3 Signs It’s a Good Time to Rethink Your Brand
It’s inevitable that things evolve. And your brand should, too.
While it may have been perfect for you when it was first developed, you might find yourself veering away from your original brand identity as your company changes — and that’s OK! But when that happens, you’ll need to makes changes to your brand so it’s always aligned with the current state of the company.
Sometimes, there are obvious signs it’s time to rebrand. And other times, it may not be so clear. Here, we’re sharing three telltale signs that it’s time to start thinking about rebranding efforts.
1. When you pursue a different target demographic.
Your target audience is (well, should be) at the core of everything you do. You create a brand that will resonate with and appeal to your audience so that you can relate to them. Not all brands will span this widely, but you can imagine how a brand geared toward millennial women would be wildly different than a brand meant for Baby Boomer men. Whether you’re making changes to a product, adding a new product, or simply tapping into a different audience group who may be interested, your brand will need to stay relevant to all potential demographics.
How might a brand expand to reach a diverse audience? Let’s look at Patagonia as an example. Incredibly strong brand, yes. But the company also has an incredibly varied target market — men, women, children, people of all ages, outdoorsy folks and more. So how do they manage to engage everyone? The company is united on its brand principles of quality products and environmentally conscious and sustainable manufacturing processes. With those two common threads, Patagonia is able to market to its differing target audiences and maintain a robust brand at its core.
2. When a competitor becomes more threatening.
A lot of times, rebranding comes from internal changes or restructuring. However, there are external pressures, too. It’s almost like playing defense. Let’s say an established competitor kicks up their momentum or a new competitor is quickly gaining attention. Rebranding can serve as a way to protect your business, giving you a chance to really differentiate yourself from others in the market.
Think about Uber and Lyft. For years, Uber was dominating the market and was hands down the most widely known. Then Lyft entered the game and gained traction quickly. This likely urged Uber to start formulating a plan, because last year around this time, they went through a rebrand.
3. When you outgrow your mission, culture, values, etc.
For this specific occurrence, all pressure to rebrand comes internally. And you’ll know when it’s time. As companies grow, they’re dealt higher expectations. Sometimes the strategy set forth from the beginning needs to be reevaluated a few years later. Whatever the circumstances, any significant company change can spark the need for a refreshed or completely rebuilt brand.
Here at GO2 Advertising, we’re currently putting the finishing touches on an exciting brand refresh. What prompted us to revisit our branding? A recent shift in our culture.
As an agency, we’ve been developing and executing strategic internal initiatives to enhance our culture. At the core of these efforts is our focus on employee-ownership — we all apply an ownership mentality to everything we do at GO2, and we wanted this positive shift in our culture to be reflected in our brand voice and visual identity.
We’re eager to begin sharing our refreshed brand elements this year, and we’re confident in what our brand will say about who we are as an agency.
Keep an eye out for a new GO2 website as we finalize our brand refresh!
Now it’s your turn — how do you evaluate when it’s time for a brand overhaul? Tell us about some of your branding challenges and triumphs in the comments below.
2017 Digital Advertising Trends
Advertising in the digital space is always an adventure. It is a place where technology advances at the speed of thought and ideas are shared at the speed of light. There is always some risk when investing your budget in such a rapidly changing environment, but that risk can be somewhat mitigated by staying on top of the trends.
Below you will find highlights of what the digital ad world might look like in 2017. There are some digital marketing strategy staples, some that are just beginning to settle in for the long haul and some exciting new developments.
Keep reading to see what to double down on, what to invest in and what to watch.
The following strategies have been around for a while and consistently remain a part of any forward-thinking advertiser’s consideration and budget. Their prevalence will only grow in 2017. In fact, if you are not already thinking about whether these tactics are right for you or your clients, you’ve got some catching up to do.
Native advertising – a form of paid media where the ad follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed – is one of the oldest tricks in the book. But, as modern consumers continue to reject, condemn, and go to lengths to insulate themselves from traditional advertising, it will become increasingly important to create brand experiences that integrate with their entertainment.
