When the Coronavirus closes a "door", a new virtual world opens

When you can’t use live events to connect with your consumers, virtually anything goes as an alternative.  

Digital amplification of live events through social media has resulted in the rapid growth of the events industry, and a huge increase in the number of face-to-face experiences being produced by agencies and brands annually.

This, in turn, has fuelled the growth of the wider events industry. A spectrum of engagement opportunities have arisen in recent years for brands to connect with their audiences. They can host festivals and secret gigs, create sampling roadshows, foodie fairs and experiential campaigns, or build pop-up bars and shops.

But imagine if the world was struck by a pandemic virus that limited the opportunity for human gatherings. A virus that temporarily eliminated live events from your marketing arsenal?

Sound suspiciously familiar…?

The Coronavirus has sent many industry people into a tailspin. The sudden loss of face-to-face engagements as an option to connect with consumers has caused clients to start reconsidering their marketing strategies, and agencies to brace themselves for budget cuts.

But do we need to panic? The short answer, ‘No’. There are plenty of other extraordinary ways to connect with people.

Because has always championed the cause of using both ‘live’ and ‘virtual’ techniques for brands to engage directly with their consumers, irrespective of audience size or geographic location.

We believe today’s world needs brand interaction and immersion, not simply interruption (broadcast channels). So we have made it our mission to be at the forefront of the use of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) techniques to enhance our clients’ campaigns.

VR is a fantastic example of how brands can engage audiences remotely, without the need for a human gathering, whilst still providing a ‘live’ experience that puts the viewer at the heart of a face-to-face event. It also enables us to collect lots of rich, personalised data for measurement that can aid future campaigns.

When developing a campaign, be clear on what the objectives for your event are, who the audience is, what their physical environment is likely to be, and how your content will be received and viewed. Then determine what the right kind of virtual experience is for your brand.

Here are some tips to help you:

Try using 360° broadcast techniques to live stream your events, activations or launches in VR. Viewers can take part in these events using simple cardboard VR viewers (and their smartphone). The VR viewers can be sent by mail, collected from a nearby store, or even included in packaging.

For smaller audiences (including B2B events) you can send better quality, fully immersive VR headsets directly to event participants. This will enable them to engage in your live, ‘face-to-face’ event, without even leaving their office! With the current Coronavirus in mind, the benefit of this eradicates the chance of any cross infection, and saves time and travel costs.

If you wanted to host an event that ordinarily would be presented to a live audience on a screen (PowerPoint and video) and curated by a presenter, look at techniques like webinars, Zoom meetings and video conferencing. Add some affordable theatre into the presentation via something as simple as a greenscreen effect. Many big brands are already doing this, and the benefits are indisputable.

If your brand generally engages huge audiences, and has traditionally relied on sampling and couponing consumers at large events like festivals, there is now an amazing virtual alternative - Virtual Atoms (vAtom) is a trend just beginning to hit the marketing industry.

vAtom is a platform that allows the distribution of infinite digital tokens into the virtual-sphere. They are built on a block chain platform, so have a real, true value, which means they cannot be replicated or mal-redeemed, and they give brands with the opportunity to virtually engage millions of potential customers on a one-on-one basis, without any direct contact.

But wait, there’s more…

These digital tokens can be designed in any way - static digital elements or moving CGI avatars. They can be programmed to do anything we like, such as move, speak and expire. They can even be influenced by the weather or social media. They can be set to any value from pennies, to free access, holidays, even a million pounds, and they can be placed anywhere around the globe. You are literally only limited by your imagination.

Atoms can be collected in the virtual world using map or smartphone viewer ‘grab’ techniques, much like Pokemon Go. They are stored in an individual’s digital inventory, but can then be shared, sent, posted or redeemed for real-life alternatives. So they’re a great way to drive reach, recommendation or recruitment via friend-get-friend techniques.

Once again, Because is at the forefront of this new digital ‘explosion’. vAtoms can be used as part of a wider, always-on, integrated campaign from mediums as diverse as TV and digital, to printed material like posters, press, POS and even packaging. We’re currently working on a large number of campaigns globally using this technology, and are extremely excited to be one of the first to bring it to market.

There’s no doubt the rapid spread of the Coronavirus has, and is going to continue to affect the way brands engage directly with consumers. But the halt on live gatherings doesn’t mean brands have to stop connecting ‘face-to-face’. It just means they have to adapt the way they connect, and ‘meeting’ their consumer in a virtual world, may just be that way. Exciting times ahead.