, sincerely design a game first, and then add the product subliminally.

Go ahead and take a look at this video of a playthrough of the game – hopefully, what we’ve tried to implement speaks for itself!

AR Filters for Social Media, 3D Configurators on the Web

Indeed, in an era which is defined by its connection with social media, where entire companies can now subsist off the back of Instagram or Facebook content, where do we see immersive technology stepping in? The narcissist in you may point to the front-camera, and you wouldn’t be too far off the mark!

In truth, the last couple of years have seen a steady progress on the part of Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram et al. in introducing AR as an interactive, engaging tool for their users to experiment, and run wild with. Indeed, the technology behind this is quite fascinating, and we’d encourage you give it read sometime!

Go ahead and scan this snap-code here (using your Snapchat mobile app) and see how we helped TVS Motors create viral marketing campaign using their NTorq bike, and a promotional product tie-in with the Bumblebee (2018).

Another way in which 3D is set to fundamentally alter a customer's journey on your digital real-estate, is via the introduction of web configurators. You've seen them on few websites, we are sure, offering simple alterations such as colour palettes and tones, but with each passing day we are seeing developers create awe-inspiring 3D content, consumed through your regular web-browser!

Unlike traditional configurators that showcase only limited, static views of the product, 3D configurators enable your customer to study the product from every direction, allowing them to truly appreciate it in finer detail. With dynamic animations, and some subtle interactions, it is possible to bring your product to life and delight your user.

This here, is a short demo we created for one Coach's nice totes. Have a look, and notice how an accurate, photo-realistic render can be achieved even with minimal processing and bandwidth overheads.

In short, what we can see is a definite zeitgeist in marketing wherein, at the risk of sounding a bit Churchillian, it’s imperative on every marketer to “give the people what they want”. The demand for the experience of making a buy is very much out in the open – and the onus on the brands, products and companies of the era to fulfil that ask, and put their best foot forward.

Not sure about how to weave VR and AR for your organisation? Schedule a demo with us and we’ll get the conversation started.


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