The Future Series: Virtual Reality brings branding narratives to a whole new level

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In the last article of our ‘The Future’ series, we explore how virtual reality will not only change the way we interact, but also the way we market brands. Join us as we explore upcoming trends from virtual holidays to virtual social media.

If you think that Virtual Reality (VR) only exists in the future, think again. Brands are already experiencing the benefits of offering VR as part of their marketing experience. The North Face, a company specialising in outdoor clothing and products, has created a virtual trek through America’s iconic Yosemite National Park. Thomas Cook, a travel agency, offers the ability to ‘try before you fly’ with a VR travel experience. Shoe company TOMS gives customers the VR experience of donating a pair of shoes to a disadvantaged community in Peru, which promotes the philanthropic element of the TOMS brand.

The Cole Lawson team has even delved into the VR realm with our Virtual Rehearsal product, which allows clients to practice business presentations in front of a virtual audience. Through this, we’ve learnt how keeping up with changes in technology is vital in setting your brand apart from others.


In recent years, VR technology has dropped in price and become far more accessible to companies. Google now offers a ‘how-to’ on creating your very own Google Cardboard VR goggle set, which is a low-cost option for those that don’t want to invest in a VR headset. This has been used by individuals, brands and schools to test run the VR experience without the expensive barrier of owning a headset.

Kent Bye, host of the Voices of VR podcast, has discussed when the next big app will bring VR into our everyday lives. In much the same way which Snapchat uses augmented reality (see our article about augmented reality from last week here), could there be an app that makes VR part of the social world? Suffice to say, we think that the technology has to catch up first, but with Sony producing the first 3D scanning camera phone, this technology might be closer than we think.

As we touched on above, VR is likely to have an influence on education according to Will Mason, co-founder of UploadVR. Studies show that immersing users in a VR educational world can improve learning outcomes. With this in mind, if your business is thinking about creating an online learning course, consider including a VR experience.

Near future

When people think about VR for brand, they often think that it must be involve a physical product. For example, customers will soon be able to walk around a virtual car, touch it, test it and perhaps even drive it. However, VR can be used in another way. Being able to immerse your customers in a VR world will create far more opportunities to evoke emotions and therefore increase purchasing potential. The link between emotions and purchasing is well-documented, especially in non-profit marketing that increases donations through emotional appeals. Similar to creating a virtual experience of giving to those in need, brands can elicit emotional responses in customers by carefully selecting the type of virtual universe to immerse them in. While brands currently strategically select the colours, fonts or even numbers are most likely to convert a customer, these questions will become much more numerous when building VR worlds. One highly successful example of this was Coke’s recent ‘Taste The Feeling‘ campaign, which allowed users to surf in Hawaii or climb Mount Everest.

VR may even be used in the television realm, with the latest Netflix shows taking place around you instead of being limited to your device screen. There have been suggestions this immersion could also be used for advertising, allowing an individual to jump into an ad and capture their attention like never before. However, our opinion is that users are continually searching for ways to avoid annoying adverts and this probably won’t change in the future.

Far future

When it comes to the future, it’s important for businesses to have a branding strategy that includes becoming immersive. Cross reality is one example of this and is a technology that mixes virtual elements and physical elements. For example, standing in front of a company’s reception desk may activate a VR experience for guests. Or, training new employees could be enhanced through a virtual tour of all of the company’s equipment.

Deeper cultural understandings and cultural exchange may also take place in the future thanks to VR. Without leaving the comfort of your own home, you may be able to learn about different cultures and even follow a ‘day in the life’ of someone living on the other side of the world. People could record their day and share it with the world, allowing others to literally re-live their experience. This is likely to be successful for the same reason that social media is: it connects us with other people. However, VR would do this in an even more effective way because it is so immersive. We hope that this won’t involve advertising – an annoying advert is likely to disrupt the magic of the experience.

From a marketing perspective, this ‘day in the life’ experience would also provide brands with the opportunity to delve into the worlds of their potential customers and see what they do on a day-to-day basis. This would allow for better targeting of audiences and relevant demographics.

Ultimately, the best thing about VR is that it will allow us – as both brands and individuals – to tell a story in a whole new way. We would suggest to brands everywhere that now is a great opportunity to take the time to sit down and decide on your brand’s story, and how it will entice your customers. When the technology is accessible, and the time is right for your company, you will be able to take this story to the next level by immersing potential clients in the world of your narrative.

As always, we love to hear your thoughts and comments, so please feel free to drop us a line or comment below.