Virtual Reality Brand Playbook
Samsung Gear VR goggles: "When I put them on, it felt like the future."
It’s safe to say that virtual reality is the buzzword of the year. The number of requests we have received from brands has increased tenfold in the last month alone. We have noticed a pattern emerge through all of those requests, which is that brands don’t truly understand virtual reality and the differences between types of experiences and the devices that deliver those experiences.
I am going to dive into those differences below but I want to start by saying that if you are a brand looking to explore the world of virtual reality, you need to do just that. There is a difference between writing a check to have a company build you a VR experience and actually getting your hands dirty in the technology itself. The only way to be successful in this space is to define an overarching strategy and build experiences across devices and platforms that support that strategy.
The below is a brand's guide to virtual reality. This will hopefully provide a more in depth education than you currently have, but it does not mean you should skip testing and learning across all of these devices and platforms.
Virtual Reality Brand Playbook
A useful way to look at the current landscape is across two categories - Content Creation and Delivery Channels.
1. Content Creation VR content is a new kind of media and it needs to be thought about in a completely different way. VR is all about immersing the viewer in the world of the content. The opportunity for brands is to create experiences that are more immersive and engaging than ever before.
Live Stream: Live Stream content means content delivered over the internet or cellular network as it’s actually happening in the real world. Live Streaming 360 video content is becoming very popular for sporting and music events. If you pay attention to the PGA tournament you know that NextVR executed a live stream so that people could watch the tournament on their Samsung Gear device. Live stream requires a special 360 or 180 camera rig and a content delivery network to stream the content. Eventually we will be able to buy tickets to an NFL game and have front row seats through virtual reality headsets, watching the game in real time.
Pre-Recorded Live Action: Pre-Recorded Live Action VR content is recorded and stored so it can be downloaded and saved for playback at a later time on a VR headset. The original content is recorded live with special cameras. The footage is then edited to make the experience more fluid and to add extra content like music, or special graphics. Dos Equis created a virtual reality experience for their Most Interesting Man in the World campaign. This was live action in that is was filmed with a real camera but not consumed in real time.
.Computer Generated: Computer Generated (CG) VR content is made entirely inside a computer. There are no live actors or cameras involved. The possibilities are endless. This gives brands full control over the content being delivered which is highly attractive in some situations. CG VR content can even be combined with Pre-Recorded Live Action content. As an example, a brand recently reached out to us requesting an underwater VR experience. We told them that we could create all kinds of engaging content, like sharks swimming up to people and schools of fish swimming by, educating viewers on the different animal types. What we found out is that the company really wanted a live streamed underwater experience, but what they didn’t understand is that if you stick a camera under water, you are not going to see a whole lot of action. That is okay if it is just for the experience of being underwater but you need to make sure that is the experience that supports your brand equity.
Six Flags and Samsung Partner to Launch First Virtual Reality Roller Coasters.
2. Delivery Channels VR content is currently consumed through some very specific channels. Understanding how these channels work and how to access them is essential to maximizing your brand’s presence and investment dollars.
360 Video: I want to start by saying this is not virtual reality. We tend to bundle these terms together but building a 360 experience does not mean you have built a VR experience. You can build 360 content that is consumable on virtual reality headsets, but that is not automatically true. Let’s dive into some examples:
Youtube 360 If you are paying attention to the 360 space you have likely viewed a Youtube 360 video. Using your mouse you can change the video angle to view in all directions. These videos can be viewed on your PC, phone or tablet which means they can reach a massive audience. That is highly attractive, especially since most people do not own a virtual reality headset. The downside is without a headset this is not a fully immersive experience, which is the main benefit of virtual reality. You can watch 360 videos on a virtual reality headset, which I will dive into more in a minute.
Jaunt Jaunt is trying to become the Youtube of virtual reality, and only virtual reality content. If you do not have the Jaunt app, download it now. One thing you will notice is that you designate whether you are watching content on your phone or through a headset. The difference is mono vs. stereo. Mono is how you consume this content on your PC or phone absent of a headset. Stereo is how you consume it on a phone based virtual reality headset, as you can see from the split screen when selected in the Jaunt app. Jaunt is great for consuming CG or pre recorded live action content, but they do not offer live streaming.
Facebook Facebook has entered the 360 space as you may have seen in your feed. This is very similar to Youtube 360. All of the major players will follow suite (Twitter, Hulu, Netflix, MilkVR, NextVR, VRSE) which means the ability to consume 360 videos across the web will become commonplace.
Phone Based Virtual Reality Headsets: I touched on this in the previous section. There are devices like Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear that will play virtual reality content from your phone through the headset. Brands love this as it is an easier way to deliver VR experiences to a larger audience than tethered devices.
Google Cardboard You have likely heard about and even seen the New York Times execution of Google Cardboard. Free branded cardboards were delivered to select homes with a New York Times subscription. Download that app and you could view New York Times virtual reality content from your phone through the headset. Brands are now jumping on the bandwagon because Google Cardboards can be branded and are very inexpensive. Giving them to consumers for free increases the number of people that are capable of consuming virtual reality content which increases the potential reach of every VR experience brands build.
Google Cardboard and phone.
Samsung Gear Samsung Gear is likely the most impressive phone based VR headset on the market. This is because the headset is built to be used with their phones. That is also a downside, because they are creating a closed network. I liken this to Apple and the Apple Store. If you are playing a Youtube or Jaunt video on your phone and try to connect that to a Samsung Gear, you will notice that you are taken away from that video to the Samsung interface. This is due to the fact that you are now playing in their world. Brands need to understand this and the implications of delivering content across devices.
Tethered Virtual Reality Headsets: Devices like Oculus and the soon to be released HTC Vive are tethered devices in that they are connected to a PC. This means that they are not as mobile as phone based headsets but the fidelity is much higher. Higher fidelity means better resolution. This is why gamers love tethered headsets. You can create very high quality content. The adoption of these headsets is still small but will continue to grow as new players enter the market and more experiences are built for them.
As brands enter the world of virtual reality they need to understand how to build content that is consumable on all devices and platforms. There are a lot of players all vying for brand dollars so building an overarching strategy for content development and delivery will optimize the dollars spent in this arena.
The bottom line is you will be approached and pitched by every company under the sun that is playing in the virtual reality and 360 space. Make sure you are not only knowledgeable on the topic but have experimented with the different devices and platforms before having those conversations. Virtual Reality is going to be a game changer in how people consume content across a whole spectrum of applications and building a strategy for this medium is paramount. When you are ready to build that strategy you know where to find us.