That includes everything from a Buzzfeed listicle to an Onion video advertorial. Offering seamless and entertaining ad experiences will continue to be a pervasive and essential tactic.
Stories of desktop death have been greatly exaggerated. There has been much talk about a mobile-first marketing approach, but the reality is that while smartphone use is overwhelmingly popular for activities such as social media, messaging and news, the majority of consumers also have a desktop, which they tend to use for more detailed review and purchasing.
Not only can you reach a broader audience by catering to the multiplatform majority, but mobile conversion rates are significantly lower than with desktop interactions. This suggests the importance of getting visitors to your site both for a quick mobile search and for a more in-depth desktop experience. So, from optimized web ads to responsive websites, every online touchpoint needs to be integrated and optimized, giving users a consistent experience across devices.
The digital advertising trends below may be new to some and old hat to others. They have managed to gain a solid hold on our advertising focus by capitalizing on both technology advancements and broader entertainment trends and thus are a good indication of digital advertising’s present landscape and future direction.
Programmatic is the process of buying and selling media in an automated fashion, including the algorithmic purchase and sale of advertising space in real time. With the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) estimating that programmatic spend will grow to over 80% of marketing spend by 2018, there is almost no reason not to jump on board. Let’s take a look at how this increasingly essential ad strategy works:
- Brands and advertisers bid on an ad space.
- These brands/advertisers set different variables based on price and the audience segment profiles they are trying to reach.
- When a webpage is being loaded and has the space for an ad on it, information that’s been gathered about the visitor is sent back and forth to an ad exchange.
- This space gets auctioned off to the highest bidder and the ad is placed in the space – all of this is done in milliseconds.
With this method, rather than just purchasing inventory for a “spray and pray display,” you pay for only precisely targeted ads. Getting highly effective ads with the possibility of cross-demographic ad targeting for a relatively low cost seems like a no-brainer.
But I said earlier that there is “almost” no reason not to adopt for a reason: programmatic ad buying comes with a serious concern about fraud. Even so, considering the importance of effective targeting, this strategy is here to stay.
Live video streaming
Video has always been an incredibly versatile medium, allowing brands to tell stories that are impactful and entertaining. It is also a medium that has seen ever-increasing online engagement: between 2013 and 2015, there was a 360% increase in video views.
And consumers are 4 times as likely to prefer video content over text. And now, live streaming video has become a trend all its own. Thanks to the ubiquity of mobile devices and availability of fast Internet anywhere, many platforms have seen the advantage of integrating a live streaming service.
Twitter’s Periscope and Facebook Live give brands easy access to a new way to reach their customers. These services can make customers a part of a launch event, give them a behind-the-scenes tour or show off a product demo. Whereas the shooting and editing of traditional video often comes with a high price tag, live streaming consumers do not yet have the expectation of professional polish. So, it is a trend that can fit into any budget.
Now, I want to touch on some developments that may not fit into the average business marketing plan just yet.
As with mobile marketing, reaching consumers through a device that is constantly on their person seems like an obviously smart move. However, though it may seem like everyone has a Fitbit these days, not everyone would be open to their interactions with it being infiltrated by advertising. It is therefore likely that the marketing advantage wearables offer will be tied to information gathering. They have the potential to offer a wealth of useful data concerning a consumer’s location, behaviors and even their health.
It is probably too early to call Darwinian advertising a trend, but it is certainly an interesting development that is worth watching. In this survival of the fittest digital advertising concept, parts of the creative that don’t engage a user are automatically removed from circulation, while those that receive a reaction are reworked into further iterations.
As an example, the first experiment with this type of advertising measured response with an embedded camera. In this way, all the elements of an ad, from copy to color, can be optimized for maximum consumer reaction. While currently experimental and out of reach for most advertisers, the potential to evolve the perfect ad has an undeniable appeal.
5 SEO copywriting tips
Visual design might reign supreme when creating websites and apps because it impacts usability and functionality.
