How to Leverage the VR (& AR) Hype

person kneeling inside building

You would have seen in top digital trends that VR & AR is one of the biggest digital marketing opportunities. Well forget it! For most businesses, VR & AR is just hype. I'll outline below what are the use cases for VR & AR, but all these uses are relatively limited in terms of reach. For any marketing tactic, reach is one of the top success factors. If you're spending around £50K developing a VR/AR experience, but you're only reaching 1,000 people at an event for example. 

Again, it's dependent on the business and the value of the product. That example may be worthwhile if event attendees are qualified high net worth individuals and you're selling high end property. But in most cases and most businesses, your conversion funnel will be quite steep, as in you'll need to be reaching a significantly high number of potential customers in order to convert them. Also, it's the opportunity cost that should be considered - how many potential customers and potential conversions could you have achieved, spending that money elsewhere. Unfortunately, marketeers are seduced by their agencies and a drive to stand out among their peers, and end up spending budgets on frivolous activities such as inappropriate VR/AR campaigns.

However, VR/AR can be beneficial when it's used in the right way. Further down, there's a run down of the ideal use cases and examples of some companies that have implemented them. To start with, we'll start with what is Virtual Reality and how it differs to Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality.

What is Virtual Reality Vs Augmented Reality Vs Mixed Reality

girl wearing VR goggle

Virtual reality is the computer generated simulation of a three dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.

Differentiating Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality
Augmented Reality
Mixed Reality
Virtual Reality (VR), which can be referred to as immersive multimedia or computer simulated reality replicated an environment that simulates a physical presence in places in the real world or an imagined world, allowing the user to interact in that world.
Augment Reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical real world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer generated sensory input such as sound, video graphics or GPS data.
Mixed Reality (MR) sometimes referred to as hybrid reality – is the merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualisations where physical and digital object co-exist and interact in real time.
Use Case
Immersion in a fully virtual world.
Visual overly in a physical environment.
Interact with visual overlay in a physical environment.
Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift, et
Snapchat Face Swap, Blippar
Microsoft HoloLens, MagicLeap

Top VR Use Cases

1) Experiential Marketing - Deploying VR content that offers a virtual experience of a product or service to prospective customers. 

Brand example - Volvo XC90 Los Angeles Auto Show launch. The Volvo team had to find a way to fuel interest in its not yet released XC90. Although the car wouldn't be available until the following spring, Volvo wanted to demonstrate its design and capabilities. The company teamed up with R/GA and Framestore to design an interactive experience using Google Cardboard. After downloading the Volvo Reality app, users cold slide thier smartphone into the Cardboard headset to look round the inside of the car and take virtual test drive. 

2) Education Marketing - Leveraging 3D virtual classrooms or laboratories to provide remote education and academic learning at scale.

Brand example - London Science museum hired Alchemy VR to produce a 3D trip on the Soyez from the International Space Station. The virtual reality app developers have created experiences that are lectures overlaying an immersive scene giving users not just a view or point of view but an entire trip into the subject matter. Alchemy has produced content for Google Expeditions and also works with other museums like the Australian Museum in Sydney.

3) Training - 3D virtual environments, such as manufacturing facilities, to remotely provide interactive job training at scale.

Brand example - Mercedes-Benz in association with Skills2Learn and City & Guilds developed a Vehicle Fault Finding interactive virtual reality scenario designed to test student’s vehicle fault finding skills. They developed a 3D modelled environment including Mercedes Benz car, which allowed the students to inspect, identify and repair components. This form of scenario allows real-life situations to be re-created without the physical limitations.

4) Entertainment - Delivering immersive entertainment experiences ranging from gaming to live converts and sports.

Brand example - Startup NextVR is preparing to stream the 2018-2019 NBA season across all platforms. NextVR’s focus is on live capture and streaming content in 3D, and the startup’s partnership with the NBA has offered basketball fans in VR courtside seats at games for the last couple years. NextVR’s capture and streaming technology is generally some of the best we’ve seen and executives showed a major upgrade in demos at CES in January which premiered during the NBA Finals in May. The NextVR app is now also available on every major VR platform, so if you’re an NBA fan and — particularly those with an NBA League Pass — NextVR is offering a number of reasons to think about watching games in a headset this year.

5) Service Supplement - Integrating virtual reality technology to amplify or enable a 3D product or service.

Brand example - MarriottVirtual Travel program. Marriott partnered with Relevant, a creative experiences agency, to develop a VR installation that travelled to eight US cities allowing users to instantly be transported to a virtual version of a Marriott. Users could ‘warp’ to Wai’anapana Beach in Maui or to the top of Tower 42 in the heart of London. The experiences were amplified for users with ‘4D’ sensory elements (hear, wind, shaking floors, etc) . To date, the Virtual Travel program has garnered over 1 billion media and social media impressions, worth tens of millions of ad dollars – landing the ‘Travel Brilliantly’ message and positioning Marriott as the innovation pioneer of the industry. 

6) Therapy - Immersive experience to help recover and managed illness and disorders

Brand example Cedars-Sinai, an early adopter of VR technology for healthcare, has partnered with a Los Angeles technology provider to develop VR-based therapeutic solutions for the hospital’s patients. The project focus is on helping patients who suffer from anxiety disorders, and those who need assistance with pain management. In one study, patients reported a 24% drop in pain scores after using the therapy.

VR Considerations

girl using VR goggles

A few considerations to note in the use of VR in marketing.


  • 'Danger factor' regarding real environment: consumers are still developing a sense of when and where VR is appropriate.
  • 80 degree rotation for every 90 degree head movement: can be distorting and make virtual environments difficult to navigate
  • Perception of reality: while virtual reality is indeed immersive, it isn't entirely 'real' due to the fact that users generally are not able to see their hands. However, there are providers working on this technology to bridge the gap, like HTC
  • Peripheral vision (or lack of) can cause nausea and be disorientating to the viewer. Increasing frame rate speeds and smoothness are helping to alleviate this.
  • 360 degree visual field Vs 360 degree sound quality can also be disorientating to users due to the disconnect between visual and audio sensory. High quality VR content is addressing this challenge by capturing sound in 360.
  • Lens focus - perceived depth of landscape compared to actual screen distance can cause users experience nausea.
Market Adoption
  • Goldman Sachs predicts the VR hardware market to be $110B in 10 years (TV, $99B)
  • Platform - content quite often needs to be tailored to a specific technology/platform/headset, which limits the potential reach and type of customer you're reaching. Google Cardboard is a popular format as its relatively cheap, and has even been used in Direct Mail formats.
  • Safety - Children under 13 are not recommended to use 'sitting down'.
  • Social Acceptability - Augmented reality glasses/headsets like Snapchat sunglasses, concerns on gaining social acceptability and there are also privacy concerns as well.
  • Production - there are different considerations and providers of VR consumption devices, VR creation/capture, and VR content distribution.

In summary, VR shouldn't be used to try and claim your company/brand is driving 'innovation', as ultimately it won't reach a significant audience. However, if it's used in the right way to drive deeper engagement (usually for a more premium product), then the cost can be justified and add real value.

Written by Jag Singh, Managing Director of  - no nonsense marketing to grow your business.


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