Virtual Reality, Brand Immersion, And The Power Of Making Memories


Virtual Reality, Brand Immersion, And The Power Of Making Memories

By Patrick Milling Smith

A few years back the Journal of Consumer Research published a study titled “The Effect of Mere Touch on Perceived Ownership” that found consumers who touch products in the aisles will not only pay more money for them than those who keep their hands off the merchandise, but that startlingly this held true even for those who were asked only to imagine they had touched the product.

Forward-thinking organizations have already found ways to use virtual reality’s ability to leverage the power of this “illusionary immersion” to drive change. In 2015, the United Nations commissioned a series of films from us at to highlight the plight of Syrian refugees and Liberian Ebola victims, which helped raise more than $4 billion in direct support and funding. One of the films, Clouds Over Sidra, inspired one in six members of the public who viewed it to donate money, twice the average for the UN and UNICEF. The average response rate to direct marketing is often less than 1%, whereas our VR experiences with the softest of calls to action have garnered more than 15%. Making people feel often makes them act. We know this, but it seems to be something that needs to be spelled out when introducing new media that can change the game.

For consumer brands, the applications of virtual reality may be even more powerful. Over the past decade, brand managers have had to cope with emerging technology acting as the catalyst to an inexorable and ever-growing battle for audience attention. The content channel and platform explosion, and the rise of ad-blocking software, which has added to age-old techniques such as leaving the room during a TV commercial or flicking past a print ad, have all combined to make the biggest barrier to effective brand communication today simply to be seen in the first place.

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