- Guinness is inviting Tesco customers to try a virtual reality experience that features shapes, colors and sounds to make Guinness Draft, West Indies Porter and Hop House 13 Lager beers "taste significantly better", according to Ad Age.
- Participants will be guided through a 360 degree virtual reality environment by the voice of Guinness master brewer Peter Simpson, who indicates exactly when they should taste and smell their beers.
- The abstract sights and sounds consumers experience represent different aspects of the beer varieties. For example, the grapefruit smell of Hop House 13 is heightened by "an explosion of brightly-colored, fast and angular shapes, accompanied by high-pitched sounds to bring out the bitterness of the beer."
While still a relatively new innovation, virtual reality is expected by some in the food industry to become a game-changing advertising tool. The virtual reality industry is expected to hit $70 million by 2020.
Several major brands have already dabbled in the space — Post created an ad centered around its Pebbles cereal brand last year that ran on cross-platform apps VirtualSky and StartApp. Part of the brand's "Yabba Dabba Doo" campaign, the 30-second ad allowed users to paint a mural or to be virtually sprayed with water guns.
Pebble's senior brand manager, Oliver Perez, said the virtual reality content, which was more guided than exploratory, unlimited experiences other companies have used in marketing campaigns, was meant to parallel the "overload sensory experience" consumers engage with when eating the cereal itself.
Guinness takes this strategy a step further by helping consumers identify the specific flavors and smells that make their beers, and the experience of drinking them, unique. It will be interesting to see how many shoppers participate in the campaign and if it impacts consumer perception of Guinness products. After this virtual reality experience, users will likely walk away with a better appreciation and understanding of the brand's beer.
Other food and beverage manufacturers such as Coca-Cola have invested in less extravagant, more accessible virtual reality campaigns by distributing cardboard packaging consumers can fold into virtual reality headsets. Consumers can then place their smartphones inside the headset to play virtual reality games or watch immersive movies or TV. Companies hope that these cardboard headsets will encourage consumers to view the virtual reality brand content multiple times, rather than engage with a one-off experience like the Guinness campaign.
It will be interesting to see how the beer giant's marketing tool will affect its consumers, and if it will succeed in winning new long-term customers.