Everything you wanted to know about virtual reality and brands

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The much talked about Oculus Rift virtual reality system finally goes on sale in March, with several other platforms having already opened up near endless possibilities for companies to enhance the level of innovation in their campaigns. Exciting developments indeed.
Of course there will always be pioneers and early adopters, and therefore by definition the majority are usually a little slower on the uptake when anything new arrives. Given there’s a very (very) good chance you have yet to encouter any VR marketing or PR campaigns whatsoever, this is certainly an area that’s going to take some time to fully embed itself in the culture of sales and promotion. Nevertheless, that future is visible in some places, and as such it seemed an appropriate time to run through everything you wanted to know about virtual reality and brands, in one, easy to digest blog post.
The tech
There are a number of exciting platforms and VR systems right now, but currently the leaders in this sector are:
Oculus Rift – Owned by Facebook, and arguably the most hyped. Designed for everything from training software and simulations to videogames, you’ll be hearing a lot from these two words as the next few months roll by.
Google Cardboard – Although the Silicone Valley firm is rumoured to be developing something even more advanced, Cardboard is an interesting project that’s available today, at a comparatively cheap price bracket for consumers.
IBM – The original multinational tech giant unveiled its latest supercomputer in 2011, or at least it debuted on the U.S. gameshow Jeopardy! back then, beating two human contestants to the prize money. This is now being used to power a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) in beta testing, wherein players wear a headset and power their in-game avatar with the mind.
Samsung Gear – The biggest rival to Oculus so far, the Gear links to any Samsung smartphone, running apps specially designed to transport users to a completely different place.
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How VR is being used 
Travel- An obvious choice, but surprisingly underused, market leaders like Virgin Atlantic are shining beacons of light in the field of travel marketing via virtual reality. Whereas many brands are happy to merely use VR as a reason to advertise a campaign- a gimmick- in the case of Branson’s transcontinental baby the firm is offering potential customers the chance to ‘try’ a destination out in store, before they buy the holiday. Meanwhile, Marriott Hotels is planning on ‘taking’ you around its U.S. accommodations via the Rift.
Automotive- Another logical step considering the sector, Volvo has been giving anyone looking for a new car the chance to test drive models, with an episodic, narrative thread enhancing the experience further. Primarily built with Google Cardboard in mind, there are also video-only versions available on most major smartphone operating systems.
Active wear- As premiered at SXSW (what innovation isn’t?), fans of the great outdoors and clothing brand The North Face can now feel the wind in their hair at the top of Yosemite National Park via Google Cardboard. Well, almost. Put simply, visit world famous sites popular with adventurous types, without ever leaving home. Impressive, and also a great example of experiential entertainment marketing, just like those we reported on last month.
Food and drink- There are a number of examples here, but perhaps one of our favourites is the storytelling slant applied by tequila brand Patron. Recorded using a drone camera, we’re given a ‘bee’s eye view’ of the world, which in turn explains the painstaking process that goes into creating every bottle of the Mexican spirit. Available on Oculus, iPhone and via the website.