Find out why XR can enhance brand storytelling

Published May 3, 2022, 8:18 a.m. by Sini-Maria Melanen

VR and AR have introduced exciting possibilities for brands to create a new layer in their corporate storytelling. But how can companies get started?

Extended reality (XR) technologies, such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), offer myriad possibilities for companies to extend their brand to digital spaces. To find out more about the possibilities, I sat down with Karoliina Leisti, Head of Customer Success at Stereoscape and Janne Itäpiiri, Creative Strategist at Stereoscape, a creator of new experiences for virtual and digitally augmented platforms, to discuss why they believe companies should start making their own metaverse strategy to create novel brand experiences.

Let’s get down to business with the obvious question: why should companies invest in XR technologies?

Karoliina: There are a lot of studies out there that speak for the benefits of XR technologies for sales and marketing. From improved user engagement to exponential improvements in learning, AR and VR are new tools that any company with the opportunity to utilize them should consider.

So, what is the market like for XR technology solutions today? I understand that in the B2B sector both VR and AR have been used for training purposes for a while now. And B2C companies have started to use AR filters for product promotion. Has demand changed in the past few years?

Karoliina: The pandemic has accelerated the demand and made many curious to know more. We get a lot of requests; some are still figuring out what these technologies actually are, and how they could incorporate them into their business. With other clients, we go straight to implementation and finding the right solutions for them. And as you pointed out, VR has been used for training for several years and the demand is only growing.

Janne: In 2022, clients know a lot already, although we always start our collaborations with a consultation. Clients look for benefits and resource efficiency from these technologies. B2B companies are often interested in the modelling of future scenarios to support decision-making processes. Although the usability of VR headsets, for example, still raises questions. The technology still needs to develop further, but with the right implementation and context, it can be utilized with good results.

Karoliina: I agree that there’s a lot of variety in user experiences. Some pick up fast on how to use the headset and others need more familiarization.

I can see why that can hinder some people from giving the technology a try. As many of these ideas are abstract and hard to grasp, could you share a few practical examples of how XR technologies are used to create branded experiences?

Karoliina: The presence of the brand can stretch to virtual dimensions; it’s an infinite space that adds a new layer to the brand experience. One of our most recent projects included using AR to create a new dimension to a restaurant experience. We have done virtual showrooms, holographic data visualisations, virtual training environments and 3D modelled interactive product materials. And the benefits for brands come down to reachability, personalisation, gamification, and strong analytics.

Janne: I would add to Karoliina’s list that the experiential and entertainment aspects are central to these technologies. And to answer the question of why this is important – it adds new or multiple new layers to experience the brand and make those associations stronger. Also, the content that’s created based on these experiences and shared in other media makes the memory even stronger.

I can see how these new ways to engage with a brand can foster brand loyalty as well. Now, the potential of XR technologies for storytelling is of special interest for us content marketers. Can you tell us a little bit about how to create stories with the aid of XR and how does it differ from the storytelling we’re used to?

Janne: VR storytelling differs, for example, from the storytelling aspect of films and games in the sense that the user is right there in the middle of the story. Virtual spaces give us the opportunity to kind of re-invent how the narrative and storytelling are constructed. The equipment must work seamlessly so that the user can immerse [themselves] in the story. The user will remember the emotional connection they experienced during a virtual, interactive experience.

This sounds fascinating and I’m already imagining all the possibilities when content creators team up with tech experts! You have stated that companies need to start making their own strategy to get involved with the metaverse. Why is this so important right now?

Karoliina: Let’s put it this way. Imagine there’s a new country that has opened, with incredible possibilities to sell, there are only a few companies operating there and the level of competition is not very high. The metaverse question is the same: why should companies pay attention to it? I strongly believe every company that can sell through digital spaces or enhance their operations with digital means should make a metaverse business strategy.

Janne: If a company doesn’t want to be a metaverse pioneer, at some point it might get tricky to gain a footing in there.

Karoliina: This is exactly the reason why. The metaverse is developing very fast. Companies need to look into it now to be able to create or even understand the countless new business models that are possible. I’m not saying you should rush in without preparations, on the contrary. A proper strategy ensures things are done properly without unnecessary costs.

How will the rise of blockchain, crypto and NFTs affect content marketing?