Can Virtual Reality (VR) Transform Branded Events? Q&A With John Kaplan of Centerline Digital

VR should be thought of as another tool in the toolbox to be used for the right job at the right time. AR on the other hand is based on augmenting the world around you, not removing you from it and if done well, can encourage social interaction.”

How can you attract, engage, and retain consumer attention?

Marketers grappling with content consumption woes are looking at new technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and their cousin extended reality (XR) to sway consumers’ attention. John Kaplan, group creative director, Centerline Digital, explains why content needs to be more and more engaging and what truly offers personalized interactions.

We caught up with Kaplan to understand why brand strategists need to explore virtual reality and augmented reality to feed the growing consumer appetite for novel audiovisual experiences. An industry veteran and innovation enthusiast, he throws light on the role of artificial intelligence and machine learning, the new wave in event marketing XR, and more.

Key takeaways from this Q&A on virtual reality for branded events: Highlights of the Q&A With John Kaplan of Centerline Digital Here are the edited excerpts of our conversation with John Kaplan of Centerline Digital on virtual reality: With new technologies such as virtual reality (VR) changing the event marketing game, how can brands innovate further to provide truly personalized interactions?

Brands can innovate with VR/AR/XR technologies by designing experiences that leverage the unique capabilities of these platforms. This isn’t easy. It means rethinking the story you want to tell and ensuring there is a purposeful use of the technologies backed in.

For brands to innovate further and provide truly personalized interactions, they need to think about the interactions that come after an attendee participates in a VR experience. What conversations can happen next with a brand ambassador to unpack and connect to them as individuals?

While the concept of VR sounds exciting, it offers an enclosed and solitary experience. How can VR help drive a successful event, where social interaction is the aim?

In its current level of maturity, I find very few instances where VR at an event is worth the inherited compromises. I do not believe that there is value in using VR just as a gimmick to get attendees into a both. However, if a product or service is one where seeing is believing, then it has potential to be a powerful narrative platform. VR should be thought of as another tool in the toolbox to be used for the right job at the right time. AR on the other hand is based on augmenting the world around you, not removing you from it and if done well, can encourage social interaction.

Learn More: Adobe Stock’s Visual Trends for 2020: Are You On-Trend? Which key data points should marketers use to personalize event experiences? Does AI and ML play a part in such personalization?

The use of data to personalize in-person events is really in its infancy. To move beyond very basic personalization will require multiple components of an event to converge. Harmonizing data from various sources is a difficult thing to do, especially in real time and across disperse platforms. It’s in this aspect that AI and ML will be crucial to extract meaningful and actionable insights for personalization.

What tools and insights do marketers need to better allocate spends with the aim of optimizing growth and spreading brand awareness?

In the context of events, marketers need to be able to better track the results of attendee interactions and impressions with their brand. Visiting a booth or attending a session is very basic. We need to be tracking data about specific content interactions, topics of interest and even conversation points.

What are your top 3 tips for legacy brands who are starting to explore VR and AR (augmented reality)? How can marketers integrate AR/VR from creation through to measuring its performance? Learn More: The Meatless Farm Co.’s New CMO Will Focus on Strategic Growth: Q&A With Lone Thomsen Which new AR/VR-driven initiatives are underway at Centerline Digital that you are excited about?

  1. Use it with intent. Ask yourself, “Why do we want to use AR/VR?” If the answer is something like “we think it will be cool and draw people into our booth,” then you might want to challenge yourself.
  2. Plan ahead. AR/VR development is getting faster, but it is a big change in process from traditional media formats. Make sure you have the time to do it right.
  3. Include UX designers. VR and AR are participatory platforms and the user experience needs to be designed in tandem with the narrative content.

What are the trends in the XR (extended reality) space you’d like all marketers to be aware of?

What I’m excited about is that we seem to be moving past the pure hype of AR/VR and are now having conversations with clients who understand these technologies can be very valuable, but they must be used wisely and with purpose.

Learn More: Dynamic Yield’s VP of Marketing on the Future of Personalization in Marketing Thank you, John, for sharing your insights on how brands can leverage virtual reality. We hope to talk to you again.

Marketers should know that XR is really an umbrella term for Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality. As all three of these connect, but different technologies mature we will most likely see them converge. In the future we will be talking about XR more frequently than the others individually.

An inspired creative leader, John has a passion for always finding the right solution. He pulls from his extensive experience with a range of creative tools in order to continually craft solutions that stand out creatively and drive toward tangible business goals. Kaplan’s curiosity allows him to blend new innovations with tried-and-true tactics to create strategic solutions that are truly unique.

Whether it’s strategizing how a campaign can enrich customer experiences, structuring the appropriate team to carry out the vision or bringing that vision to life, he has a passion and a track record for hitting the mark every time.

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Centerline Digital is a digital marketing and creative content agency with a passion for resolving complex business and marketing challenges. Founded in 1996, Centerline Digital has proven its value in customer experience, storytelling and accountable creative solutions through partnering with Fortune 500 enterprises and brands, including IBM, Lowes, GE, Spectrum and SAS.


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