Exciting New Reality for Promo Industry
Every year, 3,000 four-year U.S. colleges and universities desperately vie to get noticed. From mass direct-mail campaigns and traveling admissions counselors to state-of-the-art student centers and plush dormitories (cinderblock walls and communal bathrooms no more), the competitive university market is brimming with institutions spending millions of dollars and man hours in an effort to attract students to their halls.
But how well is that money being spent? People throw away mailed flyers, miss college fair tables, and only become aware of new buildings if they visit the school’s website or go on a tour. What if there was a way to cast a wider (even global) net that has the potential to attract more serious prospects?
With virtual reality, it’s already happening.
Schools are now hiring developers to create films that can be viewed in 360 degrees and accessed with an app. The educational institutions are including low-cost headset VR viewers (apparatus where smartphones are placed and used as the screen) in direct mailings or through an opt-in request at their website. Recipients can check out that new dorm and sparkling student center, and also listen to conversations with department chairs – experiences designed to elicit a campus trip for a more in-depth visit. When the prospective students arrive, the school can assume it’s a serious contender on these prospects’ lists.
“They have more detailed questions to ask, and they know what they want to explore even more when they get there,” says Gordon Meyer, director of YouVisit, a VR provider founded by three international students at Brandeis University who wanted to give more people the opportunity to take campus tours, regardless of income and location. “VR allows you to travel far afield in a moment.”
Virtual reality is no longer a futuristic pipedream. VR is expected to be a $30 billion global industry by 2020, with annual shipments of headsets predicted to exceed 12 million units this year and reaching 55 million in 2022.
But perhaps of more importance for advertising and marketing professionals is exactly who is using VR. It’s not just gamers with cutting-edge rigs, or Silicon Valley labs developing the highest technology. VR is within the reach of just about anyone, and it can be immediately leveraged in marketing and sales by offering interaction with a brand’s value proposition.
“I can’t think of one business that shouldn’t be in VR,” adds Meyer. “It serves marketing, sales and brand awareness for every vertical. The less-expensive viewers move like hotcakes at trade shows. People can jump right into it just using their smartphones.”
For the promotional industry in particular, it’s an exciting new reality. VR will allow distributors to demonstrate to clients how their branded products would work in a future promotion. Distributors can also partner with brand agencies to create VR marketing content for clients that is instantly memorable. Suppliers already sell VR viewers that can be logoed and given away for exceptional brand engagement.
Polyconcept North America (PCNA) has been selling the hardware since 2014, when retail trends started to heat up. They went from one headset to four in just six months. “VR is now a part of more projects than ever before,” says national sales manager Rick French. “Flash drives went through the same thing. People weren’t sure what they were, now they need 100 by Friday. That’s where these headsets will go. The knowledge of the technology is getting broader.”
Falling costs will drive even more adoption, resulting in new revenue channels, says Wilson Tang, vice president of digital experience at VR content provider FreemanXP. “We’re developing new ways to interact,” he says. “We’re still learning and discovering. The technology is developing at breakneck speed.”
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