Virtual Reality is no longer for the old science fiction films of the 70’s and 80’s. It’s here, and even though it isn’t currently a widely distributed product, this new form of communication is heavily considered to be the next bastion of the marketing world.
Personally, I am both nervous and excited for this technology. First, I am the type of person who isn’t interested in physical travel or going to other countries, sitting on planes for 12 hours, or waiting in line for security checkpoints and baggage claims. But, if I could just slap on a headset, press a button, and be exploring the pyramids of Egypt and the rain forests of the Amazon, I’d be all aboard. That type of immersion and exploration satisfies my natural curiosity while eliminating my distaste for international travel.
Second, I am an introvert, meaning I prefer to be alone for stretches of time to recharge my batteries. This trait is directly opposed to the idea of being a tourist and experiencing events and locations with large numbers of other people. VR gives you the ability to bypass this and experience all that the user wishes, while remaining comfortably at home.
Why I feel nervous? Well, it has most to do with the physical feelings that VR has been known to induce. I get motion sickness. I can barely sit in the passenger seat of a car while someone else is driving without getting a massive headache and feeling sick. People who have been early adopters of the VR technology have said that the headsets can create the same motion sickness feeling in those who are prone to it already.
Sticking with the theme of nerves, I also have a certain feeling about VR that has to do directly with the Disney Pixar movie Wall-E. If you have seen this particular film, you can remember how the future human beings are presented. They never physically move. They are waited on at all times. They are unhealthy, overweight, and have forgotten what makes them real people. They have devices that project landscapes and virtual images in front of their face to help them forget that they are on a space station. While this can definitely be seen as a gross dramatization of the world that VR can create, it is absolutely a possibility. The same reasons that I am excited for VR lead to the nerves and worries I also harbor.
But, despite this grim potential for the world as we know it, there are definitely some intriguing uses for VR that the business world can take advantage of in the years to come as this technology becomes more and more accessible and commonplace.
VR headsets are designed to completely isolate the user from the outside world. Your eyes and ears are absorbed into the virtual world, essentially transporting you out of reality. This has been something that marketing professionals have been trying to accomplish for years. The difference now? The technology has done it all for them, making their jobs much easier at presenting the message without ever having to worry about collecting audience attention spans.
Powerful and Impactful
The current state of marketing is typically focused on only one human sense. This limits the emotional impact that messages can have. It’s rare for a message to strike a chord with the audience in such a way that elicits a strong enough emotional change to actually affect the consumer’s decision making. As noted before, the VR headset gives you complete immersion. This “capturing” of the consumer forces them to hear the message across multiple sensory channels, rather than just seeing a commercial on TV or hearing one on the radio during your morning commute.
Novel and New
The “new and fresh” feel of VR is something that should absolutely be exploited from a business standpoint. Early adopters almost always make an impact on a new medium, both for good and sometimes bad. Remember Myspace? Companies pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars to advertise on the social networking giant between 2003 and 2008. What happened in 2008? Facebook. Myspace became the ugly step child while Facebook was, and still is, social networking royalty. In contrast, those who pushed strong marketing efforts to mobile phones years back were treated with rampant success as mobile usage has only grown. Being an early adopter in new technologies and platforms has benefits that a marketer should be considering.