Can I use YouTube 360 for Virtual Reality Marketing?
Marketing is defined as “the action of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising”. Virtual reality marketing is doing the same but in a virtual environment.
Virtual reality tools are on the brink of mainstream adoption and consumer acceptance. This is also signaled by big tech’s involvement. This could present fresh opportunities for brands. But their marketers have to be brave enough to use the fast-developing platform. The technological innovation around VR is rapidly improving and evolving, led in particular by the gaming community. The more realistic and believable the imagery, the more brands will become inclined to use it as part of their marketing mix.
Of course not for the everyday campaigns, but more as an enhancement to specific ones that are heavily brand/desire-focused. VR captures the imagination and is a powerful tool as a teaser experience. Imagine exploring products both inside and out futuristic concept cars for example. As the VR experiences become more and more lifelike, the potential for brands that are willing to be brave is huge. The impact VR can have on people can be significant.
Using 360 video for VR marketing
There are two ways to create VR content today. First is by animating imaginary environments and the second by filming realistic 360 surroundings. Most virtual reality experiences today are made with game engines like Unity3D our Unreal Engine 4. But the best is yet to come. Imagine coupling the deeply immersive nature of a VR experience with the near-ubiquitous reach of online video. It’s a powerful combination for marketers. Because 360-degree video is the cornerstone of VR, this means VR campaigns could be experienced within minutes. With the growing number of VR cameras coming to the market, the prices of producing such content will decrease. This means that this new medium will become accessible to a bigger crowd of marketers.
I have the content ready … now how can I deliver it?
So you recorded the 360 videos with that new camera that just came to the market. Or you asked a professional to do it. What now? There’re quite a few publishing options on the market right now. I’ll list them below.
krpano Panorama Viewer
I would almost say that this is the grandfather of 360 photos. It a versatile panorama viewer and probably the most used one in the 360 community. The downside of using it is that you have to configure XML and have to build the whole infrastructure directly into your website, connect with your database, integrate with a CDN, … In any case, it demands a lot of manual work so you’ll need a web developer to help you out.
Vrideo was founded in 2014 by entrepreneurs Alex Rosenfeld and Kuangwei Hwang. They wanted to create a way to distribute immersive video to the audience of consumers looking to discover immersive video. Although they have great UX, in general, it works the same way as YouTube. The audience is expected to stumble upon the VR contend while visiting their platform. They do try to promote the videos themselves, but I don’t consider this to be a scalable solution.
On their website, it says “the Littlstar platform has been designed from the ground up to fully support both 360° videos and photos.” The website is fairly straightforward and easy to navigate. Finding and watching content seems to be the top priority. It positions itself on the same spot as Vrideo and YouTube.
Kolor Eyes is a 360 player from Kolor — a GoPro owned company that makes Autopano and Autopano Video stitching software. The hosting solution was added later, after Kolor’s own line of video players made for desktop, Android, and iOS. If you load up the web interface on a mobile device, it suggests downloading their free native app that enables playing the 360 content on mobile devices. The categories and organization of the site can be a bit frustrating.
Google is quite active in the VR area … and not surprisingly so is YouTube — the giant in online video. In March of 2015 it offered the ability to upload 360 videos and now they you can view them in virtual reality. The initial release pretty much only allowed very basic functionality of displaying a 360 video as spherical and allowing the user to click and drag to look around. It’s available via Chrome browser or the YouTube app for Android — no support for iOS(!) yet. The mobile app works on modern Android phones but has trouble displaying 360 videos on older generation phones. Still, YouTube beats everyone else on sheer power. You cannot upload and process videos faster anywhere else. You also can’t access an audience of more than a billion users anywhere else, so YouTube has the edge on exposure for your content as well. But the viewers still need at least a basic VR headset for this.
Now to answer the question … can I use YouTube for VR marketing?
From the technical point yes … but you’re not going to get far this. Let me explain! You can upload your content to the platform, you can publish it and you can view it. But what about your target market? They (if they have a simple VR viewer) should magically stumble upon it? Sadly, the virtual reality market doesn’t work like that.
At the present moment, there is not enough VR HMDs out there. Even if you have one at home you’re not using it to browse random VR videos. You need to be INVITED to view a VR experience. New York Times knew this. That’s why they sent out 1 million of VR viewers when they launched their VR app. They gave the people a reason and a way to come and view their VR stories. Even in other business cases, companies used a way to invite their audience to come and view the content they prepared. Just uploading the content to an online platform is not enough.
But the problems don’t stop here. Other issues related with YouTube and YouTube-like 360 video platforms are:
- branding issues when it comes to using them for promotional purposes (you don’t exactly want to go and say to your audience “go and download this XYZ companies app so you can view our experience),
- availability is a major issue as there is no one ubiquitous way to deliver your content to people on different devices,
- minimum or no analytical and reporting support.
Imagine splicing Wordpress & Mailchimp to deliver your content for Virtual Reality Marketing?
We have been supplying custom VR viewers called ViarBox to 360 VR producers and marketing agencies for a while now. In this time we felt the pain they felt with current options for delivering content. There are so many cases of clients terminating projects because they couldn’t add the VR experiences to their existing marketing campaigns. Or because of the aforementioned branding issues. Or because iOS issues. Or …
While closely working with a few selected VR producers and marketing experts we started to develop a new solution VIAR360, that would simplify how to create and deliver interesting VR experiences. VIAR360 is an interactive media platform that empowers publishers, educators, brands, marketers, and bloggers to create engaging virtual reality experiences by adding rich media links to 360 photos and videos and creating multiple storylines in one experience.
If I quickly go through the main features VIAR360.
Web based & OS independent uploading, streaming and viewing your videos
Delivering content through the world wide web means using modern browsers. This means your VR experiences are available on iOS and Android, on Windows and Linux at the same time. It works on any operating system. There is no need to download any app. It can be embedded directly on your website. No one will even know that you’re using our service (no branding from our side!).
Making VR experiences interactive with adding and editing hotspots within the 360 videos
Videos are actually quite boring. There is not a lot you can do, just view what you’re shown. We took a totally different approach. After uploading content to your account on VIAR360, you’ll be able to add Hotspots on the video canvas at specific points in time. This will make the VR videos interactive and help you deliver extra information or measure how your content is being consumed.
Giving viewers partial control over the story development by allowing the creation of a conditional storyboard
The publisher creates a storyboard with multiple storylines. He also configures how to measure the viewer’s actions. Based on the actions of the viewer in a specific scene, the following is determined while playing the VR experiences. This way the viewer can decide if he prefers to take “the blue” or “the red pill”.
The ability to learn how your VR content is being consumed with insightful data and reporting
Our philosophy is that you should always be learning. Learning how your content is being consumed. What is the typical path that the viewers take? Where are they coming from? Where did they look most of the time? Our analytical and reporting tools will provide you the specific stats and heatmaps you won’t get anywhere else. Wouldn’t you at least like to know what was your ROI?
Want to know more?
Right now we’re working with selected alpha testers. We are planning to expand our base of alpha testers in April. If you want to become one of them, please leave your email at www.viar360.com. When we’ll go public, VIAR360 will be a subscription service (with a free trial), but we’re thinking to reward our alpha testers with free accounts as a thank you for helping us out with constructive criticism. Don’t miss the chance to be one of the first to get their hands on VIAR360!
If you have any questions or opinions use the comments or give us a shout out on twitter (@viarbox). Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jernej, CEO of VIAR