Back to Experience channel

How are AR and VR Transforming the Brand Event Experience?

Discover how AR and VR are transforming brand event experiences and see which brands are using technology to create lasting impact

By Lucy Holden

Our experience of reality has changed.

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) powerfully influence how we experience and interpret our environments. Consumers now interact with brands and indeed immerse themselves in them, enabling deeper, more meaningful connections.

Sign up to the MCI Experience Channel!


We regularly speak with event managers and brand marketers who are searching for new, innovative solutions to target brand apathy and disengagement. Here we explore how AR and VR are transforming brand event experiences and champion the brands who are using technology to break barriers and create lasting impact.

Why you need to use AR and VR for event experiences

Research and analysis by Statista, IDC, and Goldman Sachs (presented in a great infographic by NewGenApps), suggest that by 2020 more than a billion users will be actively engaged with AR applications.

Out of the two technologies, AR is easy to scale, easy to use, and easily widespread. All you need to enhance the real physical environment for your event attendees is a smartphone and WiFi, and they’re away! AR is coined to completely redefine the way that consumers interact with brands according to Ogilvy’s Alfonso Marian and Angela Fung, and Bart Jenniches from Google. It’s an effective alternative to advertising; it integrates brand experiences into everyday life building loyal relationships between customers and brands.

VR takes people-brand connections up another notch. Suspending reality, the environment and almost time itself, VR creates truly immersive user experiences in a navigable 3D world. To experience the power and beauty of VR, your attendees will need specific headsets, which limits the scalability roll-out but increases hype and exclusivity. It’s big business with Statista predicting that AR/VR will expand drastically with 2022 forecasts eclipsing $192 billion.

Now that 5G is on the scene, we can see the use of AR and VR skyrocketing. 5G’s arrival promises supercharged bandwidth speeds and reduced latency, enabling AR/VR to work to their full potential at events and experiences.

What to Use AR and VR for at Events

Inform 

Using AR at events and experiences enables brands to present new products in an effective and interactive way to their audiences. After all, according to the Centre for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), 92% of trade show attendees say their main reason for attending trade shows is to see new products being featured, and it is hard to put a price on the ability to give them a full virtual tour of a new product.

Educate

Attention spans are plummeting with the average adult attention span totalling 8.25 seconds. Yep, that’s right. Shorter than a goldfish.

Educating the workforce or creating the optimum learning environment is challenging when combating distraction, disengagement and even boredom.

A solution?

Break from the traditional learning setup and introduce AR and VR to your employees. This can be implemented in many ways from using virtual environments to bring together a global workforce online; creating specific training environments to coach your employees on best practice; to using gamification and crafted scenarios to test out key learnings and enable more dynamic collaboration.  

Inspire

The other huge advantage of using AR and VR at brand events is to engage, inspire and entertain your attendees. According to data presented by the EventTrack: Event & Experiential Marketing Forecast & Best Practices Study, 87% of consumers say events are more effective than commercials, largely because brands can use experiential techniques (such as AR and VR) during events to make a direct, emotive connection with their customers. The VR market continues to be driven predominantly by the gaming market, with 43% of VR’s $1.2B of software revenue derived from entertainment.

Irrespective of your motivations to engage, inspire or entertain using AR/VR, these technologies have the power to enhance your attendee’s experience and help nurture genuine meaningful connections between brands and people.

How brands are using AR and VR in events

EE

EE launched its 5G service in May 2019 with a striking fan engagement campaign, illustrating the power of AR and VR when used with 5G. Filmed on 18 May at the FA Cup final, the campaign showcases the benefits of super-fast connectivity, even within a large and busy environment.

Combining elements of AR and VR, EE created an immersive AR environment complete with a tunnel into Wembley Way. While VR headsets enabled viewers to immerse themselves in Wembley Stadium and enjoy all the action from the comfort of their homes.

Ford's Virtual Car

One of the most inspiring examples of AR in events has been Ford’s recent approach to motor shows. The brand has recently taken to building complete virtual models of their new cars, and these are integrated into an impressive AR app.

Rather than relying on a real-life car on a stand, as most manufacturers still do, Ford can use AR to give attendees a full virtual tour of their latest offerings. Guests can see inside the cars, and even take a look under the bonnet. The experience can be showcased anywhere and easily replicated across different territories.

