Marketers warned to consider the 'naughty' and 'nice' elements of VR

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Christmas is just days away, and virtual reality headsets, cardboard devices and high-end HMDs are lying silently under layers of wrapping paper in many homes across the world, waiting for the shrieks of excitement on the 25th. 

With this wave of first-time VR owners comes a wealth of opportunities for many sectors; in particular for marketing. 

That's why the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) has issued guidance for marketers on the 'naughty' and 'nice aspects of smart devices being given as presents. 

For virtual reality in particular, the Institute says that there's a great opportunity for marketers to interact wtih consumers, allowing them to experience a brand in a unique sort of way. It uses the example of John Lewis tying its Christmas advert to a 360 experience in-store; but also has some warnings for companies wanting to use VR 'for the sake of it'.

"Just because the technology is available, it doesn’t mean marketers should rush to implement it without fully considering how it can be used," according to the CIM.

"VR is an expensive technology to use and so marketers need to establish how valuable it is for their brand and whether using it will add value to the bottom line. Essentially, is virtual reality an appropriate way to engage your customers, or are you just jumping on the bandwagon?"

This is particularly important for marketers, and for the VR industry as a whole. Is the tech really right for your brand, or are you simply wasting time and money on an activity that's not going to bring you much return - and spoil people's perception of virtual reality?

Does it fit my brand?

There are a few ways to consider whether it's a good fit. Firstly, does it bring something new to your brand that customers would never have experienced before? One example of this would be Thomas Cook's use of VR in-store to show people destinations before they visit. This has proved to be very successful for them as the power of VR to transport people to different destinations has been well researched and documented. 

VR can work well for many brands - for example, a food company might use it to transport people to their farms or beautiful places where they store food, thus enhancing the experience and feeling of connectivity for customers - but only if done well. 

Have I got the budget?

So the second question to ask is: Do I have the budget to make this look good, and not just look good but to be an overall immersive, positive experience?

Bad graphics, laggy experiences or poor content can leave lots of people, especially VR/360 video first-timers, put off by the technology - and your brand.

You wouldn't write a poorly worded blog post or a wobbly, grainy video filmed on a smartphone (we hope) so don't push out VR content that's not right either.

Do I have the right audience?

The third question to ask is whether many of your customers are likely to have the budget for or interest in a VR headset. 

If you are, for example, a pensions firm that caters for an older generation who is neither interested in nor has access to an Oculus Rift, for example, then you simply shouldn't do it. 

But if you are a VFX company who wants to attract gaming developers, likely to own and have budget for a HMD, then go right ahead. 

The above advice comes from VRTech itself, but we definitely agree with the CIM about considering both the positives and negatives of forthcoming technology this Christmas. 

It's added health apps and devices, as well as smart watches into the tech mix, but we think that virtual reality is going to be something very much to the forefront of many marketers' minds as the new tech rolls out more and more over the coming year. 

Remember, you don't always have to create VR experiences, either - you can be part of the ad experiences instead. 

Maria Heckel, Marketing Director, The Chartered Institute of Marketing, said: “It’s exciting to see technology continue to provide new opportunities for marketers to engage with consumers. If people are viewing data as ‘the new oil’, smart devices are wells they can use to pull it from the ground.

"However, just as drilling for oil carries great risk, these new data sources must also be treated with caution and handled in the right way to ensure accidents don’t happen.  It’s vital for marketers to ensure that they have fully considered the use of this tech, including the potential positives and negatives, before launching into a full roll-out." 

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