Yet, words are still the best way to build trust, deliver concepts and drive action. But making those words appealing and optimized for search engines to improve rankings is a challenge every content marketer faces. According to Copyblogger, SEO is the most misunderstood topic online.*
So where do we start? With two words – Content Strategy. The right content strategy creates a great user experience.
Here are some guidelines to follow:
Content should be user-centric:
Your target audience comes first, long before search algorithms. The best place to start is by understanding your target audience. Then, talk your readers’ language by creating interesting, compelling, useful and visually appealing content that targets specific keywords. This will increase your content’s relevance and improve its ranking in Google. Ideally, you should put your keyword in your headline. The content following the headline should address keyword intent. And keep paragraphs short. Nobody likes to be faced with a sea of type.
Use long tail keywords:
These three- or four-word phrases are very specific to what you are selling. They’re the phrases that consumers are more likely to use when they’re closer to making a purchase. These specific phrases also rank better than generic single or double word keywords.
Write great headlines:
Don’t expect high click-through numbers if you have a mediocre headline. Your headline should attract people’s attention, get them to click and read more. According to ConversionXL, headlines with numbers are always winners.** This might not always be possible, but it’s something to consider.
Don’t overlook meta descriptions:
These take time to write and directly affect traffic to a web page. When people search for keywords that are relevant to your page, Google uses the meta description on your page. Good meta descriptions take time to write and should be 150 to 160 characters and include target keywords. For mobile, keep it to 113 characters.
Focus on keyword frequency:
How many times do your keywords appear on the page? Don’t go keyword frequency crazy, though. The folks at Google pay attention to keyword stuffing and will penalize you. It’s still a factor in ranking. Plus, overdoing keywords will turn off your readers.
Remember, make your content easy to read. Don’t overwhelm your audience, or pack every thought into one paragraph. Well-planned content will work wonders for your writing’s effectiveness. This will create a better user experience.
We’d love to hear your thoughts. What works best for you and your content?
Top 5 Takeaways from Content Marketing World 2016
Did you know that Cleveland is the content marketing capital of the world? With last month’s Content Marketing World offering more than 80 speaker sessions and attracting around 3,500 attendees from over 70 countries, it seems safe to say that title is official.
One of our senior copywriters attended the world’s largest content marketing event and brought back a wide array of insights. For a look at what Carrie learned during her CMWorld experience, we’ve gathered her top 5 takeaways here.
5. Perform original research
In his keynote presentation, Andy Crestodina, Strategic Director of Orbit Media, delivered some great advice for turning mediocre content into great content: include original research in your content marketing plan. Andy explained that by making original research a priority, you can make your brand a “primary source for an important piece of data in your industry.”
This research can be accomplished in a number of ways. You can perform valuable research through observation, analyzing a chosen data set and presenting it in a new way. You can rely on aggregation, bringing existing pieces of information together to answer a question or solve a problem. You might also consider employing surveys to find an unanswered need or identify claims that have not yet been supported. Each of these avenues can lead you to produce the kind of original content that can help establish your brand as a thought leader.
4. Fill a content gap
Content creation is at an all-time high, but unfortunately, so is noise. In order to break through the clutter of abundant content, Andrew Davis, Founder of Monumental Shift, advised marketers to identify unanswered questions that are likely to resonate with your audience. With that knowledge guiding your approach, you can re-evaluate and revise your strategy with the goal of filling those content gaps.
By narrowing your focus to a specific, defined audience, your brand can create and distribute the kinds of content your audience may not even know they need — yet. Target the right niche with content that successfully fulfills an otherwise overlooked need, and your brand will be in an ideal position to generate valuable engagement and build a loyal audience.
3. Put your audience at the center of the story
Lars Silberbauer, Global Director of Social Media and Search Marketing at LEGO, gave CMWorld attendees an eye-opening early morning keynote. He revealed that LEGO’s fans actually create 20 times more content than the brand itself produces. And the company not only embraces this fact, but actively capitalizes on it.
