When was the last time you got excited about direct mail?
When you think of direct mail you hardly think of something immersive or engrossing, since the experience is most often limited to what you’re seeing in your hand or on a surface in front of you.
However, with a virtual reality (VR) direct mail viewer you can turn every phone into a conversation with your experience right in the middle of it.
So far VR has shown that it can effectively help people visualize the future, spark empathy, grasp more complex concepts, and communicate stories in compelling ways.
For example, VR has the potential to help us become “better people”.
When VR direct mail is a good opportunity
I’m regularly tasked with thinking of new marketing experiments to capture value for a new product or business. Often these experiments look at testing marketing channels like email, search engine and social media to help the buyer along the buyer journey.
Direct mail is rarely one of these channels. However, direct mail with virtual reality capabilities has moved into an experiment worth considering if certain conditions are met:
- You’re a business with a mailing list that is current and targeted.
- You have a high degree of certainty the recipient fits the characteristics of a high probability buyer or influencer like an existing member, employee, donor, etc.
- The expected benefit of the experiment is greater than the cost of running the experiment.
- The expected benefit = increase in a key metric x probability of success.
Expected benefits of VR direct mail
An expected benefit is likely greater in a VR direct mail campaign when aimed further down the funnel like a new purchase, increase size of purchase and/or shortening of the purchase cycle. It could also be targeting referrals or even just retention.
Keep in mind that you’ll likely need to report on what direct mail has long been measured against, like response rates, cost per lead and cost per acquisition, which includes cost per unit plus all the other costs to produce and manage the campaign.
Since VR direct mail is a digital medium, it can provide insights from the analytics that might factor into the expected benefits you seek. Analytics in VR technology is, unsurprisingly, focused primarily on eye-tracking heat maps. An eye heat map data visualization helps to understand where people are most engaged throughout the experience. This data also provides meaningful clues to what viewers might be missing that you originally intended for them to see or spend more time on items you may not deem relevant. It is ideal to do some testing prior to mailing because the data itself can inform you to make better decisions in other marketing efforts.
Some VR campaigns include video so expect standard video analytics to be a part of measuring engagement.
Risks to avoid when using VR Direct Mail
New technology often gets sucked into the trap of coming across as gimmicky if not done correctly. It is wise to fully adapt and take advantage of the strengths of the medium. If your work is not contributing to the overall enhancement of the experience, then you shouldn’t use it.
Avoiding the Gimmicky Trap:
- VR is not about putting products into alluring 3-D spaces but building an engaging experience.
- The idea is not to have someone look at an advertisement for a bit longer than they typically would. The experience should be exploratory. The user should be in control of the experience, not the advertiser.
Suggested campaign types
Keeping the buying process in mind, here are some suggestions on what to consider when creating, not only an exciting experience, but a meaningful expected benefit for your first VR direct mail campaign.
- Interactive Tours — Let your customers choose their own adventure while their data tells you how to plan your roadmap.
- VR Post Cards in Giftshops — Your special exhibits can be brought home to share and cherish as collectible designs.
- Supercharged Showroom — Customers can look under the hood with just a glance and schedule a test drive before the dealer even opens.
- 3D Model Previews — Invite your VIPs to the grand opening and let them pre-order your reserve stock.
- Contextual Surveys — Know what your customers really want so you can offer incentives that truly make an impact.
- Attention Research — Learning what draws your audience’s eyes during a screening let’s you change the story before it ever goes to market.
- Mass Customization — Speak to every fan through custom covers and original content synced to each card.
- Event Updates — If your customers already have a VR Card, keep the conversation going with fresh content and incentives before the big day.
Hands on examples of how VR can win over an audience
Virtual reality can help you communicate “a day in the life” experience in a very effective way. Here are two examples:
- Planned Parenthood created a VR film ‘Across the Line’ to effectively communicate “the experience of verbal harassment the organization’s employees and patients routinely endure on the way to a clinic’s front door.”
- The Golden State Warriors pitched Kevin Durant with a VR tour of the team’s practice facility and new stadium.
Where to go from here
If you are on a tight budget you could look to VR direct mail to deliver a meaningful impact. Consider all campaign types and review the optimal conditions listed above to determine if you’re in a good position to pitch this type of campaign in a future marketing experiment.
Best of luck!
Interested in learning more about virtual reality? Take a look at the VR AR industry from inside.com which recently included this handy summary on the future of VR.
