Impact Analysis: The rise of VR at SXSW 2016

Virtual reality (VR) got a boost in attention over the last few weeks with high-profile announcements and campaigns at  SXSW and the Game Developer Conference (disclosure: Samsung is a client I work on). Coming out of these conferences though, the question now becomes ‘so what’? You may remember agency strategists clambering on how Meerkat and Periscope apps were the ‘next big thing’ out of SXSW 2015, but are almost nowhere to be seen now. Looking at VR in a similar light, the product has some substantial barriers to mainstream acceptance; cost, ecosystem size, and usability.

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Getting to the ‘so what’? 

I feel we are still a few years and product iterations out till VR truly hits the mainstream. The question then becomes, what value are we then able to pull out of the ‘Year of VR’? Virtual reality as a concept is a means of escape and an immersive experience. Perhaps what marketers should take away from the conference is the idea of depth and experiences in what they are trying to promote instead.

Providing deeper marketing experiences

I  don’t think VR technology is entirely out of the picture yet. For larger brands, there is still the availability of 360 videos that provide deeper visuals on a consumer’s mobile device.  Otherwise,  being better at telling a story about your brand, or about what your company does could be a great focus also.

Avoiding ‘The Next Big Thing”

Not to sound jealous because I’ve only gone once…. but a fault of a conference such as SXSW is that those who come away from it try to grasp at what the next big trend in marketing/tech will be. In my honest opinion, changes are more likely to happen organically and over time (Ex: Snapchat  as a viable platform) rather than overnight. I found SXSW to be more of a general learning experience where marketers can see more of the ecosystem around them, and be able to perfect on the basics. The need to jump onto another big trend is potentially dangerous, resulting in lost time and money for something that isn’t tested and perhaps not quite strong enough to be in the public eye.

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