For every new trend in technology, there seems to be a predictable reaction from brands. First, a few leaders take a crack at it, and then the floodgates open. Suddenly every brand is whipping up clever tweets and going crazy on Snapchat, only to find it’s not as easy as it might first appear. For every brand that embraces and conquers a new communication medium, there are dozens of others who produce content that is at best just sort of average and at worst actively damaging.
Virtual reality seems to be the hot new trend for brands, although it is still at the start of the adoption curve. To be clear, brands should absolutely start using virtual reality — it presents a way to tell stories and engage an audience that will only grow with time. But in their rush into immersive content, brands also need to be smart and strategic and answer one fundamental question — why are they creating VR experiences in the first place?
To return to the first point for a moment, there is a huge payoff for brands that get into the VR space. It certainly helps drive word of mouth, as 81% of consumers who use VR tell their friends about it, according to Touchstone Research. On YouTube, 360 video has a 28.81% higher view rate than a fixed video; a 4.51% click-thru rate, vs. a 0.56% CTR for fixed video; and higher repeat viewership of 360 videos than traditional video, according to Magnifyr. There’s no question that VR and 360 content will continue to grow, and brands who don’t embrace it soon will risk being left behind.
But with that being said, brands shouldn’t just start grabbing GoPros and throwing money at anyone with an idea and access to a Unity developer. Bad VR content — the kind that makes you feel seasick with the headset on — is terrible, but pointless VR can be just as bad. A craft beer brand recently posted that they had a new VR experience — only to lead viewers to a dull and poorly stitched video of the brewer’s hometown. It was an experience that would have worked just as well, and arguably better, as a regular old video, and likely turned some viewers off the 360 concept.
Brands need to ask themselves a fundamental question — why are they making a VR experience? What about the experience will better serve the viewer by being in 360 or immersive VR, as opposed to just releasing a normal ad? There are many reasons to create an experience — to let users be immersed in a world, to let them control an experience, or just to let them have fun and explore — but there must be a reason for any of it to be worthwhile and a good use of resources.
The possibilities for VR content are endless, and new technology is creating more of them every day. But brands can’t just add VR to the checklist of digital things they have to do — they need to be careful and deliberate about the content they are releasing. If they put excellent VR out into the world, they have a real chance to create a more meaningful relationship with their customers.
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.