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Can Hormel get consumers to buy bacon through VR?

Deli meat purveyor Hormel Foods is reaching especially deep into its bag of tricks to promote its premium bacon line, crafting a ?multisensory bacon experience? based in virtual reality.

The Black Market is designed to promote Hormel?s Black Label Bacon? its premium thick-cut bacon line? and is a continuation of the brand?s overarching We?re Always The New Black campaign. The VR videos include original content created by Hormel that takes users through a variety of ?flavorscapes,? introduces new users to Hormel?s array of exotic bacon varieties, and perhaps most importantly, allows them to initiate transactions within the experience.

"Cicero tells us that, 'If you wish to persuade me you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings and speak my words,'" said Michael Becker, managing partner at mCordis. "In other words, the marketer needs to put themselves in the shoes of the individual they wish to serve." 

"Embracing the enthusiast and converting soft supporters are a fantastic way to build momentum for your product, as these audiences will be key to pulling those in the neutral camp over to your side."

The Black Market
Users interested in Hormel?s ?flavorscape? offerings can access The Black Market by visiting the campaign?s mobile-optimized Web site on their device and positioning it within a VR apparatus such as the Google Cardboard. They can then navigate through four immersive bacon-based environments, including Dark Woods, a Salty Sea, Outer Space, and a Volcano.

Users within these environments can explore them in 360-degrees and follow special markers that will lead them to their Sangreal: exclusive offers on Hormel Black Label thick-cut bacon. 

Hormel has created a VR experience that truly has a little something for everyone

And for both the bacon fanatic and those who feel insulted by meager appeals to a mere two senses, Hormel has released a limited number of custom bacon-scented Google Cardboard headsets, which users can leverage through scratch-and-sniff technology. 

Previous iterations of the We?re Always The New Black campaign featured a sponsorship of YouTube?s favorite bacon aficionados, Epic Meal Time, and The Reggie Watts Bacon Experience, a musical exploration based on the many sounds of bacon.

The Black Market experience allows for unprecedented flavorscape immersion

Immersive experience
The decision to choose VR as a platform for bacon awareness is certainly an unorthodox one, and the resulting product relates this distance. The content is only tangentially related to what Hormel is selling, with the connective tissue between the two entities revealing itself in a few bacon-based puns and hyperrealistic free-floating pieces of bacon, waiting to be bought.

However, since both the product and the experience seem to be geared towards the bacon cognoscenti, The Black Market experience could be a fitting echo chamber for a group of connoisseurs among whom immersion in a bacon-based world and the ability to complete bacon-based transactions are an adequate pastime.

Bacon is becoming an unexpected hot commodity within marketing circles. Recently Wendy?s capitalized on the connection between music and mobile devices by enabling fans to stream a track from indie rock band American Authors on its Twitter and Facebook pages in anticipation of the chain's new Bacon Mozzarella Burger (see story).

And Time, Inc. introduced a new digital-first editorial brand called Extra Crispy which ran a nationwide search for a Bacon Critic, a position that requires someone to cover a beat spanning bacon-centric drinks, food and culture (see story). 

"There are so many reasons for a food company to look to embrace VR," Mr. Becker said. "Through VR the marketer can trigger the sensorial experience of sight, help the viewer understand what the food looks like, and, as science has proven, help influence taste and smell. 

"In addition to seeing the final product, food companies can use VR to show how the food is grown, handled, prepared, what it can be mixed with, how others are enjoying it and more," he said. "All of these experiences can help an individual build an emotional bond with the product. 

"We call the combination of these the physical, digital, sensorial and emotional the four human dimensions. It is important for marketers to be conscious of them when crafting products, goods, services, and communication efforts with their audience and the people they serve."