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As Apple enters the VR headset market, brands take a wait-and-see approach

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Marketers tend to love whatever the latest shiny new thing is, but after investing quickly in NFTs and the metaverse some say they plan to take a wait-and-see approach to Apple’s Vision Pro virtual reality headset.

Marketers say they’re captivated by the headset’s potential, and they’ll have to wait until next year for its official launch of course, but the lackluster results from jumping quickly on recent trends might make some marketers more cautious about doing so again this time around. At least, that’s what marketers from brands like Tetris, Sprite and Hasbro said during the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas earlier this month.

“Right now, we’re not usually the first person to jump in and try something,” said Casey Collins, Hasbro’s president of licensed consumer products. “We sit back and we might be next or the one after that so the team right now is just doing more fact finding.”

As the popularity of NFTs and the metaverse increasingly fizzles out, brands are being cautious before they move forward with virtual reality marketing geared toward the Vision Pro just yet. They don’t want to ruin their reputations with target customers by jumping on the technology too soon, especially in the current economic climate.

Collins said when NFTs became mainstream, the company had concerns about the cryptocurrency, the environment and the potential for Ponzi schemes along with the public negativity that surrounded the technology. Hasbro did enter the NFT space with its Power Rangers collection in 2021 and Monopoly game in 2022, but decided not to pursue the space further after its return on investment was less than expected.

“For us, it’s about preserving our brand’s reputation and we just didn’t want to jump into a space that felt a little icky,” he said, referring to the NFT space.

This time around, Collins said that Hasbro will wait to see what leveraging the Vision Pro will actually do for the brand before investing.

Whenever gaming brand Tetris finds out about a new platform or new technology, president and CEO Maya Rogers said the company has to pick and choose how best to invest resources and marketing dollars in order to reach casual and hardcore gamers. Rogers also said Tetris has been approached by numerous brands for metaverse opportunities over the last two years, but declined them.

“There’s so much hype last year and the year before, and we were being pitched left and right, and it was kind of like, ‘Well, what do you know if [this] is the one?’ so we’ve been more careful about that,” said Rogers, adding that it takes a lot of time, people and resources to execute something like a metaverse strategy successfully.

Rogers did say that Tetris first experimented with VR in Tetris Effect, a game that can be played on Playstation VR, and that with the Vision Pro’s features, a sequel could be developed, complete with opportunities to place ads within the game.

According to marketers, the fact that the launch of Apple Vision Pro won’t happen until next year will provide plenty of time for marketers and brands to develop content, interactive experiences and advertisements to target multiple audiences simultaneously. Regarding how much Apple plans to charge for advertising in Vision Pro, Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

For A.P. Chaney, Sprite’s director of creative strategy, a key benefit of the Apple Vision Pro could be users’ ability to select and customize virtual environments — a sentiment shared by Rogers. Vision Pro users will also be able to engage in full virtual reality experiences. From a practical standpoint, this means that people will have the ability to select apps and games from menus they see in their living rooms, offices, etc., and they will be able to move objects, apps and games in their environments using voice commands, subtle hand gestures and eye movements.

Despite optimism for the Vision Pro, Chaney said the headset needs to make marketing sense for Sprite to explore the technology. “We’d be remiss if we didn’t keep our ears and eyes to this and see what our consumers are using, what they’re interested in, how do we push our business, how do we push creativity? So we’re always looking and exploring,” said Chaney. “We always want to make sure that when we go into it, it makes sense for our consumer in what the campaign and KPIs are.”

The global market for virtual reality and augmented reality is expected to reach $296.9 billion by 2024, according to data analytics platform Statista’s 2021 report. Today’s market exceeds the $30.7 billion registered in 2021 by nearly 10 times, representing a 91.2 percent rise over 2022.

Rolf Illenberger, VRdirect’s co-founder and CEO, said he anticipates that marketers and brands will be able to embrace the Apple Vision Pro in the same way they embraced QR codes during the pandemic, with positive technological innovations to come down the road. With future updates in its metaverse, he said he believes the device will be able to propel brands forward with virtual experiences.

“Companies and brands have used these past few years to understand that we’re eventually headed down this road. Maybe not all at once and in an instant like in March of 2020, but eventually much of what we saw during the pandemic that put virtual experiences to the forefront will continue to evolve and improve over time,” he said.

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