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Liberty Mutual recruits 360-degree video, but is the platform worth the investment?

Liberty Mutual is helping home and auto owners address their maintenance worries through a series of mobile-optimized 360-degree videos featuring HGTV?s Chip Wade.

But the insurance giant?s move begs the question: despite much noise about VR and 360-video being the herald of the future, has it yet become a fertile environment for brands to attract attention? The jury is still out on the platform, but recent news like Facebook?s continued investment in Oculus Rift and Google?s upcoming release of its Daydream VR headset will tell if Liberty Mutual?s bet is a prescient one.

?Brands are certainly taking advantage of 360 video," said Todd Miller, senior vice president at Cheetah Mobile. 

"Let's face it, the world we live in is anything but flat and brands recognize the importance of video to engage with consumers. Consumer demand is driving the shift towards video content and brands are answering the call.?

Educational immersion
Liberty Mutual?s video series is an extension of an earlier awareness campaign involving its Worry Less Report, in which leading psychologists proffered peer-reviewed information on the science of worrying, how it relates to home and auto ownership and tips on how to break the cycle of worrying.

The videos star craftsmen Chip Wade of Elbow Room fame advising the viewer on DIY practices to alleviate many of the fears that accompany home and auto ownership, with a handsome domestic scene as his setting? Mr. Wade?s own home, according to the videos.

In the series, Mr. Wade instructs on car emergency kit best practices, lawn maintenance, power washing, and recommends an August Smart Lock, Nest Learning Thermostat, and Canary video home security system.

The videos also provide an opportunity for Liberty Mutual to hawk its own services; one video mentions that the insurance provider offers savings for consumers that sign up for partner technologies like the aforementioned Nest and Canary.

The insurance company takes full advantage of the 360-platform, with tips appearing as text next to relevant home and auto properties. For example, if the viewer chooses to turn their line of sight towards the SUV in Wade?s driveway, they will see a bit of valuable information on car care floating above it: ?Protect your car?s paint. Wash it regularly.?

A winning bet?
The video series is meant to mitigate worry around home and auto ownership, both of which are becoming rarities as millennials struggle with stagnating wages and rising cost of living. It seems that Liberty Mutual assumes that lacking the wherewithal to make an investment like home or auto ownership translates to increased anxiety about actually being able to own it.

The anxiety surrounding home ownership mirrors the anxiety many brands have about moving into the VR space. With no playbook to refer to, a brand like Liberty Mutual finds itself as the vanguard of leveraging a platform that does not yet have any case studies for success outside of entertainment promotion and awareness campaigns.

Many consumers see VR as more of a novelty than a viable platform for entertainment, and the medium?s high price point (barring the unreleased Google Daydream) combined with the general unwieldiness of the apparatus make it something of a marketing wild card.

While it makes sense for an insurance company such as Liberty Mutual? which generally have to produce something splashy in order to spice up the perception of a boring product? to launch instructional 360-degree videos, the move doesn?t say much about the long-term prospects of the platform.

The insurance company has been making strides as of late to leverage new technologies to assist consumers, especially in regards to metrics. Earlier this year, it partnered with Subaru on an app that monitors users? driving habits and offers helpful tips (see story).

Brands have been experimenting with the VR medium, as immersion is one significant draw to companies attempting to communicate brand narrative. Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery recently leveraged virtual reality, releasing multiple stereoscopic 360-degree videos that bring the stories behind two of its beers to life on users? smartphones (see story).

?The obvious brands to use 360 video, such as National Geographic and The New York Times, have done it well and have proven just how effective it can be at engaging audiences,? Mr. Miller said.

"By producing insightful, helpful, and fun 360 video, Liberty Mutual will be able to connect with consumers like never before."