Virtual reality is either the emperor's new clothes or the most exciting area of media today.

Whatever your own belief, brands are getting to grips with VR, making use of emerging agency expertise in this area.

Here are three of the latest brands using VR (mostly for branded content thus far), from automotive, food and drink, and retail.

Saks

If you're too lazy to go window shopping, why not watch Saks' new 360-degree video below.

It's not the most sophisticated effort I've seen, being slightly reminiscent of a dull early-noughties second life, however, the experience is predominately a PR exercise.

It supports Saks' Secret Garden - a range of stunning window displays advertising beauty brands.

VR is at the stage where any experimentation, even with short 360-degree video is bound to get attention, and indeed the video below has been viewed almost 150,000 times in two weeks at time of writing. 

McDonald's

McDonald's has already used VR in a consumer-facing role, allowing its Happy Meal boxes to be transformed into cardboard headsets.

But now the burger giant is using VR as a powerful campaign medium - part of an experiential roadshow touring the UK and addressing challenges in farming and the food and drink sector (as part of the wider, Farm Forward campaign).

As well as being an exercise in PR, educating customers about McDonald's' farming practices in an effort to improve brand perception, the roadshow is also a tool to recruit more people into the industry.

To that end, the VR experience will showcase restaurants, factories and farms, allowing customers to walk around and get a feel for McDonald's commitment to animal welfare, food quality and the environment.

Just in case you think this is starting to feel a bit boring for a big brand like McDonald's, there is an accompanying media campaign and the VR experience will include games, such as tractor driving.

Conor McVeigh, director of suppy chain at McDonald's UK, told Marketing Week that VR could be used to "scale up" transparency efforts and that VR is at a "tipping point" as realistic content can now be developed.

See the McDonald's website for further info on the VR experience itself.

A strange publicity shot (here's an actual image of the roadshow from the Sunday Post)

mcdonald's vr

Honda

Honda has been experimenting with VR for a while, last year creating DreamDrive, a 'trippy in-car experience for passengers' (as described by PC World) where the car's motion enhances the virtual stimuli.

This idea seemed to be a bit of fun, perhaps aimed at augmenting in-car entertainment, with a view to targeting the family market in future.

But later this month Honda gets a bit more serious, beginning to use VR as branded content, not merely a labs style innovation project.

Online videos, released the same day as the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, will let viewers 'drive' the Honda Dallara.

USA Today's websites will showcase the content, also including it in an app called VR Stories.

As yet, it's unclear how users will view the app content but (despite 1m monthly active users of Samsung Gear) USA Today may copy the NY Times tactic of including Google Cardboard with newspapers.

Honda will host the content online, too. Unfortunately, as it's not live yet, we'll have to show you a video of when Honda used Oculus way back in 2014 to promote a new concept motorcycle and the brand more generally (see below).

 

For more on VR and brands, read the following: 

And to hear more about VR, why not attend our Future of Digital Marketing event in June 2016 in London.

Ben Davis

Published 23 May, 2016 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (3)

Susan Smith

Susan Smith, Marketing Manager at http://www.promodirect.com/

WOW, I just luvd the concept of Honda! Actually, VR is a new innovation in human computer interaction which every big brand should use it to their marketing campaign.

over 1 year ago

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Matt Quinn, Cso at Sauce

You missed: Nissan, Wells Fargo, Dominator Yachts and the British Army

over 1 year ago

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giovanni flore, project manager at fabrica

Regarding Saks' VR experience: I'm wondering what's the point in wearing a headset, insulating yourself from the real world just to see a series of badly designed ads from a bunch of luxury brands. This is just one example of what VR mustn't be - it would cause an intense rejection, as intense as a finely designed experience may leave a memorable track in the user's mind.

over 1 year ago

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