Not a gimmick: Oculus Rift is poised to deliver 'penny drop' moment

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B&Q concept store in China uses VR to let people test products.
B&Q concept store in China uses VR to let people test products.

Augmented reality is about to turn a corner, according to the executive creative director at Fitch EMEA, and brands need to start considering the serious business benefits

Marketers have expressed increasing interest in Oculus Rift — particularly with news that Oculus Rift headsets are being shipped to consumers from early 2016. Their excitement is justified.

In the virtual reality headset world it’s the one that’s broken through the barriers of development, allowing this once unattainable technology into our everyday lives at an acceptable price and at a good level of quality.

Anticipating feeling
Where technologies like Oculus Rift are set to drive greatest value is in helping brands articulate the intangible benefits of a product to sell an aspiration or a lifestyle. For creative companies a huge challenge has been to anticipate the feeling a product or service will give a customer — how does it emotionally affect them, and how can we develop this attachment?

Virtual reality gets truly interesting once marketers successfully communicate the intangible aspect that drives emotional attachment. It can create a "penny drop" moment with potential customers that pushes them towards a sale — when they realize your brand is the right choice for them.

VIVID VR retail concept
To highlight the strength of virtual reality for brands and retailers in delivering this "penny drop" moment, we have worked with B&Q, the DIY company, to create a new retail brand for them called VIVID in China.

The store has not been designed to sell DIY products but to deliver projects — for example, to enable people to build their dream apartment. When a consumer has created their dream abode they can go into a 4D augmented reality space, put on a headset and virtually walk around the newly designed apartment before it’s been built. They can wander around the different rooms of their apartment, they can look up and down, at different floor finishes, they can pick up vases, they can turn on the lights and the taps – they can almost smell the bread baking in the kitchen.

Visualize the intangible
It’s this 4D augmented reality experience which has visualised the intangible, it’s made that dream become so real that they can commit and put their money behind it.

Virtual reality can create that magical moment that has so far eluded marketers. It has the ability to transport customers to a different world that’s beyond their imagination.

Oculus Rift provides a fantastic opportunity for forward-thinking creative agencies that can give this technology an everyday use and purpose. Today, virtual reality is less about gaming but about how it can be deployed commercially on behalf of brands to create dreamlike shopping experiences in our everyday lives that creates a strong bond between the brand and consumer by articulating the intangible benefits of a product or service.

I just hope the penny drops with marketers in terms of what Oculus Rift can achieve.

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