Last weekend, at a cancer charity event endearingly entitled “Will Drink For Boobs” I tried an Oculus Virtual Reality headset for the first time.

While standing in a group of friends drinking ice cold, inexpensive beer a Bacardi representative grabbed me and a friend by the arm and asked us to come check something out.  When we got to their small station subsisting of a few other ladies and two chairs, they sat me down and had me wear an Oculus headset.  The headset wasn’t clearly marked as it wasn’t attempting to market VR so much as Bacardi.  After putting on the headset, they have you verify you see certain things like which way you are looking and then they start the video.Oculus_Rift

Overall the video was roughly two minutes and shows you boating in to a coastal city on a yacht, with lots of people around you having fun enjoying the sun.  It then moves to a party situation where a DJ and a large crowd of folks is partying.  Bacardi and drinks are easily spotted.  The video ends by attempting to get you to sign up for a promotional trip that you can win.

I’ve actually tried finding it online but am struggling, which is either an integrated campaign issue or an SEO issue.  Bottom line–if you’re going to invest in ideas like that at an in person event, it should be easily found online after.

The virtual reality video in my opinion was pretty low quality.  It was very grainy.  There were some cool aspects of it–you can look around in 360 degrees which creates an immersive situation.  After watching, I was offered some headphones with the Bacardi Bat and declined as low quality merch is not my jam.

Event marketing like this is actually quite difficult–the main reason is that most folks who are there don’t *really* care about Bacardi in particular, they’re there for the event and to either have fun or support the cause.  I applaud brands attempting to get in front of consumers in a positive manner regardless, and if they are supporting the event then I think it’s well within their right to showcase some promotion.  What would be better would be aligning their efforts to the actual event and showcasing that support. The event was for breast cancer, it would be really easy to support that (outside of just $$$) by being more public about what your organization does to help the cause.

The best event marketing is naturally part of the event.  I think of triathlons or other physical rigor events where brands donate snacks or funds to help accomodate the needs for all the event goers.  Think Clif Bars and Powerade at Iron Man.  These brands win when they serve as advocates for the event more so than just showing up because lots of people are there.  It’s still very difficult to gauge actual ROI in this space, but it’s still powerful.

Redbull is probably my favorite company in terms of event marketing. They are masterful.  They’ve become the best in the business by actually creating events, including Crashed Ice here in St. Paul every year, Flugtag, and various other around the world.  A few years ago I attended the Flugtag here in Minneapolis and it was outrageous.  The momentum behind their brand is amazing.

This is the power of event marketing done well.

This is the power of event marketing done well.

I support companies who support things that are important to me and my family.  In the long term, the best companies stand for something and push that agenda– whether it’s people eating less processed foods, children exercising more often, ending homelessness, healthy living through athletics, becoming proficient at your profession, etc.  Their offerings normally fit in well with their causes, but if people are down with the cause they’ll support the offerings.

In retrospect, this post should have been bifurcated.  Virtual reality as a tactic for marketing is real and will continue to evolve, but at this point I don’t believe it’s where it needs to be in order to have a large impact on most companies’ efforts.  It’s light years beyond where Second Life was ten years ago (if you recall that was supposed to be the next big thing for larger brands back in the day) but as of now isn’t fully baked.  It’s good that brands are experimenting with the medium, that’s their job.

I’ll always favor in person events to make real, meaningful connections with people at events over broadcast media.  But there’s A LOT of responsibility there too.  Companies and their employees really need to understand why they’re doing what they are doing there and how to clearly communicate that–through both words and actions.

Summer time is coming, which is the prime time for events.  There will likely be a lot more interesting things to cover off on soon.