Future of Marketing VR: 10 Brands Killing It in 2017

  • 14 November 2017
  • Dean Schmid

Virtual reality should be more than just a blip on your radar. Right now, there are marketing campaigns running with VR building content and experiences.

It’s all about engagement. This isn’t just hype. A joint study by YuMe and Nielsen found that VR content was engaged with for 34% longer than regular video and 16% longer than 360-degree video.

So, what are we waiting for? everyone needs to start creating VR videos, well it isn’t that clear cut. The same study found that the VR experiences can be distracting. There are significant barriers to entry and a bit of a distribution problem.  

You need to balance a storyline, create a virtual space, and somehow incorporate your brand into the experience.

Stumped? You are in good company. But if we want to stay relevant, we need to make VR work, so let’s take a look at what other brands are doing and see if we can’t learn something.

Future of Marketing VR: 10 Brands Killing It in 2017

Samsung’s Gear VR #BeFearless

Some of the best VR marketing is been done by the companies trying to sell VR headsets. Samsung’s Gear VR campaign, Launching People, is all about overcoming phobias by simulating people’s virtual worst fears, so they can overcome them with repeat exposure.

Giving away a free app and creating interesting content, this is standard content marketing but it’s just so tidy.  

Participants from all over the world trained in their homes to overcome their fear of heights and progress through various levels. A clever use of gamification.

After 4 weeks of training, Samsung invited them to a tall building, put them on a zip line, and filmed their screams of terror and joy as they rocketed over some incredible scenery. It had a story. It had an emotional connection, and it demonstrated the product.

Gear VR – Samsung

Added bonus, the Samsung Gear smartwatch records heartrates. It can also pair with the app to demonstrate how the VR experience gets the blood pumping.

McDonald’s and the VR Happy Meal

It seems like every other week a fast food company churns out a new innovative marketing campaign. McDonald’s wasted no time exploring VR. During Sportlov, a school holiday that Swedes traditionally spend skiing, McDonald’s gave away happy meal boxes that were only a few folds and a smartphone away from being fully fledged VR headsets.

Happy Goggles – McDonald's

The fast food giant also made a ski-themed virtual reality game called Slope Stars. Using the internal motion detectors and gyroscope of the phone, the game is played by tilting your head and trying to collect stars.

The strategy was implemented by local Swedish marketing agency DDB, but it isn’t the first time McDonald’s has created a VR experience.


Hypercell is a location-based VR startup that creates digital environments in the real world. It’s being franchised now and with a bit of luck, and clear strategy gaming arenas will pop up, where people can run about in with a VR headset over their eyes.  

Their location-based VR theme park is similar to augmented reality; a digital layer of information is blended with the real world. It’s going to take a lot of trust in the technology and the venue before a layer will run around with their eyes covered by a screen, but still what an interesting startup.

Location based VR theme park – Hypercell

What does this have to do with marketing?

Um, possibly everything. If we really do start interacting in virtual spaces, the single biggest challenge faced by marketers will be how we can advertise and provide content on this platform.

Virtual billboards are a native advertising contender. The owners of Hypercell locations could tap into another revenue stream and display in-game ads. Or it might be more of a Pokémon Go scenario where the allure of the VR experience draws people into brick and mortar establishments.

Alt VR

Alt VR is the closest thing we have, to a VR social platform. Prolific Sci-Fi writer, Isaac Asimov, wrote a book called the Naked Sun in which people lived isolated lives and only saw one another through technology by viewing. The predictions he made in 1956 seem to be coming true and Alt VR is laying the foundations.

Users can share experiences in VR, play interactive games, attend live shows, and watch movies.


A VR comedy club with a live comedian performing in front of real people from all over the world.

Alt Space recently announced that it would be shutting down. Startups fail, especially one trying to compete in a space that despite massive VR advances doesn’t really exist yet.

It might have failed, but I still think that the big take away here is VR events. Who’s to say that you couldn’t sell tickets to a VR event, introduce a product, exchange admission for an email address.


Google has a long history of pioneering ad formats. AdWords, AdSense, and search ads were game changers, so can the search engine do the same thing with VR?

Birthed in Google’s Area 120 incubator, project Advr is basically a banner ad for VR. The extra dimensions turned it into a 3D cube.

Area 120 – Google

In the example they demonstrated, the brand was shown on all sides. If the cube is looked at for a couple seconds or clicked on with controllers, a video pops up.

This is the first project from the Area 120 incubator that Google has put any real effort into promoting, so they clearly see the commercial potential.