By 2020 there will be around 42 million VR headsets globally and this will revolutionize the business world, from making hardware type televisions obsolete to letting people attend live concerts from their living rooms. – THE DRUM
Mitchell Posada, Founder & Senior Product Consultant of LeanStart.io
Mitchell Posada runs a CMO as A Service consulting firm LeanStart.io focused on scaling tech-enabled businesses. Mitch has spent most of his career launching digital products and helping businesses leverage technology and process innovation to transform brands and increase ROI. Mitch is known for his Product and Growth strategy and execution consulting to dozens of start-ups in mobile, IoT, digital marketplaces, and sports. Mitch is currently a mentor at 2112inc.com, MatterChicago.com, 1871.com, Super G Accelerator, and Xberts.com. Formerly VP of Marketing at PathfinderSoftware.com, a healthcare software development company. Prior experience with large enterprise includes DHL WorldWide, WellsFargo, Best Buy, AdMob/Google, Humana, Nestle, HP, and IDT Telecom. Mitch earned his M.B.A. from the Haas School of Business at U.C. Berkeley.
With: Alexandra Thielke, Co-Founder of Twentyfive & Thirty
After this year’s installment of Cannes Lions, we had the pleasure to do a 1-on-1 interview with the co-founder of “world-traveling” agency Twentyfive & Thirty, Alexandra Thielke. Haven’t heard of the 2-person creative agency? Check out their feature in AdWeek!
Here’s the scoop:
Was this your first time at Cannes Lions? Would you agree that this festival is the most rewarding annual event creative professionals can attend?
“This was our 3rd time at Cannes Lions. This is definitely an inspiring event to attend for all creative professionals. This event sets the tone of what is trending and what will be the tendencies in the year to come. So many inspiring people are gathered to share and discuss their point of view of the creative industry. We believe that this is one of the most educating events you can possibly attend.”
In 3 words, please describe this year’s festival.
“International. Inspiring. Rosé.”
Major brands like Burger King and John Lewis brought home the Lions Grand Prix. Out of all participating campaigns, which one stood out to you the most?
“The Swedish number – A campaign created for the Swedish Tourist Association, where they made a number anyone in the world can call to ask about Sweden, which will be connected to any random Swede who have signed up to participate and represent their native country.”
“Breast cancer awareness – The Manboobs campaign takes on social media censorship of female breasts by demonstrating how to do a breast self-exam using a man. We just thought it was so well made, clever and hilarious!”
What was the overarching topical theme at this year’s festival? What was the buzz?
“Virtual reality and 360 video was to be found everywhere – It is really taking off! Passion that beats talent, and the collaboration between agencies and clients was a strong topic at this year’s festival as well”
Cannes Lions always attracts a plethora of celebrities. From Will Smith to Martha Stewart. Would you say that any of this year’s keynote speakers managed to capture what branding and creativity means today?
“Absolutely. One of our favorites was Will Smith. Besides his amazing ability to capture his audience and set a relaxed “down to earth” mood, he had some really good points on how to manage a brand and how social media has changed the entire ball game. One of his main points was the change in running a company, and the increased expectancy of full transparency where companies these days are forced to be completely honest and create good wholesome products. If they don’t, their flaws run the risk of being spread across social media in no time.”
What was the most extravagant occurrence during the festival? Any helicopter entrances or outdoor cirque du soleil performances?
“Our most extraordinary experience was delivered by SNASK who made their talk dressed as a rock band. They just look cool and make great work.”
Lastly, what are the thoughts and ideas you will bring back with you to your creative agency?
“We found the subject on collaboration between agency and client very interesting. We had many discussions about this and how relationships need to change to be more honest and close. There were definitely points that support the way we want to – and already work. Especially the thoughts on working “as a team” instead of accepting the traditional client – supplier relationship.”
“The possibilities with Facebook live and 360 video was also very inspiring and is something that we were already looking into before, but now something we will be looking even closer to get involved in. It is clear that advertising is changing from “making ads” to “solving problems”. As creatives, this is something we maintain a strong focus on so it was very inspiring to see and seeing what others are doing gave us tons of inspiration.”
Alexandra Thielke, Co-Founder & Strategic Planner of Twentyfive & Thirty
Twentyfive & Thirty is the world’s smallest global creative agency set out to challenge the way traditional ad agencies work while fulfilling a dream of traveling the world. It is an agency without a fixed address, without fixed work hours but with the flexibility to work whenever they are needed, wherever they want, and with clients from all over the world. This means they often work with their clients without ever meeting them in person.
Since its inception, SXSW Interactive has been a hub enlightening people on new ideas and innovations year after year. Now celebrating 30 years, SXSW has acted as a launch pad for Twitter, Foursquare and Meerkat. Here is a look at what the 30-year anniversary edition brought.
This year’s event compelled brands to go full-throttle in activating the attendees by offering experiences we’ve never seen before. Riding its success with Mr. Robot, USA Network made a return to SXSW bringing an actual piece of the show with them. Fans were able to ride a 100-foot Ferris wheel and hangout in an abandoned theme park, just like the one they’ve seen on the show. Talk about bringing a series into actual life.
