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September 15, 2016

What You Need to Know to Add VR to Your Content Marketing Mix

With Labor Day behind us, Q4 is almost here. This means product announcements are on the horizon, it is trade show season – again, and it’s time to start putting marketing plans in motion for 2017.

Add VR to Your Content Marketing Mix

You’re looking for opportunities that not only create excitement, but that convert to revenue – quickly. What about a virtual reality project?

The summer’s hype about augmented and virtual reality (VR) have business marketers looking for ways to add these emerging mediums to their content marketing mix.

Yet, planning a successful VR project is not as straightforward as planning a mobile app or a typical lead gen campaign. VR requires a different level of visualization and planning that is new for most marketers.

There are six key decisions that typically define your VR project. Here’s what you need to know about each to set your VR project up for success – from concept through delivery.

1.  Identify the Business Story or Problem to Solve

Many marketers struggle with this. They know they want to add VR content, but are unsure where to use it.

Don’t chose a VR project because it is a bright, shiny object. The medium must excel at fulfilling your business and marketing objectives to succeed.

Got a complex value proposition to explain? VR can be a great tool to visualize the solution at work.

Or spend time thinking about the sticking points in your sales cycle and how VR can help overcome them. For example, is a physical tour key to your sale? VR may be able to digitally remove the barrier.

And beyond the sale, strong use cases for VR include training, maintenance, product design and experiential.

2.  Determine How Ubiquitious and Immersive the Experience Needs to Be

To scope and define your VR project means thinking through where your audience will have the VR experience. Will it be in your trade show booth or will you deliver it using direct mail. And does the user need to share the experience with colleagues?

Next consider how immersive the deliverable needs to be to achieve your objective? Does your viewer need to interact with the environment or product, or is being a passive observer sufficient?

Answers here will guide the selection of the right VR tools to build your solution. It is not one-size-fits-all. There is way more than one VR solution.

VR Tools Matrix

The VR tools matrix ranks leading hardware and software based on capabilities that impact both ubiquity and immersion.

A good design and development partner will help make this easy to understand. However, your business objective should drive the selection of tools for your project.

As you would expect, your VR device choices will also impact the time and cost of your project.

3.  Understand Project Timeline

Two critical drivers of VR project timelines are the type of VR – live action or animated – and what assets exist vs. need to be created.

Live action tends to be quicker than animation. For example, you may only need a 1-2 day shoot to capture 360 footage, and then simple post-production work such as intro/outro art. If the project requires animation, The more custom animation you want, the longer your timeframe.

Typical 360° video projects take 2-3 months and an entry-level live action VR takes 4+ months. Custom animation is often a driver of longer timelines.

4.  Cost Alignment/Budget Forecasting

Marketers also need to get familiar with how to budget for VR projects. With a wide range of quality and platforms, VR projects typically start at $35-75k with high-end budgets in the hundreds of thousands.

Key decisions that impact cost include: live action versus animation, total run time and quality [more on quality in a minute].

As a rough order of magnitude, you can consider the below:

Good quality – starting at $35k for a <1-3mn. experience

Better quality – starting at $50k for a <1-3mn. experience

Best quality – starting at $75k <1-3mn. experience

Other elements that impact cost include:

- Level of interactivity and complexity of interactions (number of scenes, transitions and animation sequences)

- Level of detail required for animated scenes and type of assets already available.

- Render quality and render time;

- Amount of post-production work such as voice over and sound effects; and,

- Device type.

5.  Balancing Quality Requirements

It is helpful to look at a Good-Better-Best range of experiences – and investments during planning. A client recently wanted to create a VR project that was similar in quality to that of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy’s rocket liftoff.

Who wouldn’t want to do that? It literally is rocket science!

Yet, not a lot of marketers have the six figure budget or 6-9 month timeline it would take. The need to engineer accurate animation detail of rocket and satellite (most likely leveraging CAD files) drove the timeline and budget for the SpaceX project.

So, having clarity and retaining a focus on your business objective will help make the right quality decisions for your project.

For our client, it meant being more like NASA with simplified animation, less scenes and shorter run time., but still providing an immersive experience that normally isn’t possible in real-life.

6. Consider a Proof-of-Concept

It often is smart to do a proof of concept VR deliverable. Making a significant investment in a new medium is a learning opportunity. Developing a minimum viable product to test with an audience can provide valuable insights that ultimately improve ROMI.

Marketers looking to be confident in their VR investment can also benefit from discovery deliverables. Wireframe schematics can help document interactivity and be done in parallel with storyboards.

Developing 3D models and capturing the correct dimensions, specs and layering before animation begins, as well seeing VR storyboards come to life with low poly animatics before rendering can allow course corrections without blowing timeline or budget.

Business marketers have a lot to learn about VR content development. The opportunities to differentiate your brand are compelling and answering these six questions will help you incorporate VR into your content mix intelligently.

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