LEGO’s content strategy is built on powerful storytelling, and fans are always at the very center of the company’s efforts. “Building Together” and “Pride in Creation” are the two core ideas that make LEGO’s content strategy so effective, encouraging fans to share their ideas, tell their own stories and celebrate their integral roles in the larger LEGO brand experience.
2. Slow down and empathize
No content marketing event experience could be complete without a session with Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs. At this year’s CMWorld, she acknowledged that “marketing is impatient.” We tend to work at a rapid pace in order to keep up with news, trends and consumer demands. But she urged us all to slow down and ask “so what?” when developing strategy and content.
In fact, Ann advised that unless you’re willing and able to slow down and do your content marketing the right way, then you shouldn’t bother doing it at all. This statement echoed Content Marketing Institute Founder Joe Pulizzi’s opening keynote, where he told us, “If you’re not ‘all in’ with your content marketing program, you should stop.”
Slowing down is most certainly a key component of going “all in.” By taking the time to consider the kinds of content you’re delivering from your audience’s perspective, your team can develop a greater sense of empathy — a vital element not only for content marketing, but for your business in general. You want to be sure you are delivering genuine value to your audience, and if you follow Ann Handley’s advice, you can identify when your efforts aren’t aligning with your objectives so that you can correct your course and keep your content on target.
1. Find your why
One of the most powerful messages of the entire CMWorld event came from stand-up comedian Michael Jr. You might not expect a comedian to offer many relevant remarks to a room full of content marketers, but Michael Jr. certainly proved any doubters wrong. He applied the structure of comedic storytelling — the setup and the punchline — to the kinds of storytelling that can be done through content marketing.
Your setup consists of your opportunities, resources and skills. These are the things that can draw your audience in. But the punchline is where that setup must truly pay off for the audience.
In order to make your punchline worthwhile, Michael Jr. insists, you must find your why. While it is obviously important to know what you’re doing, it is just as important to know why you’re doing it. He explained, “You have a lot of options for what, but your why never changes. What is your why? Or are you too busy jumping from ‘what’ to ‘what’ to answer that question?”
Each of these points of advice is applicable not only to building and growing a content marketing strategy, but to any efforts you make for your brand. By performing research, identifying content gaps, telling audience-driven stories, taking the time to empathize and always focusing on the “why,” you can strengthen any initiative.
Social Media Driving Sales: A Quick Look at Instagram
Tips for Directing Voice-over Talent
Communicating effectively with voice-over talent is not a task for the underprepared. Talent and studio time are expensive. Going over budget is something you don’t want to explain to your supervisor. Not getting the read you want from your talent is even worse. With this in mind, I’ve been involved in hundreds of recording sessions over the years. Having a successful session is part art, psychology and skill. So here are some tips.
- Hire the right talent. You hire James Earl Jones to deliver a James Earl Jones-type read. Asking him to be a light-hearted character isn’t exactly his forte.
- Read your script out loud while timing it. Read it in the style that your talent will be reading it. You need to allow time for performance. Sure, you might be able to fit 70 seconds of copy into 59.5 seconds if you’re John Moschitta Jr. from the legendary FedEx fast talker spots, but if that’s not what you’re looking for, start cutting. Also, allow time for sound effects.
- Format the script. Make it easy to read in 12-point type and double space it so the talent can write in those last-minute changes.
- Know what you want the read to sound like before your session. Part of this goes back to hiring the right talent. Reference a read on the talent’s demo reel to give him or her a good starting point. Discuss the target audience with your talent.
- Don’t overdirect. Nobody wants to be overwhelmed with information. Before you hit the talk back button, think about what you want to get across to the talent. Be clear, concise and specific.
- Don’t feed your talent lines. Reading a line and asking the talent to feed it back or “parrot” it is something that talent pretty much hates. Give specific direction.
- You’re not alone. Get the most out of your production by getting input from the audio engineer, producer and talent. They all want the session to be a success.
