With the onset of GDPR, is direct marketing dead? No, it’s just taking on a new shape.

There is, in fact, a growing desire for and pressure on marketers to use personal data in new, creative and personalised ways.

It’s not just about GDPR. Under new e-privacy rules, business recipients of direct marketing are as protected as individual consumers. Curiously, postal marketing does not fall under the scope of the e-privacy regulation. Which probably means that physical Christmas cards are back on the table this year.

The good news is that we’re about to see a wave of better-targeted and more engaging campaigns, supplemented by quality earned media coverage to create increased trust. This is where experiential campaigns, events and other incentives for customers to opt-in to marketing emails comes in. This is where marcomms has to start thinking creatively.

Why VR matters to marketers

This leads us to Virtual Reality (VR) as one of the most powerful marketing tools out there for B2B companies and brands. Not only does it give you a great way to visualise complex technologies and their benefits in a few minutes, it also comes with quite the wow factor.

The general ethos of VR is that you are fully immersed, by means of a headset, in an artificial environment that you can interact with. You are taken out of your current environment and put into a different one controlled by the marketer. A bit Black Mirror, I hear you say? Maybe, but all new technology is viewed with fear at first. VR marketing won’t damage anyone any more than TV ads did in the 60s…

What VR can do for you

The possibilities being explored now, could eventually pave the way for proactive in-VR demand generation at conferences, and enable geo-targeting when VR is viewed via the latest technology smartphones with prior explicit permissions of users to receive promotional content. Especially if VR interaction is gamified, providing powerful psychological incentives for participants to keep the ball rolling.

Can VR become key to the post-GDPR and e-Privacy regulation marcomms campaigns? The answer is yes. Absolutely. Is VR getting over-hyped when it comes to its role in the marketing mix? Perhaps, a bit. But not much. The underlying technology has vastly improved recently and is making VR a very viable – and affordable – option. Most VR headsets seem to have improved or even eliminated the problem of lag – when the image doesn’t quite keep up when you turn your head – and there is more and more high-quality content being filmed or created for VR. 

One of the tangible benefits of VR is that you are not bound by normal time and space. If in real life you wanted to organise some kind of event you would often have to get approval from the police or the local council, or get some form of insurance or health and safety licence. With VR you can have an event or a webinar taking place anywhere at all and let people attend remotely, but still give them a sense of really being there with all the other virtual guests. Viewers can experience an event or stunt remotely rather than just watching it. 

Imagine the infinite possibilities for consistent messaging and storytelling when VR is used across all business functions within the business for training, on-boarding, conferences and customer events, webinars and tech demos, website content and good old media relations. Imagine, everyone within the business having the same understanding of products and issues at play, singing from the same hymn sheet, so to speak. But in their own voice and style, creating a perfect harmony where a cacophony of voices may have been commonplace before…

What does VR success look like?

Where does it leave us when it comes to measuring success of our marcoms efforts? The reality is that we need to start looking at something that covers the full marcomms mix when we measure effectiveness. Something that is not subject to interdepartmental or inter-agency siloes. That considers the new privacy regulations and the changes in the marcoms space they are driving. Something that objectively measures how a company / brand performs against its peers across all customer touch points to include website tracking, user experience, security of its online assets, sales funnel, personalisation, social media activity and response times, as well as standard PR.

Get on board with VR – the matrix is real.

This article was written by Anastasia Ivanova, Associate Director, LEWIS Global Communications