Take any major technological advancement of the past hundred years, and chances are you’ll find that there are three stages to success. Whether it’s the printing press or Instagram, here’s how it typically works: first, the early adopters take a chance. Then, mainstream acceptance comes and celebrities get on board. Step three? The marketers arrive!

Virtual reality, long the dream of every kid that grew up in the 1980s, has become more than just … well … reality. It’s not only achievable, but beautiful, as these examples from the Wall Street Journal show.

With all the focus on virtual reality, the question of what happens to real life, face-to-face connections in marketing is becoming a bigger issue. If your prospects can take part in a virtual tour of your product or facility, what role does real life play in your marketing?

Old Irish, a craft beer hailing from the Eastern European country of Georgia, decided to have some fun blurring the line between virtual and reality. Their video proves that sometimes it’s not what happens when you put on the virtual reality goggles that matters — it’s what happens when you take them off:

And since we’re all a bit jealous we weren’t standing in downtown Tbilisi when someone offered us a headset, here’s why this campaign was so amazing and what you can learn from it:

Virtual Reality is a Premium Experience

Hands up if you own a VR headset like the $600 Oculus Rift, or the $800 HTC Vive. A few hands, for sure, but definitely nothing compared to, say, a smartphone. Virtual reality, and the technology that powers it, is still a premium experience, so being offered an opportunity to put on a VR headset and experience Ireland in high-definition, 360-degree motion is still pretty amazing.

That said, businesses who are willing to invest in a 360-degree camera, or work with an agency that has this kind of technology, can still take advantage of this awesome new format of video without having to give all of their prospects a VR headset. Facebook allows for 360 videos that integrate into the mobile motion sensor on your phone, meaning you can move your phone around to take in all of the 360 action. Prospects viewing your video in their browsers can navigate the 360 experience with their mouse. Want a taste of the action? Here’s a video from Michelle Obama that shows off that power pretty perfectly:


The Most Multi-Channel Video Experience Ever

We’ve seen some pretty cool interactive elements built into videos in the past. Honda’s “The Other Side” invited viewers to swap, in real-time, between the lighter, family-friendly version of the Honda Civic experience, and the dark, seedy version:

That experience was amazing for viewers, but the jarring, awesome moment of taking off your VR headset and being transported from a main square in Tbilisi to an authentic-styled Irish Pub in the span of only a few moments is probably the most amazing interactive video experience we’ve seen yet.

Old Irish obviously put a significant amount of time into creating the perfect stage for their ‘wow’ moment, and given that they’re an Irish beer, what a better place to finish than an Irish pub, feeling like you walked in off the street? The not-so-slightly looking gatekeeper of this pub standing menacingly in front of you creates the perfect moment to remove the headphones and VR headset that have completely cut you off from actual reality for the past few moments and slam you back into reality — albeit a new reality that was pleasantly unexpected.

Not every brand is going to have the capacity to build a hidden bar in a downtown corridor and secretly enclose people in it for the sake of a marketing campaign.

Even reading that sentence feels like something out of a movie script, but there are some great take-aways you can use if you are experimenting with VR. In-person events would be a great opportunity to use this technology, especially at conferences. Imagine having someone walk your prospects through your office, and then taking off the headset to find that person waiting for them at the booth? Or what about incorporating a give-away into your VR experience for attendees that make it to the end of your video and find the cool item they were promised in the video is sitting on the same pedestal in real-life?

Companies betting big on VR are already putting some big budget towards their production efforts, so why not go the extra mile and incorporate some actual reality into your virtual campaign!

The Video Lets Everyone be in on the Joke

The key to this campaign isn’t that you were one of the unsuspecting people that was about to have a bottle smashed on their head. It’s that you, like the people running the campaign, get to watch along from home as someone’s entire reality gets shifted right before their eyes, and watch their surprise and awe as they experience one of the coolest marketing stunts we’ve seen on record. Recording it means that Old Irish can extend the magic of this campaign well beyond the handful of people who got to participate. And they are not the first company to pull a big public stunt in a town square and catch it on candid camera. Television network TNT did something similar with their Push to Add Drama Button:

But much like this video, Old Irish succeeds in letting us come along for the ride. From awesome shots of the VR landscape behind the goggles:

To the great drone footage they used to capture the bar taking shape on another unsuspecting Ireland enthusiast:

And finally, people’s reactions to transitioning from virtual reality to actual reality:

Old Irish has done a great job of packaging this real life campaign into a video that shows everyone the power of pairing virtual reality with an unexpected change to the world outside the goggles.

The moral of this story? Even if your marketing campaign only touches a handful of people, if you can capture the experience in a meaningful way on video, you can bring the same feeling of awe to thousands of viewers from all over the globe.

Wrapping It All Up

Now that virtual reality and the 360-degree cameras that power it are starting to move from incredible technologies of the future to household appliances, campaigns like this may seem normal in a few year’s time. But Old Irish will definitely go down in history as one of the earliest companies to use virtual reality to wow its prospective customers, and they did so by blurring the line between VR and real life in an incredible way.

Your prospects are being bombarded with messaging every minute of every day. What can you do to genuinely surprise and delight them? Maybe your business doesn’t want to break bottles over the heads of your customers, but you never know. In the meantime, nothing fuels a good brainstorming session like a beer. And Old Irish seems like a pretty good place to start.

P.S. If you’re wondering how they managed to smash so many bottles over their heads without a permanent traumatic brain injury or two, I’ll just leave this here. Feel free to skip it if you don’t want to ruin the magic!

Jon Spenceley