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How Mini optimized disruption and brand storytelling with virtual reality

NEW YORK ? A Mini executive at the 2016 IAB Mobile Marketplace advised marketers to leverage virtual reality in a way that forces distracted consumers to focus on branded content, highlighting the vehicle manufacturer?s own reliance on cross-partnerships and innovative storytelling from previous campaigns.

During the session, ?Mini Uses VR to Get Connected: A Case Study," the executive discussed Mini?s desire to experiment and innovate within different mobile-first marketing mediums in a bid to connect with the brand?s target audience, referred to as the aspirational creative class. Virtual reality proved to be a hit for the automotive manufacturer, which optimized its content in a way that resulted in 4.2 million total views of its two VR films.

?What Mini did was focus on a story,? said Lee Nadler, marketing communications and launch manager at Mini USA. ?Good content [and] good storytelling can be brought to life in lots of different ways.

?There is content that you want to create that is basically taking you to a place ? into an experience ? that can enhance how your brand is coming across.?

Revving up the right content
Mini undertook its virtual reality initiative with the goal of helping consumers understand the brand better. While many companies choose to leverage VR for product demonstrations, Mini opted to focus more on storytelling and good content.

The first Mini vehicle was created with the intention of introducing a fuel-efficient car large enough for a family. The car was designed to accommodate a sideways engine and pushed-out wheels, innovative features that the manufacturer still hopes to highlight in its existing marketing goals.

The brand?s executives expected for the campaign to showcase the Mini driving and riding experiences for consumers who may not be familiar with the pint-sized vehicle, as well as inform individuals about Mini Connected, its in-car infotainment system.

?What we wanted to do for this campaign was bring people into that experience and help them understand how they can make their driving more enjoyable and bring their world into the vehicle,? Mr. Nadler said.

The company ultimately developed two six-minute-long VR films with a thriller and mystery theme, respectively. The films were viewable on a dedicated portion of the brand?s site,

Mini gave out Google Cardboard VR headsets to select consumers, and also entered into a major partnership that increased the audience outreach for virtual reality viewers.

Last fall, GE and Mini transported New York Times subscribers into fully immersive brand experiences as sponsors of the publication?s first virtual reality film, which was released via a smartphone app (see story).

The New York Times distributed headsets to more than one million subscribers of its Sunday-edition newspaper, enabling those individuals to slide their smartphone into the headset and enjoy the Mini-branded films.

Mini decided to use VR as the mobile communication medium of choice for this campaign due to its ability to promote a focused experience among distracted consumers, who often turn to second-screen experiences while watching television or doing other activities.

?One of the most important things VR has going for it is that it really does create focus,? Mr. Nadler said. ?You kind of have to focus; you?re totally immersed in this experience.?

The interactive component of the campaign also helped ensure that Mini connected with its target audience of entrepreneurs and the aspirational creative class.

Tackling brand partnerships
Mini optimized its VR strategy and outreach by partnering up with several different publishers, all of whom helped the company tackle various objectives.

In addition to the New York Times collaboration, Mini took over a YouTube masthead. The objective of this initiative was to prepare consumers for the VR experience by showcasing a teaser of the films, implementing a call-to-action to slide on a Google Cardboard viewer and driving individuals to the actual campaign site.

Furthermore, Mini developed an editorial piece with Fast Company regarding virtual reality and the advertising industry, which boosted credibility for the brand.

The campaign increased brand favorability by 11 percent, a figure with which the manufacturer was happy. Additionally, it delivered 315 percent of projected site visits and garnered 4.2 million views, underscoring the vast marketing potential that virtual reality offers.

?I think VR opens up a lot of interesting possibilities,? Mr. Nadler said.