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Coca-Cola plans expansion of successful VR test using recycled packaging

Coca-Cola is planning a wider rollout for a successful virtual reality headset strategy launched last year with Fanta, hoping to encourage more consumers to recycle cardboard packaging and pair it with a smartphone to create a content viewer. 

The beverage giant is the latest marketer to consider how to take advantage of the opportunity for more immersive experiences offered by virtual reality. The technology has been a big topic at Mobile World Congress this week and is the focus on new strategies from the New York Times, Retale and others. 

?Digi-Capital forecasts advertising becoming a significant revenue stream for virtual and augmented reality, with mobile VR driving the installed base in the next few years,? said Tim Merel, founder and CEO of Eyetouch Reality and Digi-Capital. ?Coca-Cola?s early stage foray into mobile VR shows how its marketing department continues to innovate in ways that appeal to consumers. 

?We like what they?re doing a lot,? he said. 

Coming of age
While virtual has been around for few years, the experience is starting to live up to its promise, said Nick Felder, global group director of film and music production for Coca-Cola, in a recent blog post

Coca-Cola has plans to launch production of more free do-it-yourself goggles on a wider scale this year following the success of the Fanta program last year. For that effort, Fanta teamed up with game League of Legends in Korea to introduce limited-edition packs that could be folded in virtual reality headsets and used to view an animated Fanta-themed roller coaster ride as well as other virtual reality content. 

In a video recently posted on YouTube, Coca-Cola shows three different ways its cardboard packaging can be recycled to create a viewer. 

One starts with a 120-can fridge pack with perforated sections that can be removed and assembled together and a phone inserted. 

Custom packs offer a chance for partners to team up with Coca-Cola. The packs hold two bottles of Coca-Cola and can be easily folded and compressed to create a viewer. 

Standalone kits for creating a viewer are also highlighted. 

Premium experiences?
Coca-Cola?s Mr. Felder points out, in the blog post, that virtual reality is good for certain kinds of premium experiences. While right now it is mostly for early-adopters, he expects it will one day be ubiquitous. 

?VR/AR will become significant advertising vehicles as installed bases grow to tens and eventually hundreds of millions of users, with VR/AR ad spend hitting billions of dollars by 2020,? Mr. Merel said. ?It?s an exciting opportunity for brands to engage consumers in totally new ways. 

?The challenge for brand marketers is to find native VR/AR advertising opportunities, similar to early challenges for native mobile advertising,? he said. 

While there are virtual reality headsets, such as Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear, smartphone-enabled viewers made a splash last year with Google Cardboard. 

Smartphones are often the main vehicle for the virtual reality content being created today. Users simply download an app such as YouTube?s virtual reality app to view the content and pair it with a cardboard viewer for an enhanced viewing experience. 

Year of experimentation
Other marketers are also exploring virtual reality. 

In the fall, the New York Times reported that its virtual reality application had more downloads in its first days of availability than any other app from the publisher at launch, pointing to the technology's significant potential for publishers (see story).

In December, digital coupon service Retale innovated online shopping with a virtual reality application, hoping to drive sales by providing a fully immersive digital retail environment (see story). 

?Twenty sixteen is the year for experimentation for brand marketing in VR,? Mr. Merel said. ?Major Hollywood studios are already introducing short form cinematic VR experiences into the marketing mix, while non-entertainment brands need to figure out how to leverage the opportunity, and where to invest and partner to make that real.?