The New York Times, for example, is already looking toward virtual reality as a new form of journalism. VR experiences have usually been associated with video games or filmmaking, but The Times‘ early experiments with VR technology point to a future where journalism might be a perfect fit for VR as well. Journalists could use VR technology to reconstruct crimes (as Newsweek reporter Nonny de la Peña did for the Trayvon Martin shooting), show what life is like for a Syrian refugee, or explore less-traveled parts of the world.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, and video worth many thousand more, VR might become the ultimate way to deliver engaging content for journalists and brands alike. Publishers like The New York Times have embraced sponsored content, so it makes sense that brands, too, might one day utilize VR to create stories to be distributed via publishers like The Times.
Brands could also look to other platforms to deliver rich, immersive experiences that engage consumers. For example, the ever-popular how-to video could become much more interactive; a VR experience could walk a user through cooking a recipe or repairing their home. If brands could offer these helpful experiences to consumers, it could drive brand discovery and loyalty.
In fact, brands are already using VR and augmented reality as a storytelling device inside their stores—consequently giving consumers a reason to step inside and stay awhile. The North Face gives customers the chance to try base jumping via a VR system in-store. Sephora’s augmented reality mirror allows customers to try on different shades of makeup with a swipe of the screen. At Lowe’s stores in Toronto, customers can build a bathroom on an iPad using thousands of options for fixtures, tubs and tiles. Once in the “Holoroom,” users are treated to a virtual version of what they created on the iPad.
In all of these applications, VR technology will allow brands to create content that’s so far out of the box that it may redefine the box boundaries entirely. But it’s important to remember that VR devices alone will not hook future consumers—rather, it’s the stories VR enables that will pique users’ interests. Content marketing that uses VR to tell better stories—stories that excite, teach, inform or entertain—will inspire consumers to keep coming back for more.
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