Warner Bros. were not to be outdone as they transformed a local Austin tattoo shop into Harley Quinn’s Tattoo Parlor – themed after a character from the upcoming film Suicide Squad. Here attendees could get fake or real tattoos identical to those worn by the film’s characters.
SXSW further strengthened the claim that this is the year VR truly takes a leap. Anheuser-Busch used virtual reality to bring their Budweiser brewery to Austin. A-B set up a Budweiser beer garage where everyone could help themselves to unlimited amounts of Budweiser. The beer enthusiasts were also able to experience a full tour of the Budweiser brewery through an interactive VR session that included the sights, sounds and even scent of the brewery. The sessions were finalized with a taste of a freshly brewed Budweiser.
VR experiences was everywhere to be found, offered by brands like Samsung, McDonald’s and even NASA was there to show off their capabilities. Together with MIT Space Systems Lab, NASA is working on a free virtual reality experience of Mars that will be released on Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, Samsung VR Gear, as well as for iPhone and Android.
Big Time Keynotes
Taking time off what probably is the busiest schedule in the US (if not the world), President Barack Obama stopped by SXSW to give a 1-hour long keynote. In contrast with joking about how the Affordable Care Act website launch was a failure, the President urged the audience, and the tech industry to work closer in conjunction with the US government to improve government ailments such as outdated IT infrastructures and voting processes. Obama’s overarching message was to encourage innovative minds to work together to make an impact in their communities and not always identify profit as the sole motivation to develop new exciting tech. In case you missed it, have a look.
Photo Source: Adam Bartlett
In and Out of Home Connectivity
Brands were eager to show off their latest smart product innovations. Options were plentiful, from refrigerators to light bulbs to thermostats. The market for smart home products continues to grow and according to Parks Associates smart home monitoring and control systems are installed in more than 10% of U.S. households. 45% of U.S. households either own some smart home technology or plan to invest in it in 2016.
Not only are consumers embracing in-home smart products but the adoption for smart products out-of-home is finding its footing. The automotive industry stole the spotlight at this year’s show with General Motors’ recent Lyft investment of $500 million, revealing a long-term goal of creating an infrastructure of self-driving taxis. Drivers are intrigued by the idea of fully automated vehicles as a study by Autotrader shows that 52% of respondents would be comfortable riding or driving in a vehicle with self-driving technology. The same study also showcased an interest in interactive dashboards as 46% say they would pay up to $1,500 for an interactive dashboard. However, the challenge for auto brands will be to focus on connectivity and device integration as 57% seek better integration for smartphones with generic systems such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Consumer Electronics Association anticipates the wearable tech industry to grow 64% over the next three years with 245 million devices reaching $25 billion in sales. Marketers now understand that the wearable market is set to deliver a new source of endless data. Considering the long-awaited progression of mobile monitoring and tracking marketers will start to demand increasingly seamless capabilities for breaking down wearable data. Fitbit took one step in the direction of combining features from 2 different wearable products by introducing Fitbit Blaze. The device is branded as a smart fitness watch. It still remains to be seen if the wearable market can achieve an automated environment where unconscious behavior steers the utilization of wearable products.
The annual show was a prime example that VR is finally maturing into a game that now includes more than just a few players. TrendForce predicts that 14 million virtual-reality devices will be sold worldwide in 2016. High production costs and poor ROI projections have for years made marketers refrain from indulging in the virtual reality mania. As production technology evolves the production cost is reducing and the new options for 360 video has led to increased consumer interest in VR devices.
Nikon and GoPro are both developing new ways for consumers to capture their own 360-degree content. Content that they now can place on platforms such as YouTube and Facebook thanks to their recent installments. By enabling consumers to become content creators, the VR and 360 video industry has taken ground breaking steps in the proper direction. As the profit potential becomes much clearer brands will start to become less hesitant to use VR in new initiatives that can prove to be remarkably rewarding and exhilarating.
User-Generated Video Is Now The Norm
During his keynote YouTube’s Robert Kyncl stated that digital will make up 75% of total video viewing by 2020. During this statement a numerous amount of people were using vertical video platforms such as Periscope and Snapchat to streamline his message real-time to their respective audience. Companies like Twitter, Facebook and Yahoo all attended meetings with vertical video to show during CES. Throughout the event it was apparent that people are living their lives mobile-first and so were the brands showcasing their products. Live-streaming and vertical video is in full adoption mode, and it is controlling how we encode, decode and interpret messages around the clock daily.
Photo Source: Andrés Nieto Porras