- Be positive. Let the talent know that they’re effectively communicating your message. After all, everybody likes positive feedback.
- Have fun.
If you’ve got tips on directing voice-over talent, we’d love to hear what works for you.
How to Be a More Engaging Storyteller
No matter if you’re recounting stories around the campfire or telling a brand story to reach specific consumers, never underestimate the importance of engaging storytelling. Not only can you shine a light on your personality and more effectively evoke desired emotions through storytelling, but you can also keep your audience coming back for more.
To capture and retain the attention of your brand’s target audience, tap into the power of a good story with this simple strategy.
First, determine what engagement means.
Every time you’re telling a story and attempting to reach others, how will you determine if you’ve engaged them or not? What must someone do to be considered engaged? Are there different levels of engagement?
Use an initial hook.
Right away, give people a reason to care about what you’re about to say. Make them curious, and compel them to listen to you. If you raise a question in this section, be sure you answer it and continue to build upon that answer to keep them engaged.
Reflect before reciting.
The WIIFM (what’s in it for me) doesn’t end after the initial hook. Throughout the story, you still have to prove why your audience should care. This means you have some pre-work to do. You must reflect to determine the purpose of this storytelling, how it will resonate with your audience, how you want them to feel or react and truly why it’s relevant to them.
Be authentic, relatable, compelling, relevant and focused.
Phew! Sounds like a lot of different things to be all at one time. However, your audience is sure to recognize and appreciate you nailing each of these when telling a story. Each one is distinct and crucial. Let’s go through them one by one.
Props are not mandatory, but they are helpful.
If you’re describing a product or service, be real with the consumer about what they can expect with usage and results. If it makes sense, use real customer testimonials to communicate the authenticity of your business.
Figure out exactly whom you’re speaking with and communicate with them in a way that will resonate. Talking to millennials? Perhaps you should use a more relaxed tone.
Add depth to your story. Use descriptive elements to describe your characters, situation, problem and resolution. If you’re using visual elements, consider how they’ll motivate your target audience. For example, if you need to show complex numbers, consider using a graph or chart.
You’ll need to show relevancy in every aspect of the story, from the content to the tone to the medium. Again, this needs to relate back to your audience. How would your target audience respond to the content and the tone of your story?
Realizing the lack of attention spans, your story must be focused and direct, getting to the point in a complete but concise way. Use keywords strategically, and keep your messaging succinct.
The importance of storytelling is undeniable. And by following this engagement strategy, you’ll be captivating your audience in no time.
What are your thoughts? Is there anything you would add to this to make a story flow effortlessly into the ears — and minds — of your audience?
The psychology of color and your brand
Colors have a profound effect on the way we experience the world. They have the power to affect our emotions, our behavior and even our physiology. So, it’s no surprise that choosing the right colors is one of the most important decisions you can make about your brand. There are many decisions to make regarding what colors will look best together, but you also must evaluate what message is being sent by your choices and how consumers will react.
Red is a bold, assertive color that suggests excitement and passion. It is great for creating a sense of urgency and grabbing attention, which is why sales and clearance materials are almost always red. It is also known to elevate heart rate and increase appetite, making it a common choice for fast food restaurants. Our eyes are naturally drawn to red due to its long wavelength and its prevalent use on things that need our immediate attention like fire trucks and stop lights. This makes it a tempting choice for advertising, but too much red will seem pushy and aggressive.
Blue is a cool, dependable color associated with tranquility and maturity. Shown time and again to be the most popular “favorite color” around the world, blue is a good bet for brands looking to promote trust and simplicity. Strong blues will stimulate clear thought while soft blues will calm the mind and can aid concentration. While blue might seem like a safe choice, there is a risk that it will seem cold, aloof or too conservative.
Yellow and Orange:
These are bright, warm colors that evoke optimism and cheer. Used carefully, they can lift spirits, inspire confidence and be great positive attention grabbers. These are fun colors that can be used to create a friendly brand image; however, their vibrancy merits caution. Overuse or the wrong tone can cause anxiety and a feeling of overstimulation.
