News & Views

Opinion / Multi-Sensory Marketing

by Contagious Contributor
Diederik Veelo, founder of the Ambassadors Lab, discusses what the brave new world of multi-sensory marketing means for brands

There is nothing new about brands seeking to tell compelling stories and connect with consumers through all sorts of content. From the written word, to video, audio and music, brands have always hunted for new ways to connect with consumers. So, it is no surprise that the savviest brands of the 21st Century now offer fully multi-sensory experiences and have embraced new mediums to tickle their fickle customers.

Take 4D film for instance – combining 3D film with physical effects, and creating something that activates the audience’s immediate response system. The same goes for Virtual Reality (VR). If done well, the user is taken on a journey with unparalleled emotional responses. For instance, Marriott Hotels’ virtual travel experience (above), ‘including live-action video, a mix of CGI and 4-D elements to deliver an unprecedented feeling of actually being in Hawaii and London.’ 

This journey, in addition to the usual visual element, integrates sound and movement as part of the VR experience. In the future, these will be key elements in the virtual sphere. This goes hand in hand with an optimised 360-degree environment, including binaural sound, integrated movement and less pixelated screens. Put this all together and the possibilities for immersing our audience in an alternative reality of our choosing are endless.

What is interesting is that the technology behind such developments isn’t so much new as evolved. Innovative pioneers have long been considering the possibilities of VR, dreaming of the day the technology would be refined enough to execute ideas. As we have seen in practically every aspect of life, strong ideas work to elevate technology, and technology fuels the elevation of ideas. We are defining an era where brands can offer people the chance to experience something they have never even conceived before – it’s as though those 1980s sci-fi movies have suddenly blasted into reality. Take the release of Oculus Touch and other VR accessories such as data gloves, allowing users to interact with the virtual world through touch – simulating sensations such as being shot, grabbed or even – and you can see where this might be headed – caressed.

It goes without saying that these experiences are progressively fueled by technology, sophisticated enough to satisfy consumers with an unstoppable desire to constantly be entertained. Naturally, the best marketers are quick to jump on board the multi-sensory ‘brandwagon’ because they see this as a shortcut to build stronger relationships with their consumers and cut through the competitor ‘noise’, through complete audience immersion. VR fosters the potential for brands to engage a viewer who is giving them one hundred percent of their attention. The creative prospects are almost limitless. So if we go back to the opportunities we are offered, outside of sight and sound, it’s unsurprising that VR serves as a match made in heaven for porn industry players looking to further their business in the field of ‘teledildonics’ (the practice of having simulated sex over the internet via remote-controlled sex toys  for those of you who aren’t au fait with the latest cyber sex developments).

And at a more cerebral level, VR is an extremely powerful medium to tell a story, which is obviously something that brands yearn to do. So, as clichéd as it may sound, brand bravery is paramount. Obviously, the greater numbers of brands and agencies that pursue innovative ideas, the more they are forced to realise this process inevitably involves taking a leap of faith. We are still in the brave new world of an undefined new reality, and in today’s technology-driven world there is no time to seek perfection. Doing something no one has done before, literally means: no one has done it before. Delivering the unexpected, being surprising and leading by being one step ahead is a role that the world’s most innovative brands thrive on.

Technology alone is not enough. You need to marry it with a strong idea. These ideas often come from brands, which push technology forward, since they are so versatile. A human rights charity will stretch the medium in different ways than a car brand. A decade ago, when VR first took shape, the medium best lent itself to the gaming industry. Fast-forward to the age of digital innovation, and VR is being harnessed across a diverse range of industries.

As an absorbing tool for storytelling, in an age where people have become immune to many advertising efforts, it seems that brands are going to have to constantly search for new ways to tickle us – or risk being drowned out completely.

Diederik Veelo is founder of the Ambassadors Lab and Cube