When one thinks of an event in terms of experiential marketing, what immediately springs to mind is an enjoyable, interactive experience that results in positive feelings and emotions in the minds of consumers.
Sometimes, however, there is a requirement to connect consumers with not-so-pleasant experiences, to trigger a reaction that is needed to achieve a brand’s primary goal. An example of this is UNICEF, who needs to draw attention to the suffering of communities in order to promote awareness and raise funds.
With the day-to-day challenges faced by people living in war torn and poverty stricken areas so far removed from residents of more privileged communities, it can be difficult for organizations such as UNICEF to inspire a truly emotional connection that results in donations to the cause. Fundraising that uses traditional marketing techniques can only go so far and cannot possibly connect the public with the reality of people in need without physically taking people there.
This is where virtual reality (VR) comes into play. As the next best thing to actually ‘being there’, virtual reality technology uses VR goggles combined with video to show users a unique point-of-view experience. Using this technology, UNICEF has been able to take potential donors to the scene, and immerse them in the harsh realities faced by those in need of assistance – triggering an emotional reaction that is far more successful in raising funds.
An immersive brand experience that uses VR technology has the ability to transport people into situations they would otherwise not be able to experience, deepening their understanding and sympathy in a way that still images alone cannot accomplish. For UNICEF, it means being able to demonstrate exactly what the circumstances of the people they help are – without actually taking prospective donors into the field.
Thanks to VR technology, viewers are able to walk in the shoes of one of the people UNICEF is trying to help, representative of many other people in similar situations. An eight-minute video called “Clouds Over Sidra” (that captures a normal daily experience of a 12-year-old Syrian refugee) combined with VR technology allows a perspective that encourages an emotional reaction. It may not be pleasant, but it’s the type of reaction necessary to encourage the public to support the UNICEF cause.
While UNICEF has pioneered the use of VR in experiential marketing with “Clouds Over Sidra”, it has applications in many other industries. Experiential marketing that uses VR to create an immersive brand experience has enormous potential for situations where the product being marketed focuses more on an experience than on a physical product.
Imagine being able to share a 5-star hotel experience with potential guests, without them leaving the comfort of the travel agent’s office. Or allowing car enthusiasts at a trade show to test drive the latest luxury model – without the physical complications and potential dangers involved. As VR technology improves and advances, it is becoming more accessible as a marketing tool with enormous possibilities to enhance the brand experience and create better engagement with the target audience.