Green is a gentle, peaceful color connected with nature, growth and health. Green is reassuring on a primitive level, its presence indicating nearby water and plentiful vegetation. Its association with environmental friendliness is so strong, the two have become synonymous. Its relationship with nature also gives it a sense of power, making it a good choice for brands that want to seem strong like John Deere and Land Rover.
Purple is a rich, creative color that suggests decadence and imagination. Located at the end of the visible spectrum of light, just before the wavelengths that are inaccessible to our eyes, it is often used to create a sense of mystery and imagination. Described as the color of royalty, it can be used to present an air of glamour. Its connection to flowers and the feminine also makes it a popular color for beauty products.
Black is a strong color associated with authority and decisiveness. Black can be used to portray intelligence, as with the New York Times and Wikipedia logos, or confident simplicity, like the Nike logo. Like purple, black can also be used to invoke a feeling of mystery.
White is a clean color that evokes purity and sophistication. It promotes an image that is uncompromising or even sterile. It can be used with other colors to soften them up, or with black for a stark, no-nonsense contrast.
Gray is a neutral color connected with balance and practicality. While some gray can lend an aura of timelessness to a brand, too much gray is boring and depressing.
We’re ready to see you now.
Do your color choices seem to fit the products or services you are selling? This perceived appropriateness is a strong indicator of how someone will react to your choice of brand color. Here are some examples of how this takes the common color associations one step further:
- You want consumers to have warm, happy feelings about your brand, so you choose a nice, bright orange. This choice makes sense if you are selling a fun line of clothing, but not if you are a hospital, where a dependable blue would be more appropriate.
- You want to grab the public’s attention, so you go with a bold red logo. This choice makes sense if you are a toymaker, but not if you are a wildlife preserve where a natural green would be more appropriate.
Sometimes it is necessary to look beyond the ordinary color connections to make yourself stand out in the crowd. For example, while green has a strong association with the outdoors, our culture also associates it with money, making it an obvious choice for the financial management service Mint. Green also, as mentioned above, tends to have a calming effect, which is the last feeling you want to evoke if you are the makers of an energy drink. Yet, Monster Energy has successfully utilized the color in its logo by making it a glowing radioactive green that we would naturally associate with, well, monsters.
Knowing the emotions associated with your color choices and the reactions they are likely to evoke is important — whether you want to utilize these expectations or skillfully subvert them.
A whole new world: the changing landscape of VR and AR advertising
You inch down a dim corridor, shakily aiming a pistol while following an ominous trail of blood. A low groan makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up and you spin to see a zombie shuffle around the corner. The gunshots ring in your ears as the creature falls at your feet. You are in a virtual reality world.
Walking down the familiar sidewalks of your community, you check the map on your phone and see your avatar strolling through a cheerful green analog of the real world — except instead of a squirrel in your neighbor’s tree, you see a monster. And with a few taps on your phone, you can even catch it. You are in an augmented reality world.
An alternative to reality
A page from an early ’90s marketing campaign for a Virtuality arcade game system.
Photo credit: Dr. Waldern/Virtuality Group
Though both are experiencing a significant surge in public interest, VR and AR are not new tech. VR as we know it started gaining buzz in the ’80s, with video game consoles achieving widespread in-home adoption and sci-fi movies like “Tron” sparking interest. Then, in 1991, the VR company Virtuality released its VR pods to the world (well, to arcades and movie theaters, anyway). Users, however, quickly abandoned these always awkward, frequently nauseating machines with their bulky hardware and clunky graphics, and VR tech has been stumbling its way toward usability ever since. Augmented reality — the enhanced image created by putting a computer generated display over a real-time view of one’s surroundings — is newer, with the first see-through AR coming to cell phones in 2004.
These technologies have both been enjoying something of a renaissance lately. Modern VR headsets are vast improvements over their early ’90s counterparts, offering a better experience in every way, from the graphics and motion detection to the sleekness of the hardware itself. And AR has, perhaps, finally had its breakthrough moment. Let’s take a look at what’s driving the adoption of reality-altering tech and what that could mean for businesses who want to take advantage of the advertising opportunities they offer.
