This article was originally posted by Jarreau Bowen of The SOAP Collective on Medium.
How DODOcase is Helping Brands Build Out a Solid VR Campaign
When considering jumping into the VR space, there are number of things brands should consider before taking the plunge: How do your users currently relate to, and interact with, your brand? What story do you want to tell? Is your story right for VR? Is this VR project a part of a larger VR campaign? This final question is often overlooked due to the excitement of a new VR project. Unfortunately, the absence of a larger campaign, can leave users wondering ‘why the short shift in media?’ We help many of our clients flesh out a VR campaign that follows an overarching narrative thread. Once it’s time for distribution, we partner with accessory maker, DODOcase, to develop premium branded headsets that our clients can place in the hands of their consumers to create a cohesive and interactive experience for their VR campaign.
Last week I spoke with DODOcase CEO, Craig Dalton to get his take on VR and what brands should know when moving into the space. Our interview has been condensed and summarized below.
Tell us about yourself and what you do.
My name is Craig Dalton. I am the co-founder and CEO of DODOcase. DODOcase is a premium tablet and phone accessory manufacturer and a leader in the smartphone VR space. Our efforts in the VR space are focus on bringing the audience. Our approach is twofold, firstly we work with brands and advertisers in their VR activations by delivering custom branded smartphone VR headsets and related services like fulfillment. Secondly, we’ve developed what we believe is the next generation smartphone VR viewer in our SMARTvr unit. We believe that delivering the ‘first use’ experience is critical to the growth of the entire VR space, hence our commitment to helping brands and advertisers who are willing to finance this first wave.
When did you first become passionate about VR. How’d you end up where you are?
I was first introduced to VR via Google’s introduction of ‘Google Cardboard’ at the Google I/O conference in 2014. I was astonished how, with the phone in my pocket and this cardboard box, I could have a powerful experience. I’d never seen a technology that so universally brought a smile to people’s faces. At DODOcase, we were uniquely prepared to help accelerate the market. Having previously supported Google with our tablet and phone accessories we were standing by that day looking at the I/O announcements. After ‘Cardboard’ was announced, we immediately thought to ourselves that this was going to be much bigger than the engineers attending the conference and that people around the world would want to get their hands on these viewers. As the design was open sourced, we quickly put together an order page on our website and went to the Google team and showed them what we had done. They were amazed and put us into their keynote address the next day thereby establishing DODOcase VR as the go to place for smartphone virtual reality viewers.
From that point forward we were hooked, but realized it was still early days on the content side and that consumers were going to need to have patience as the market moved forward. Since we already offered customization on all of our products and had an expert account management and design team in-house, we realized a big opportunity in custom branded viewers would materialize. The impact of someone’s first VR experience was so huge that brands and advertisers began creating VR experiences and distributing custom branded VR headsets as part of their activations. Since that time we’ve completed over 1000 campaigns and shipped over 1 million viewers.
Parallel path to that, our immersion in the space and many friends we made with technologists and content creators started to highlight another opportunity for us. We knew that the utility of a cardboard viewer would wane over time, because, well, it is made of cardboard a fragile material. We started to ask a lot of questions of our peers about what is next after cardboard. It is natural to flippantly answer Oculus or Vive, but upon deeper thought it became abundantly clear that the pervasiveness of smartphone penetration and the cost of the home based system meant a cardboard + viewer would make sense. We started to collect input and arrived at the fact that we, as an industry, needed a portable tool to allow us to showcase our wares. It needed to be portable, immersive and premium. This is what led to the spec and production of SMARTvr. Our vision for what is next in the industry.
Imagine I’m a marketing director and haven’t had much exposure to VR. We have a campaign in the works. Convince me that I should consider VR in my campaign/strategy.
The question I always ask those considering a campaign is how many of your campaigns make people smile. I mean actually grin ear to ear. Some may reference viral videos or other social campaigns, but none have the type of guarantee that VR has today. I can say that confidently as I’ve personally done 1000s of demos. For almost all users, it will be there first time experiencing VR. The ‘VR Smile’ will emerge. When a brand can trigger an emotion like that, it becomes memorable. We’ve got an amazing window right now to hit first time users. This will change by 2018, but now is the time!
In your experience, what is it that makes marketing directors unsure about VR?
Headset penetration is the biggest hurdle when marketing directors start to look towards implementing a campaign. Any marketing director that sees the impact of good 360 video is sold. They get it. Now roll back the clock to the first television ads, marketing directors probably had the same reaction. Now imagine you needed to give everyone a TV in order to get any reach on the campaign. This is where we are with VR today. You cannot assume a large audience already owns a VR headset which means you either need to provide them or deal with a limited audience. This is a tough choice for anyone deploying a budget as you’ll never afford ‘enough’ viewers. For 2017, the best approach is a hybrid one. Create great content that will play across all available systems and distribute custom branded viewers to jump start your awareness campaigns. For some of our brand partners this may mean 100,000 viewers for others it might mean 200 viewers. Regardless of the size of the distribution, the key is to be clever with your activation to encourage social sharing. As a quick aside, I authored a free course to help marketing directors understand the considerations for the hardware side of VR activations.
Your product caters to the mobile market of 360 video and CGI, where do you stand on how 360 video fits in the VR environment?
I’m a pragmatist when it comes to VR. I believe we shouldn’t bother with semantics when it comes to 360 Video versus ‘VR’. I understand the difference, but at this moment in time the world couldn’t care less. We need to get more people in the space. Period. 360 Video is a great first introduction to the basic concepts that a user can then build upon. I can’t tell you how many demo’s I’ve done where I’ve had to tap the user on the shoulder and suggest that they turn around to experience the full content experience. We are also so trained to look forward at content that it is really hard to break that habit. Let’s continue putting out great 360 experience to get consumers in the door, then build towards more truly VR experiences.
What developments are you excited about in VR over the next few years?
I’m excited to see the tipping point for smartphone VR as a leading indicator for the rest of the industry. I want us to get to a point where consumers are excited for a push notification from their favorite band, sports team or brand delivering that weeks new VR content. I’m excited for units like SMARTvr that will allow users to share this snackable content.
What’s next for DODOcase and VR?
Our focus in 2017 has been to offer a portfolio of products based on input from content developers, agencies and industry professions. From QUICKvr, POP UP VR to SMARTvr, we go from a mass market giveaway product to a tool for VIPs.
What’s your favorite branded VR experience (either one you’ve worked on or otherwise)?
We worked on a project for Porsche that I still love. The app gave the user the ability to visit one of Porsche’s facility, viewer 360 degree renders of engines and hit the race track on board a 911 with a professional driver. It hit one of my favorite things about VR, it gave me access to an experience I’d never have otherwise.
Giving users tangible items in preparation for stepping into a new VR experience adds to the excitement and anticipation of the medium. It also gives them something to show off and share with their friends. Having a fully developed VR campaign with “swag” items like those from DODOcase gives your campaign a elevated level of polish and credibility within the space.
What’s your favorite branded VR experience? Tell us about them in the comments below. And if you’d like help building out the perfect VR campaign. Shoot me an email.
Jarreau Bowen is the Director of Operations at The Soap Collective. When his head is not in in a custom branded VR headset, it’s often filled with questions about the people around him. Try to give a straight answer when he asks them all in auto tune!