Ford’s application of AR technologies has been one of the most successful, and one of the most mentioned, examples of recent years. This has been partly due to just how impressive the AR experience they are offering is, and they have clearly invested a lot of capital in the AR techs they are deploying.

However, Ford’s approach also highlights another great advantage of AR at events: that when talking to a tech-savvy audience who already know a lot about your products, AR is an effective and elegant way of presenting technical details that would otherwise be lost in the small print.

PepsiCo

Pepsi unveiled a new #Summergram campaign on Instagram harnessing the power of AR. For summer 2019, Pepsi bottles will come with different QR codes that will unlock a campaign filter when scanned with a smartphone. Each filter and AR Giphy sticker forms part of the overarching campaign with the tagline “Grab Summer By the Bottle”. The metaphorical play on words of grabbing summer illustrates the blurring of AR and reality, as consumers seek to change the reality around them. Pepsi playfully brought their AR #Summergram characters to life by kick-starting the campaign in the US with physical supersize inflatable characters, namely a flamingo and crab.

The drinks giant carefully considered the advertising placement with a younger target market in mind and chose to gamify their campaign with AR to boost sales, popularity and hype. Interestingly, Pepsi has moved their advertising from Snapchat to Instagram. Instagram is considered more strategic because it allows brands to simultaneously increase their followers and online brand presence compared to Snapchat.

These AR campaigns demonstrate how brands are increasingly pursuing new technological approaches to engage with their customers, whether it’s feeling more connected (EE), informing about new products (Ford), or driving sales with fun gamification (Pepsi).

Samsung

Samsung collaborated with NASA to bring the moon and stars a little closer to earth. A 4D lunar gravity VR experience was created (flight suit, harness and all) to allow users to take their first steps on the moon. This visual and physical experience takes users to new heights as they see and feel the effects of gravity, thanks to outstanding design work from Samsung and NASA’s Active Response Gravity Offload System (ARGOS) team who worked on recreating the actual sensation of walking and floating in space.
Zach Overton, Vice President of Consumer Experience & General Manager of Samsung 837 and Galaxy Studios commented, “At Samsung, we are driven to push the boundaries of innovation and inspire consumers to do what they can’t”.
“We are proud to bring to consumers the combination of our powerful mobile VR headset and our innovative work with NASA to launch this lunar experience and bring the sensation of walking on the Moon to life.”

Red Cross

VR is increasingly being utilised to train military, defense and those working in hostile, high risk environments. Mentally preparing for pressurised situations and critical decisions can be grueling especially if trainees have not yet experienced a similar situation first-hand.
The Red Cross designed an impactful VR experience called ‘The Right Choice’ to illustrate the bleak reality for Syrian families affected by war. The footage was produced in Lebanon, Beirut and closely resembled the damage inflicted in Syria. Featuring Syrian actors who actually fled the conflict brings a poignancy and reality to the VR experience. Built for Google Daydream, the VR film is also compatible on smartphones.
Bleak, stark and incredibly powerful, ‘The Right Choice’ fully immerses participants into an alternate reality experience – one that is a genuine reality for many.

Facebook

At the F8 Conference in May 2019, Facebook announced its plans to take VR a step further with the development of full-body virtual reality avatars. Currently a work in progress, Facebook aspires to create avatars that move like real people. Their developers are working to replicate the minute movements created by hair, clothes and skin to the point where there is a carbon copy digital version of a person. Facebook Reality Labs' research manager, Ronald Mallet revealed "We're still years away from this kind of technology in consumer headsets" but it is work in progress.
With these future innovations on the not-so-distant horizon, the scope of VR is set to enhance dramatically. Personal brand experience opportunities will diversify to perhaps include digital copies of brand influencers, spokespeople or celebrities too. An immersive experience replicated so closely that you’d be pushed to distinguish from reality.

The marriage of technology and creativity

AR and VR are intensifying brand event experiences. Deepening brand immersion significantly further, brands can now elevate their customers visually and experientially. It’s an incredibly exciting time for brands to embrace disruptive AR/VR marketing to inspire and engage at events. Are you ready to embrace new technologies at your brand event experience? Contact us to make it happen, and bring your creativity to life, virtually.