Several companies are trying to stay ahead of the VR hype and investing in the technology as an advertising medium. And it’s easy to see why it can seem so appealing. Not only does it offer a memorable experience, immersive visuals and boundless worlds, it is the definition of a captive audience. Strap a VR viewer to the user’s face and they are instantly free of any distractions from the world that you create. Want to send potential customers on a journey through a world where everyone is happily using your product vs. a bleak world where no one is? VR is the way to do it. The potential for drama and storytelling is vast and exciting.
Setting an example
Coke’s sleigh ride
While this potential is far from fully realized, one company is leading the way in the VR advertising space: Coca-Cola. Last Christmas, Coca-Cola created a virtual reality sleigh ride. Using Oculus Rift, thousands of people in Poland got to play Santa for a day — flying all over the country and into different villages, like a roller coaster in the sky. Coke has also sponsored a VR World Cup experience where participants first entered a replica of the locker room at Brazil’s Maracana Stadium. Then, after putting on VR Oculus Rift goggles, they made a grand entrance onto the playing field to play a game in front of a huge virtual crowd. View here. More recently, Coke has been shipping its 12-packs in cardboard packages that can be folded into VR goggles for your smartphone.
Coke’s VR mimics the user’s motions within the game.
With these efforts, Coke may be offering a peek at what future VR advertising success might look like: sponsoring experiences rather than just promoting products. As Matt Wolf, Coca-Cola’s head of global gaming, said, “there’s branding within the experience, but the more valuable aspect is that viewers are getting access to something that wouldn’t otherwise be possible…Thanks to Coke.”1
Trapped with cheese
Boursin’s cheese roller coaster
There are a few advertisers who have had some success luring people to try their independent VR experiences, from Volvo’s virtual test drives to Boursin’s (a French soft cheese maker) VR tour through a fridge full of its chilled treats. But, aside from Coke’s cardboard goggles, these efforts all took a significant investment and could only reach a limited audience for one key reason: most people don’t yet own a VR headset, so they need to be supplied by the advertiser. The reality is that games, not ads, will be driving the adoption of VR hardware because, as marketer Nicholas Manluccia wrote in Advertising Age, “There is nothing inherently compelling about being trapped in a refrigerator with spreadable cheese.”2
The real turning point in VR advertising will come when people start purchasing personal VR headsets for their homes on a large scale. With several of these headsets nearing their widespread public release dates, that time is fast approaching. About 14 million VR devices are expected to sell worldwide this year, according to market researcher TrendForce, which projects VR app, software and device sales will soar to $70 billion by 2020.2 Because of this, VR titles were popular games to demo at this year’s E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo). From Star Trek to Minecraft to the ever-present zombie shooters, it seemed like every developer wanted a piece of the VR pie, and they expected that pie to be full of fruit. Clearly, to many in the industry, VR is no longer the future of gaming, but a significant part of its present.
Virtual shopping and beyond
Modern VR could take you from the Amazon Jungle to Amazon.com
So, people will be buying these things, and they’ll be buying them specifically to play games. Assuming that most consumers continue to try to avoid, rather than actively seek out, advertising experiences, how else does a company who wants to advertise get in on that VR action? One way might be through virtual shopping. People actually seem pretty excited about the prospect. In a survey last year, researcher Ericsson ConsumerLab asked which feature of VR seemed the most enticing. The top response — more even than movies or video games — was the ability to “see items in real size and form when I shop online.”2 I recently could have used a “see how this overly complicated sectional will really fit in my living room” VR experience, so I understand the appeal.
