Here’s Why VR Doesn’t Work For Your Brand…

CB Barthlow, Director of Development, Shop Marketing & Creative Group

VR is very important right now. At least, we’re supposed to think it is. Brands the world over are experimenting with the new technology to mixed results. Frankly, no one is really seeing great brand conversion from their VR efforts but then, no one really wants to admit that.

There’s a reason VR doesn’t work for brands just yet, it doesn’t motivate consumers to act. The VR experience is less about the message and more about the vehicle. Consumers are experiencing the technology, NOT what the technology is presenting. That means, that your message and your brand are getting lost in the clutter of the technology itself.

You wouldn’t producer a 30 second TV spot with your logo muffled in static, would you? Why then, are brands jumping on the VR bandwagon when the technology doesn’t actually help them reach consumers? Here’s a hint: we don’t understand how consumer’s brains work.

VR is isolated and temporal. It requires a form of sensory deprivation to achieve a form of sensory simulation. This digital deprivation prevents a consumer from accurately understanding the experience in terms of reality. Technology has a way of limiting the way our brains retrieve information across multiple senses and this means our brains have less data to fortify experiences. VR represents the pinnacle of this sensory limitation and its why people find VR a novelty, but little more. They simply can’t remember enough about it.

I’ll bet you have a favorite movie that you can recite almost line-for-line, you’ve seen it a million times and it’s now in your long-term memory. I also bet there are some moments from your distant past that you can remember just as clearly as yesterday. Why is it that some things only need a single exposure to be implanted into your long-term memory and others require a few replays?

Simulated and technological experiences often require repetition to turn the experience into a memorable one, but it’s in the tangible, full-sensory experiences that the brain retains the most information to store for long-term recall, this is called Episodic Memory.

Episodic memory stores the things and events that happen to us1. Some scientists have found that events recorded into episodic memory can trigger a change in behavior as a result of the event, this is called episodic learning2.

What does this mean? It means that an IRL experience, employing all senses, has a far greater chance of influencing the consumer to retain, record and then act upon new information than an experience devoid of those sensory inputs.

VR is using technology all wrong. Instead of augmenting the consumer sensory experience, VR is limiting those senses and thereby limiting the brains ability to collect information, store it for later recall, and act upon it, where necessary. This is the very opposite of what marketers are hoping their messages will accomplish.

When consumers encounter brand messaging that doesn’t resonate, it’s often not the fault of the message, but the vehicle and VR is the least effective vehicle for your brand message.

Consumers need to hear, touch, taste, smell and feel your message; VR technology can only pretend to accomplish that. Consumers need to experience your message. Moment Marketing does exactly that.

  1. Hassabis D and Maguire EA. 2007. Deconstructing episodic memory with construction. Trends in Cognitive Sciences (Regul Ed ) 11(7):299-306.
  2. Terry, W. S. (2006). Learning and Memory: Basic principles, processes, and procedures. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.