Immersive augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) content can deepen consumers’ connections with brands but discoverability, ease of use and successful execution remain a challenge, says Magid.
According to Magid’s new “Immersive Tech Ancillary Content Study,” not all AR/VR experiences are treated the same. Consumers turn to VR for emotional experiences, for example, while AR is better suited to everyday integration.
Magid conducted six, two-hour focus groups—three in NYC and three in LA. Participants consisted of a mix of men and women between the ages of 18-45, and half of each group owned a VR device. All participants had downloaded or used an AR app on their phone in the previous six months and were open to future experiences.
Each of the groups was shown a number of branded VR and AR content that was considered ancillary—that is, designed to enhance one’s view of an existing product. Experiences included
Magid found that even AR/VR tech-savvy consumers were often confused as to how they should interact with an experience. In addition, discovery remains a problem for brands—many consumers, including existing fans, were unaware of that such experiences were available. That being said, those who are less familiar with the source material are less likely to be made aware of the content at all.
An exception to this, Magid pointed out, is ancillary content that generates organic buzz such as the Resident Evil 7 demo. Unless a brand’s AR/VR content is similarly buzz-worthy, the technology is less than ideal as a gateway—especially since consumers have to be intrigued enough to download an app or put on a headset.
Debby Ruth, vice president of global media and entertainment at Magid told AList that the success of a branded AR/VR experience depends on how well it aligns with a marketer’s goal.
“Early on, I think I lot of brands [used AR/VR] because it was very new and innovative and they got a lot a press coverage,” said Ruth. “Now that the shine has worn off, you have to be very deliberate, just like any other marketing tactic. Some of the best [AR/VR] executions are integrated into experiential marketing. You’re there where people are. There are a lot of alcohol brands that want to send a mood and take you to Scotland or show you why their brand is more special.”
The study found that consumers tend to have an emotional connection with VR, since it serves as an escape from the world around them. Disney/Pixar’s Coco VR was praised by Magid for its ability to draw users into the film’s unique world while offering a unique perspective.
When asked to associate emotions/descriptive words with VR content, respondents chose “immersive,” “exciting,” “realistic,” “curious,” “relaxing,” “escape” and “fantasy.”
AR content, on the other hand, overlays an experience over a user’s real environment and therefore does not offer an escape. For this reason, the medium was viewed as less of an entertainment tool by respondents. Descriptive words chosen to describe AR content were noticeably less emotional. They included “practical,” “interactive,” “analytical,” “curious,” “excited,” “frustrating” and “lifelike.”
To avoid frustrating consumers, Magid said an AR experience should allow consumers to interact with or enhance their reality in new ways and feel rewarded and/or benefited in some way.
Ruth advises brands to consider what a consumer will get out of an AR/VR experience.
“If it’s something that’s just clever and cute, then consumers [won’t be interested],” she said. “If it’s something that’s either fun or engaging by nature or useful, then that is something completely different.”
Oxygen’s Forensic Detective: Inside the Crime Scene AR experience was an example of this principle. The app puts users in the role of a crime scene investigator, who must move around his/her environment in search of clues. Consumers are motivated to complete the task by finding the criminal.
When Oxygen’s AR experience was launched, it was during a significant time of rebranding for the network, Ruth observed.
“That experience did a good job of meeting that goal of making Oxygen aligned with true crime.”
As AR content becomes more commonplace, Magid warns against a half-baked integration.
“If the source material is especially rich, the ancillary idea can be great,” said Magid, “but the execution can bring down the perception of the brand.”
In conclusion, AR/VR has the ability to engage existing fans and become a gateway for new ones. However, immersive tech requires you to “market the marketing.”