Beyond virtual shopping and sponsored experiences, the future of VR advertising will likely involve taking advantage of the virtual worlds created by entertainment companies and telling your story to the people who are already there. “All that software and design work focused on making your hand look like it naturally wraps around a gun and being able to pick up objects with two hands — that nuance can be applied to a vacation simulator where you’re on a beach and want to pick up a seashell,” notes James Iliff, cofounder of L.A.-based VR tech company Survios. “One can easily imagine that scenario for Norwegian Cruise Lines’ The Sea is Calling campaign, which shows people in TV ads picking up shells to hear the voice of the sea in them.”1 The ad industry has to figure out the virtual space — a completely new form of storytelling where you don’t just have a printed picture or frame of a video to work with, but a whole world. The learning curve will be steep, but the possibilities are virtually endless.
Augmented reality has largely been an example of a technology that has not lived up to its hype. Om Malik of The New Yorker describes it as, “the ‘boy who cried wolf’ of the post-Internet world — it’s long been promised but has rarely been delivered in a satisfying way… none of [the apps] have gone mainstream, even those developed by Ikea and Lego.”3 Until now.
An AR game that could be a game changer
Faster to the top than Candy Crush, more profitable than Clash of Clans, able to steal more of your time than Facebook, it’s Pokémon GO! On July 6, Niantic Labs released an AR experience that instantly captured the hearts, minds, and GPS locations of millions of people around the world. I don’t need to explain Pokémon GO to you because by now, only a few weeks after its release date, it is absolutely everywhere (but just in case, click here for a brief primer). People are also playing it everywhere. From downtown shopping centers to parks, you can hardly be outside in public without seeing someone catching Pokémon.
This perception of ubiquity is backed by the numbers. Pokémon GO’s estimated 75 million downloads and $1.6 million in daily revenue has sent Niantic’s worth soaring, now valued at around $3.65 billion and on track to make $740 million in revenue this year.4 And, it’s not just downloads where Pokémon GO numbers are impressive, app engagement is unbelievably high. With over 20 million in the U.S. engaging daily for an average of 33 minutes per day, Pokémon GO has left even Twitter in the dust.
An AR-based game that has the power to not only grab consumers’ attention but significantly change their habits is something that should make advertisers take note. This experience is drawing users to both digital and physical spaces.5
Mainstream AR, at last
It really can be this simple
Photo credit: L’inizio Pizza Bar
AR has finally gone mainstream and, as will likely be the case with VR, its incredible rise was driven by a game. So, what does this mean for advertisers? For one thing, many of the players belong to that coveted, stubbornly advertising-resistant demographic: Millennials. This development could mean a big opportunity to capture their interest and marketers are already champing at the bit. Brandon Berger, Ogilvy Worldwide’s chief digital officer has already begun briefing his creative teams, brainstorming ideas on how brands might capitalize on Pokémon GO. “There’s no reason that advertisers would have to work directly with Pokémon GO in the near term.” He notes. “Why couldn’t brands participate at a gym location? If you’re a beverage brand or a retailer or even a real gym, why don’t you find gyms and put your brand right around that, put experiences around that?”
Some businesses were lucky enough to have their physical locations associated with in-game locations right from the start. As players began flooding in, they realized the connection to this virtual world could mean actual profit. Some have installed extra phone charging stations to accommodate these potential new customers, others are advertising their connections to the game, and some are even using the game’s own mechanics to their advantage. Sales at New York pizzeria L’inizio Pizza Bar went up 75 percent over the weekend after the owner spent $10 on “lure modules.”
To allow companies and advertisers to take advantage of the interest in an official capacity, Niantic has announced that they will soon add a “sponsored locations” program, where businesses can pay to have their physical locations associated with the game.
The virtual future
The Pokémon GO phenomenon provides us with a valuable example of what advertising could look like in a virtual future:
- It will be centered around gamers and gaming. With total revenues for the industry hitting $23.5 billion in the U.S. alone for 2015, this is a huge market.
- It will be experience-based, offering people something that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.
- It will largely exist in the worlds created by entertainment developers.
For now, businesses and advertisers are still wrapping their heads around what this all means — throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. And why not? Those who are brave enough to jump in now might just help a whole new world take shape.