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Rachel HarrisDirector, National Brand ActivationBeam Suntory
While traditional marketing is all about perfecting a brand’s external image, virtual reality marketing can give consumers an inside look into the heart of the brand. Products go through long journeys before they end up on a store shelf, and companies are eager to tell those stories. Rachel Harris, director of national brand activation at Beam Suntory, spoke with eMarketer’s Maria Minsker about a recent behind-the-scenes virtual reality campaign at the spirits maker.
eMarketer: How did you decide to build your first virtual reality experience around Devil’s Cut bourbon?
Rachel Harris: We know that our consumers are fascinated with the story behind the production process of Devil’s Cut, so we wanted to bring this experience to them and elevate it in a very engaging and immersive way, on-premise.
There is a lot of clutter in the on-premise environment, and it’s really hard to break through to the consumer. Our partnership with Samsung Virtual Reality allowed us to bring this experience to life in a way that couldn’t be replicated with traditional sampling efforts.
eMarketer: What does the virtual experience entail?
Harris: We invite bar patrons to take a 3-D bourbon roller-coaster ride through the production process. The roller coaster starts in the pipes of a bourbon still, travels through the rack house, into a flaming barrel lid and eventually into the barrel. The ride ends with the liquid being poured out into a shot glass. When consumers take the headset off, our bartenders pour them a nice sample so that the virtual experience leads to a real experience where they can taste the product.
eMarketer: How did you measure the success of the experience?
Harris: We activated this in 16 major markets across the US with over 750 events throughout the year. The success of the experience was measured both quantitatively and qualitatively.
From a quantitative perspective, we had goals for how many consumers we wanted to touch, how many events we were going to execute and how many samples we were going to pass out. From a qualitative perspective, we wanted our consumers to walk away not only talking about the experience, but also talking about the brand, so we tracked the social conversation including comments and photos from events.
eMarketer: What’s one thing you wish you knew before you started experimenting with immersive technologies that you would want other marketers and advertisers to know?
Harris: It’s easy to consider virtual reality a “shiny new object” and to deploy the technology just for the sake of it. But to deliver a truly impactful and meaningful experience for consumers, brands need to offer more than just entertainment. With the Devil’s Cut program, we showcased the product in an authentic way, educating and illustrating for consumers how the premium Kentucky Bourbon is produced.
eMarketer: How do you expect the role of augmented reality and virtual reality in marketing and advertising to evolve over the next several years?
Harris: Right now it’s on the cutting edge, but I definitely expect it to expand. Consumers are looking for more interactive ways to embrace and learn about brands. As the technology develops further, it’s important for marketers to leverage it and bring the true spirit of a brand to life, rather than just communicate about products.
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