The way that many of us think about virtual reality activation is to place us into experiences and environments that as humans we’ll never be able to go. They are often fantastical realms not accessible in the real world. But what about those places that are just slightly out of reach?
The average consumer will likely never ski the backcountry in a remote part of Canada, hike the Dolomites or take a helicopter flight through Manhattan but it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility. Brands use VR to drop consumers into aspirational experiences. By taking traditional consumers to product interactions in the virtual world, brands are hoping to create connections and potentially push consumers over the line to leap into those experiences in real life.
Norwegian outdoor apparel and sports gear brand Helly Hansen is trying to do just that with its “Alive since 1877” campaign. As part of the campaign, it has deployed sailing and alpine skiing virtual reality experiences where people can try on apparel while virtually visiting extreme environments. Helly Hansen marketer Cam Rizzardini explains why the brand is investing in this type of activation, “At Helly Hansen, we’re all about feeling alive. Especially when it pertains to our, dare I say, less than exhilarating day-to-day lives. But let’s face it… . We all can’t just drop what we’re doing and go hit 35 knots on an offshore racing trimaran. That’s where virtual reality comes in.”
Travel agency Thomas Cook has been activating this type of experience for a little over a year. Its “Try Before You Fly” experience lets travelers take self-guided tours of iconic destinations like the Pyramids in Egypt, the parks, skyline and bridges of Manhattan, the Greek Islands and more. Its creative partner in the activation, Two Goats, highlights Thomas Cook’s success with the experience. “In the first three months, the in-store virtual reality experience generated 12,000 flights and hotel bookings and has seen a 40% return on investment. There was also a 190% uplift in New York excursions revenue.”
Helly Hansen has received positive engagement from its customers and plans to expand its VR footprint. Rizzardini says, “So far the feedback toward the VR experience has been very positive. We intend to expand its use into the other collections of our product line, more specifically, alpine racing with HH partner Alpine Canada and backcountry skiing with our free-ride pros. The racing experience will put customers in the boots of an Olympic Alpine skier, ripping down an icy course and around gates toward the finish line, while the backcountry experience will put them waist deep in powder as they weave around trees and huck cliffs in a wintry paradise.”
VR is still considered an experimental technology for marketers as it’s both costly to execute well and generally un-proven. Additionally, the use case must be a good fit — brands selling products in industries with an immersive nature. If you are in retail, travel, entertainment or sports — this means you.
So, what’s the key to getting it right? Rizzardini says of Helly Hansen, “We want to give customers a break from the mundane and offer them an experience that makes them feel alive and, more importantly, inspires them to step outside the VR and try these experiences out in the real world.”