The power of immersive storytelling for brands

September 10, 2018

Two years ago, the mobile AR phenomenon Pokémon Go was unleashed on the public and it revealed the technology’s potential for immersive brand storytelling. The mobile game well and truly thrust augmented reality into the limelight like never before. Clocking up more than 752 million downloads since its launch, the free app’s meteoric rise to popularity was nothing short of incredible.

Not surprisingly, AR technology has advanced by leaps and bounds in the past 24 months, and these developments have opened the door for more sophisticated immersive experiences such as the recent Jurassic World Alive AR mobile game.

Created in partnership with Universal, the mobile game was developed to promote the new Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom film release.

Stepping into the role as a new member of the Dinosaur Protection Group, players – through AR – can see dinosaurs in and around their own neighbourhoods and collect them in real-world locations. And in a radical move, forward from Pokémon Go’s AR capabilities, users are also able to send out a drone to collect DNA samples and use their drone to fire tranquiliser darts.

This real-time interactive experience that utilises immersive technology is the “perfect storm”, providing a fun shared experience, a topic of conversation, a social currency and the gamification of life – while also tapping into the #FOMO effect that’s so important to achieving cut-through and building brand love with Generation Z.

A world of opportunities

AR is not a new technology. In fact, it’s proved very successful for many big-name brands for several years now. It was way back in 2010 that The Museum of London’s Streetmuseum app blended the old with the new to bring history to life, while Pepsi achieved great results with an augmented reality stunt at a bus stop a couple of years ago.

However, there have been some critical updates to AR functionality as of late that have significantly improved the technology’s accessibility and usability. The release of ARKit (for iOS) and ARCore (for Android) development platforms earlier this year have allowed app developers to create AR applications that offer users a more realistic first-hand experience of “unreal” objects.

The technology enables a phone to recognise its surrounding environment, so digital assets go in and out of view as the phone is moved. These high-detail assets also work in proportion to their surroundings, moving in more realistic ways than ever before. This browsing functionality allows for a perfect blend of physical and digital environments and brings augmented reality closer to a mixed reality experience.

Try out the Holo app for iOS or Android to see this new technology in action. Watch as Spider-Man, a walking dog and a winking mermaid appear and move around on your screen. The success and continued improvement in AR technology has been winning over legions of fans worldwide and opening many eyes to the possibilities of AR. And for brand marketers, that’s a very good thing indeed.

Tell stories in ways never before possible

It’s easy to see why audiences have been captivated by AR games such as Jurassic Park Alive – by blending reality with non-reality, it provides a captivating experience and one that many have not encountered before. But it’s through the use of fully immersive virtual reality that the greatest stories are destined to be told.

When Madame Tussauds’ unveiled the Ghostbusters Experience in New York, the movie’s original director Ivan Reitman commented that the amazing thing about VR is “you’re in the middle of it … most storytelling doesn’t have [the audience] in the centre”.

It’s that feeling of being central to the narrative that makes immersive technologies hugely powerful for brands looking to engage, influence and win over new fans.

Highly emotive experiences

AR and VR allows brands to create completely unique stories and environments and offer something new. In today’s world, where many consumers value experiences over products, that’s a massively important offering.

With the likes of Facebook, Google and Microsoft having all made significant investments in VR and AR, and Apple rumoured to have a VR project in the works, the VR market is on the cusp of exploding: it’s estimated that 500 million VR headsets will be sold by 2025.

For brands, immersive technologies provide storytelling opportunities that have never before been possible: the ability to transport audiences back to any point in history, to speed up time, to slow it down, to break the laws of physics. With time, the only restriction will be the creativity of the storyteller.

VR’s unique storytelling capability, combined with CGI film-making, presents incredible chances to present life-like scenarios. It’s this aspect that makes it such an emotive experience, and why charities such as WWF-UK are now using VR to get important messages across.

Smart brands are already embracing the power of VR and AR for storytelling – it’s shown that huge awareness results can be achieved when technology is used to deliver a memorable and magical brand experience.