by Olivia Whitton, UFSocial Contributor
“We’re building a teleporter” – Marriott Hotels
Its not quite in the realms of Star Trek but the Marriott Hotels group recently started offering a 4D virtual reality experience in its lobbies, transporting hotel guests to places like London or Hawaii in a matter of seconds. Guests were allowed to enter a small glass chamber and asked to put on the Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles.
The hotel group partnered with Framestore, a renowned special effects company, and a marketing agency to promote their foray into virtual worlds. Those who entered the “portal” were treated to external stimuli in addition to what they were seeing in the headset, including heat and mist. They were transported to Hawaiian beaches, the top of a skyscraper in London and several other destinations.
Marriott’s objective was to treat guests to the feeling that they are on the cusp of “the future of travel.” The point of the exercise was to promote the website Travel Brilliantly, a division of the Marriott’s main site where users can add their ideas to Marriott’s pipeline of future projects.
Marriott has now added virtual reality to the list of room services that guests can order in a handful of their locations. Piggybacking off of the success of their previous project, the hotel chain aims to “teleport” guests to new locations and to start the conversation surrounding the idea of virtual reality as travel. The company hasn’t revealed how much such a service would run its guests per day.
In this case, virtual reality is the initiative. Marriott is trying to engage its customers in a conversation about the merits of virtual reality, and about whether or not you are actually traveling when using a VR headset. It is interesting to me, from a business standpoint, that a hotel – which makes its money because people do physically travel – would be so interested in having this conversation. Not that this is a feasible concept for the immediate future, but the Marriott would, in all likelihood, go out of business if people started thinking that VR was a comparable substitute to actual travel.
It does make sense to me though that the Marriott group might want to be at the forefront of this conversation so that they could dictate the direction that it takes, and position themselves in such a way that makes hotel life an integral part of travel, even if you’re only traveling via VR.
It seems like this initiative has garnered positive reviews for Marriott, and that people do legitimately feel that VR is an up and coming marketing medium that shouldn’t be ignored. I would say that, at this point, the project at the Marriott is working, and that the company will likely continue to make VR a part of its marketing strategy. I don’t think there is a question that VR is an innovative use of marketing principles. Appealing to customers through such an immersive experience is not a mistake. The more brands can make customers “feel” their products, the more likely they are to get these customers to purchase their products. I think that the use of 4D and VR is likely to bring some seriously innovative ad campaigns to the marketing world and I’m excited to see them.