Virtual reality has come along way, developing from devices like the ‘Sensorama’ in 1957, all the way to the advanced Oculus Rift of today. Because of the development of this highly specialised and integrated area of technology, marketing strategies and even marketing itself needs to develop right alongside it, or risk getting left behind. Marketing has already taken huge leaps forward in platforms involving Social Media, but there is, or there soon will be, a huge opportunity to expand into this new hugely immersive medium.
However, the integration of marketing and customers into virtual reality may not be as ideal as it sounds. Customers often get bored of adverts and promotions, and while traditionally it is possible to block them out (looking at your phone while adverts are on for example!), it’s slightly more difficult if the customer is fully immersed in a virtual world. Obviously, this technology is still in the future, and it’s unlikely that a fully interactive virtual world is going to be open for everyone particularly soon. However, Oculus headsets have just recently been made publically available in 2016, so it’s not a far stretch to say that truly immersive virtual reality will be available in the new future.
As stated, traditional marketing ideas of bombarding consumers with advertising and seeing what sticks will not work if the consumer is plugged in. More likely, consumers will be put off integrating themselves with this technology if everywhere they look they see adverts, with no escape. Because of this, adverts will have to become and visual and auditory spectacle, enticing viewers in, so that consumers want to watch. Not an easy task, especially considering the famously short attention spans of the public. No doubt branding in movies, games, and TV shows will become that much more important, because people will be more invested in these sorts of mediums than ever before. In fact, an American study found that 80% of current gamers would be interested in using virtual reality games, so a market is already available. Marketing companies can either choose to go big, through massive spectacles of advertising, or small, through subtle messages. The middle ground is, more than likely, going to fade out.
However, that’s not to say that virtual reality can’t be implemented in other ways instead, although not strictly for marketing purposes. Tesco ran a campaign which allowed people to virtually walk through a Tesco supermarket before it had been built. Red Bull ran a similar campaign which allowed people to experience what it was like to be in a high-speed flying race, while staying comfortably on the ground. Both these campaigns spread the message that big brands are expanding into the virtual market, an idea that other companies are already invested in. Microsoft, Samsung, and Facebook have already invested heavily into virtual reality (Facebook spent $2 billion buying Oculus Rift), demonstrating their commitment to this growing technology.
The age of virtual reality is almost upon us. With it will come new innovations in immersive gaming, TV and Social Media. While marketing itself will never disappear, these new innovations could make a break even the largest marketing moguls and conglomerates, and so the time is now to advance, before it’s too late.