Virtual Reality & Marketing: Lessons Learned

Image result for virtual reality cartoon

I’m a huge proponent of the power of video for marketing, especially B2B.  It has the power to transport prospects seamlessly, explain complicated concepts simply and introduce information in an engaging way.  Virtual realty (or VR) takes this to another level.

HIMSS is the quintessential healthcare technology conference held in spring each year.  My company supports over 500 healthcare organizations globally, so it was a clear spot for us to have a booth and host meetings.  This year we debuted our virtual reality experience for HIMSS attendees, showcasing our Network Control Center, our Ashburn data center and taking guests on a journey through the internet itself.

Given that VR is a new conversation for most of us in B2B marketing, I thought I would share some of the lessons I learned going through the process of developing and launching our experience.

1. Define the problem you’re looking to solve upfront

When we decided to explore a VR strategy, it was in response to two very real challenges we were facing as marketers.

First, we provide fiber routes and data centers around the world.  You can tour our data centers, but you have to travel to see them.  You can understand a fiber route, but you would never dig up a line to look at it.  How do I sell products I can’t show?

My team is responsible for planning and executing over 100 events per year, ranging from small 20-person sports suites to 40,000 person conferences.  How do we create consistent messaging and experiences across all our events, regardless of format?

The answer to both of these issues for us was video.  But no one is going to stop watching a football game to watch a sales video.  If we could make it engaging and unique, we would be able to solve both problems while ensuring our events remained fun.  That’s where VR came in.  From there, we had a very clear parameter within which to build a script and storyboard.

2. Watch Your Runtime

Like any good video, runtime is critical for VR.  If you’re planning to use it as part of an events strategy, I recommend creating two versions.  The first version for smaller, less fast-passed events should run less than 3.5 minutes.  We’re assuming someone will sit down and enjoy the experience for about the same amount of time they will watch a YouTube video.

The second version should run less than 1.5 minutes.  This is for your tradeshow booths, kiosks and other environment where people are on the move.  The VR experience is a draw, but it has to fit into your 5 minute booth flow.  Keep that in mind when you’re writing the script in the first place.  How could you re-edit this to be shorter if needed?

3. Invest in animation

Animation will be the difference between a boring informational video and a memorable experience.  Build this into your budget on the front end.  Lean on any videography group you use to include this in their proposal.  Then add 10% contingency to that.  Once you get into editing, you may find that you need to up the animation budget to ensure the experience stays cool and fun.  If not, great!  You’re under budget.

4. Show it on the big screen

Although we all knew VR was cool, most people at the convention had never done it before.  What’s more, they had no desire to try it until they saw someone else doing it.  When we displayed our experience on the large TV behind people’s heads, crowds gathered to watch – taking video and photos of others taking part.  I was a huge draw.  So show it off!

And now for your viewing pleasure…

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