BY DAVID JAMES GROUP

How Virtual Reality is Changing Association Marketing

Have you heard about virtual reality? It is a new way to experience the world, and it has already made waves in the marketing industry. A few association marketers are starting to use virtual reality as an engaging tool to help members get more involved with their organization. Here are a few ways your association can develop an immersive brand experience that draws in more members, sponsors, partners, event attendees, and revenue.
Posted: 2 months ago
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man wearing white VR headset while lifting right hand, virtual realityThe virtual world is full of possibilities. Live events or conferences are streaming virtually, allowing new audiences across different industries access anywhere they go through a headset and internet connection.

Now, your association can pilot a virtual reality experience into its marketing mix. With the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and other virtual reality headsets, users could potentially explore your trade show floor, understand what your members do day-to-day in their jobs, or visit your comprehensive member center, all without leaving home.

Here, we will cover why virtual reality is different from other types of marketing, how associations are using virtual reality for outreach efforts, and what you should consider when implementing this technology into your marketing strategy.

How is virtual reality marketing different from traditional forms of marketing?

Traditional marketing began in a physical environment. You would design an advertisement for print or digital media and spend your resources on getting the message seen by as many people as possible. This type of marketing was done through direct messaging, such as newsletters, emails, videos, and advertising on social media websites like Facebook or Twitter. Association marketers often employ these channels because their members are likely to be frequent users. The drawback with this method is that users mostly have a one-dimensional view of the content. The experience is not overly engaging or interactive.

Virtual reality offers an opportunity for association marketing teams to create more personalized, immersive content that will resonate with individual members. With virtual reality, you can program an experience that is viewed from different angles. This makes it more personal than traditional types of advertising because viewers feel like they are living the experience themselves.

What are some examples of virtual reality?

A few bold organizations utilize virtual reality to allow potential members to explore what life could be like within the organization without ever stepping foot inside. Some organizations offer virtual reality tours with Google Cardboard virtual reality headsets or an Oculus platform. People get to know members worldwide and hear stories about how they have been positively impacted by being a part of this organization.

Here are three nonprofits that are using virtual reality in their marketing:

The Hydrous – The Hydrous used engaging science-based experiences, scalable technologies like virtual reality, and multidisciplinary partnerships to inspire ocean connection and marine stewardship.  Visit their website.

Charity: Water – Below is an immersive video that tells the story of a young Ethiopian girl and what it must take to get water for her family every day. Visit their website.

The Dolphin Swim Club – They created an underwater VR experience that enabled people with disabilities to swim (virtually) with dolphins as a form of therapy. Visit their website.

What are some of the benefits and drawbacks of implementing VR into your marketing strategy?

Virtual Reality can be an effective way to convey feelings, places, or experiences. It also provides an opportunity for increased customer engagement with content since they have the option of “being there” rather than just reading about it.

Some downsides may include instances where people might feel too uncomfortable using the headset technology. Providing instructions on how virtual reality should be used is essential, so you do not adversely affect anyone’s health.  Motion sickness or dizziness has been reported from prolonged use. The other main downside is cost and accessibility. VR headsets can still be expensive upfront, and that cost can quickly add up if you are trying to outfit multiple people.  Also, many people do not currently own the equipment.  However, don’t discard the concept entirely because of these drawbacks.  Virtual reality can still be implemented through mixed-reality campaigns (such as augmented reality), mobile virtual reality experiences, or 360-degree videos.

Takeaways

The bottom line is this: associations always need to be looking for new ways to bring their message forward and stay relevant in the digital world. Virtual reality has a lot of potential because it can offer an immersive experience that will keep your audience more engaged than ever before, especially if you are using mixed media.  It provides a unique way of “being there,” enabling members to engage in content more deeply without feeling overwhelmed by large amounts of information.

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