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Technology is transforming experiences, but are brands keeping pace?

Will Northover, client services manager at Blackjack Promotions, argues that the latest technologies and gadgets are revolutionising experiential.

By now, almost everyone must have heard of Oculus Rift. For those who haven’t, I’m talking about the virtual reality headset for 3D gaming. It’s all the industry has been talking about over the last few months and we were lucky enough recently to receive a demo of the emerging technology in action. Aside from being an amazing experience, it clearly highlighted that today, more than ever, experiential needs to focus on using technology creatively.

There are so many opportunities today to create amazing experiences with technology, whether that be through upcoming tech like Oculus or through what is becoming more established technology like Google Glass. Although these things may be a little more expensive for clients to incorporate into their campaigns, they are well worth going the extra mile for. Not the least because if you don’t get them into your creative vision now, your competitors will. And then your brand is going to look staid by comparison.

Two cases in point of how the recent rush of technology could be a game changer for experiential come from Samsung and Lexus, both of whom have integrated Oculus Rift.

Samsung created a virtual reality headset that brands will soon be able to use to create immersive content. The Gear VR headset acts as an accessory to the company’s latest smartphone, the Galaxy Note 4, unveiled at technology trade show IFA in Berlin. The phone is slotted into the headset, which then uses the handset’s screen and speakers to offer a near “96-degree” field of vision. According to the reports, sensors inside the Oculus-powered headset detect when the user moves their head, allowing a more immersive experience for moves and games.

Meanwhile, Lexus teamed up with Oculus to create a virtual and “exhilarating” driving experience featuring the new NX model in order to make its brand more relevant for the younger generation. It doesn’t take much imagination to start envisaging how much impact this could have for a branded experience; literally being able to immerse people in a brand’s own world.

Another tech story that caught my eye recently, may not seem quite as “instantly” impressive, but certainly still has powerful implications for brands. This was the news that Heathrow has introduced beacon technology. From October, customers using BA’s updated iPhone app will receive ‘push notifications’ when they arrive at Heathrow airport informing them when their gate is open and when the aircraft is boarding.

Beacon technology has been the subject of much hype since it was first mooted earlier in the year, and the impact of this for brands involved in the travel retail space is enormous. Being able to “push” message to people at the airport via the app when they are in a certain location within the airport could transform the way experiential campaigns are run in the airport.

These are only a handful of examples of what is happening, but they clearly demonstrate how technology is transforming the way brands can create experiences and engage with their audience. The upshot of this is that, agencies need to keep fully abreast of technology developments and make sure that their clients have them on their plans as early as possible or those brands are likely to get left behind. And in such a competitive market there is no space for that to happen.