Marketing Immersive Tech: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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That’s a wrap! We finished reading Marketing New Realities for the March VR Book Club. I struggled with how to write up my review and thoughts on this book. Overall, this book is good. I enjoyed it so much I finished it in a week. However, there are some parts I wanted to call out. Nothing against the authors (I haven’t written a book on VR yet). There’s no doubt that Cathy Hackl and Samantha G. Wolfe know what they are talking about. They clearly have experience and deep knowledge in their industry. I even had the honor of “meeting” Wolfe in AltspaceVR at our last meeting. It was cool to hear her describe how Marketing New Realities came to be.

However, I read the whole book before hearing Wolfe describe it or attending a club meeting. I went in expecting a guide on how to implement marketing strategies with virtual and augmented reality. It quickly became clear that’s not what this book is. Marketing New Realities is for someone new to the VR/AR industry. If you never put on a headset or looked at AR through your phone then this book is for you. If you have, and are looking for real world guidance to immersive marketing, then not so much.

The Good

Marketing New Realities is clearly written. It avoids terminology that may confuse those new to immersive technology. I enjoyed it so much that I finished it in a week.

Virtual “Storyliving”

My friend, Marsya, wrote a post about brand journalism and passionate storytelling on her blog. In her post, she asks:

“Is it our job to make sure we tell a compelling story or is it our job to tell a sales story that will convert to ROI?”

Stevenssignature.com

This was also a question that came up in the VR Book Club discussion of Marketing New Realities. One of the attendees wondered how to convince a marketing department to try VR or AR because they had to show how it converted ROI. Marysa, Hackl and Wolfe tell us this isn’t what we should be focusing on. Instead, the purpose of immersive technology storytelling is to empower consumers to make the best decision for themselves.

Practical VR/AR Applications

Practical matters has some good sections. It starts with asking the Marketer, does your company need to create something in VR or AR? I appreciate that Hackl and Wolfe state that, “not everything needs to be in virtual or augmented reality” (82). They understand and let the readers know that VR/AR won’t magically solve their marketing problems. Traditional market research still needs to be applied when implementing immersive technology.

This chapter lists many questions a Marketer should ask themselves when building an immersive experience. Some of these questions seem to be what a Marketer would already know like, “how does this make them feel about my brand?” (84). Other questions take a common feature like “is this something I can share with friends?” and brainstorm on how someone could do that in VR (85). Today, you may not be able to share a whole virtual reality experience but you could share a video from your perspective or a snapshot at a certain point in the experience.

The Bad

Viewing VR Art at the Frisk Museum in Nashville

The examples in the book were not as future forward as in Augmented Human. For example, they talk about a VR whiteboard (60). That’s one of the first things we developed in rumii two years ago. It’s not a killer app in itself.

Hackl and Wolfe write that VR will start solving pain points and AR will be a new opportunity for brands to interact with consumers. We’ve been saying that for years. We know it can, but it’s up to the readers to figure out how. Don’t look for the answer in this book.

At some points the book feels more like an extended blog post than a book. For example, on page 83 Hackl and Wolfe ask us readers to let them know if there’s anything else we’d like to add. Since this book is written as an introduction to VR and AR, I think the authors discredit themselves a bit by asking this the way they did in the middle of the book.

In Creative Briefs, the authors define which type of immersive technology to use for branching narratives, emotions or interactions. I wouldn’t hold fast to the suggested mentions. I would definitely read Augmented Human because that book really opened my world to what augmented reality can do. Hackl and Wolfe’s definition of AR is not as advanced as Papagiannis’.

For example, Hackl and Wolfe write that VR/360 Video only are good for convicting emotion. But we learned in Augmented Human that AR can be used for that too. Such as sensors or body suites that squeeze the user or send small electrical currents to convict what emotion should be felt.

Sharing my virtual reality experience from Facebook Spaces

Don’t build your brand on one social media’s immersive tech. Make sure you branch out. Hackl and Wolfe spend a lot of time on Facebook Spaces. But Facebook is aging like Myspace. Yes, they are developing the Oculus but they’re facing troubles with privacy and trust from their customers. I have friends that are even switching off WhatsApp to Signal because WhatsApp is owned by Facebook.

The Ugly

Playing around with Windows Mixed Reality

In the chapter about VR/AR being an empathy machine, Hackle and Wolfe make an unfounded statement that the “technology is dominated by men” (29). That maybe it could be “used to help that very demographic understand what it’s like to be a woman, a member of a minority group, or to better understand their LGBTQ counterparts” (30). I wish they left their social justice out of the book. They don’t back up their claim. It doesn’t even make sense since they themselves are women. I am a woman. I know lots of women working and leading in immersive technology. Pick a different example for empathy in VR.

Conclusion

Lilyotron in rumii

Marketing New Realities covers a lot of “can do” talk. Virtual reality can do this or augmented reality can do that. But we don’t see many specific examples of immersive tech adding business value or solving pain points for real customers yet. Companies are experimenting with the technology. But I think that’s the main point Hackl and Wolfe want to make. The time to start experimenting is now. Get your feet wet. You don’t have to dive into the deep end with immersive technology but you do have to be familiar with it because virtual and augmented reality are moving off the Gartner Hype Cycle.

Now is when we are redefining marketing with immersive tech, WebAR, smart glasses, and AR filters. Don’t put all your tech eggs in one social media basket. Be prepared for new players to enter the game. And remember, virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality – these are all tools to help us tell more compelling stories. They’re tools to help our customers make the best decisions they can. Let’s not abuse it.


Part 1: Marketing in Virtual Reality

Part 2: Marketing Ethics in VR: Can Marketers Set Moral Guidelines?

Get Marketing New Realities

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Featured image by Scott Webb on Unsplash