It isn’t an indication of how Google thinks advertising will work in VR, but they have already started running tests with game developers and providing access to an early stage SDK.

Magic Leap

Wired recent said that Magic Leap is the world’s most secretive startup. True, the claim was made at the top of a thorough article that went on to reveal some of their secrets, but they really don’t hype up their product and lust after the public eye like most startups. It is frustrating because what they have shared with the world looks absolutely incredible.

Magic Leap

Magic Leap is playing around with mixed reality. Superimposing a digital layer of information on top of the real world.  

You can spend hours of your life reading speculative forums where people argue that its either being released tomorrow or a complete snake oil scam, but page after page of anecdotal nonsense a sensible person will arrive at the conclusion that no one knows.

The startup is estimated to be worth 4.5 billion dollars. Founder Rony Abovitz raised $1.4 billion from a list of investors which included Google and the Alibaba Group. Some solace for augmented reality enthusiasts, who desperately want Magic Leap to deliver, is that no prominent investors have pulled out of the company.  


Omnivirt is a 360° virtual reality advertising platform. They have an impressive portfolio of brands and campaigns under their belt and are one of the few complete solutions for creating 360° videos without investing heavily in hardware and talent.

The largest premium publisher network, VR streaming capabilities on any platform with a single line of code, and a way for VR app developers to monetize their product with ads, Omnivirt makes impressive claims, but what makes them so special.

Unlike their competitors Immersv and VirtualSky, Omnivirt haven’t bothered with VR headsets. Their campaigns are built for the mobile browser, and you don’t even need to download an app to watch them.  

And it is working. Omnivirt-powered an Infiniti ad on the NYT front page. They have run ads for Honda, Coca Cola, Redbull, Nike, Krabi, and Fifty Shades Darker.

Case Studies – Omnivirt

Michael Rucker attributes the company’s success to their use of the mobile browser. When asked about Omnivirt by TechCrunch he had this to say, “brands and publishers are investing in virtual reality content, but they’re hitting “a little bit of a distribution wall.” Even if you don’t require users to buy a specific headset, just downloading an app for Google Cardboard is an “an additional barrier to consumer adoption.”

Decorilla and Urbanbase

Another industry that’s seeing a lot of VR interest is interior design and architecture. Decorilla is just one of many companies using VR to give customers a preview of what a space will look like after it is renovated.

You pay Decorilla to have the company send sample designs to you, and then you can virtually tour them and make your decision, but I think this is just the beginning for monetizing VR design.

Seoul based startup, Urbanbase, has patented an algorithm that turns 2D floor plans into VR spaces.



The software populates the floor plans with furniture from local retailers that they’ve partnered with and lets users trial 4000 different items.


I look at that and see a clever native advertising platform targeting buyers with clear intent.

“Co-founder and chief strategy officer Saejoon Oh says the company currently has 40 partnerships with furniture companies. Urbanbase’s platform helps small businesses reach them (customers) and compete with big-box retailers like Ikea, which entered Korea in 2014,” TechCrunch.

They are also working on a mobile application to overcome the VR distribution barrier.

YouTube and Facebook

Let’s take a break from all these startups to talk about the massive impact that YouTube and Facebook have had on the future of VR marketing specifically 360° video.


In March of 2016, YouTube started to support videos that let you look in any direction.

Once there was a distribution platform, it didn’t take long for brands to start making 360° content. Suddenly there was money to be made and 360 was more than just a novel concept.

YouTube 360

Then realizing that they were missing out on an opportunity, Facebook came out with their own 360° photo and video software in November of the same year.

I think that without these two companies there wouldn’t be VR and 360° video. Their contributions go beyond supporting videos on their platforms. For example, Facebook acquired and have been developing Oculus VR since 2014. YouTube is owned by Google, who have also released the Google Cardboard.

Appy Pie

In May of 2017 Appy Pie announced they were adding support for virtual reality an augmented reality. If you don’t know Appy Pie is popular app building software that is used to create and monetize apps for IOS, Android, and windows.  

“The solution includes an easy-to-use design platform that allows you to create VR and AR apps that let you promote 360-degree still images, 360-degree video, and AR solutions.” – Venture Beat

For startups and smaller businesses app builders like Appy Pie have the potential to lower the entry barrier for AR and VR.

This could lead to a lot of mediocre VR apps but Appy Pie has held up their end of the bargain with impressive features like image recognition and tracking that can scan and recognize everyday real-world objects, track positions, and augment the display of the object.

Mobile App Maker – Appy Pie
About Dean Schmid