How Excedrin's standalone VR experience evolved into a viral video
After delivering a sales boost, the brand's virtual reality simulation of getting a migraine is finding new life on mobile.
Relevant, authentic customer insights are a must-have if brands want to integrate cutting-edge technology like virtual reality and 360-degree video with brand-building goals, according to an Excedrin marketing executive.
Speaking at last month’s SM2 Innovation Summit in New York, which was organized by the Mobile Marketing Association, the executive discussed how Excedrin’s marketing team saw an opportunity in the growing reach of virtual reality to bring deeper understanding to the general public of just how debilitating migraine headaches are for sufferers.
Initially conceived as a standalone VR experience, the strategy was extended into a multichannel campaign 18 months ago when the company realized how strong the content was. The results drove a significant sales lift, a difficult feat for a brand in a competitive market. Last month, when a second iteration was launched using 360-degree video to reach mobile users, it quickly became the marketer’s first content to land on Ad Age’s weekly viral video report. Now, the company is looking at how to marry immersive mobile video with some of its other OTC brands, which include Sensodyne, Theraflu, Flonase, Tums and Polident.
“We spend over 50% of our media budget on digital and every one of our brands is looking at mobile and VR to better dimensionalize and tell their story,” said Dominic Iacono, marketing director for respiratory and pain relief at GSK North America.
“If there isn’t that customer insight, just sticking in the technology isn’t going to move the brand forward,” he said.
A new view on brands
Excedrin’s foray into virtual reality is a great example of why marketers should test new technologies that force them to think about their brands in new ways, as their efforts could pay off in dividends.
The original VR campaign, developed with ad agency DDB Remedy, sought to recreate the visual symptoms that can accompany a migraine, including vertigo, auras and sensitivity to light. Then family members and friends were challenged to wear a VR headset during their day and experience for themselves what getting a migraine is like, minus the pain.
The emotional exchanges as three different migraine sufferers’ loved ones understood for the first time exactly what they went through were shared on Excedrin.com and across social media.
The customer insight behind the strategy? That the more than 37 million migraine sufferers in the U.S. report a strong emotional toll from the condition, with 88% saying they feel misunderstood while a similarly high percentage feel helpless and isolated when experiencing a migraine.
At the same time the Excedrin brand team was uncovering these insights, research at top universities was suggesting that VR, if done well, could create empathy across the general population.
Marrying the brand’s customer insight research with what outside research was saying about the potential of VR sparked the idea that led to the brand developing a groundbreaking use for the technology in consumer healthcare marketing. Even better, the execution resonated with consumers in a way that boosted the brand, driving sales and earning three creative awards at Cannes Lions Health.
Reaching a broader audience
Despite these successes, the initial effort was limited by the fact that it required a robust VR headset. For the follow up, Excedrin wanted to bring the strategy to a wider audience via mobile and once again turned to its customer insights to drive the strategy, using findings like that 94% of sufferers say migraines happen at work, 10% have been fired because of their migraines, 81% have downplayed the severity and powered through at work and 70% say migraines negatively impact their job performance.
Armed with these findings, Excedrin’s marketing created a new campaign designed to create empathy in the workplace, which launched in the middle of September. By leveraging 360-degree video, users can view the experience on their phones via the YouTube app and a cardboard headset. The effort also includes social content, digital media and content, TV ads, shopper marketing and a presence on Excedrin.com.
The new content focuses on three different migraine sufferers and their experiences at work when they get a migraine, which viewers get to experience in an immersive way through 360-degree video.
“It feels like it has been a great innovation in technology that can build on empathy for non-sufferers,” Iacono said at the MMA’s SM2 Innovation Summit.
“No work or tech can ever make up for a lack of a genuine authentic consumer insight,” he added.