Marriott Uses Virtual Reality To Connect With Travelers
Marriott Hotels has rolled out an immersive virtual travel experience, which itself is actually traveling the country, as more brands experiment with virtual reality technology in general and with Oculus Rift in particular.
Marriott partnered with video effects and creative content studio Framestore and experiential marketing agency Relevent to give consumers what it calls an immersive, 4D sensory experience based on Oculus Rift technology. Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset that allows for “immersive” 3D gaming and its parent company was acquired by Facebook for a reported $2 billion in March.
During Marriott’s virtual travel experience, participants enter the Teleporter, a phone booth-like structure with an Oculus Rift DK2 virtual reality headset, wireless headphones, and 4D sensory elements that allow participants to feel sun, wind, sea spray, and the moving ground, as well as the “smell of somewhere new.”
Once consumers don the headsets and headphones, they visit a virtual version of a Marriott great room lobby and travel to a beach in Maui and to the top of a skyscraper in London. This, Marriott says, enables “travel enthusiasts” to “see, hear and feel” what it’s like to be in global destinations and at “Marriott Hotels of the future.”
In addition, the Teleporter itself is traveling to eight U.S. cities from September to November: New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Dallas, San Diego, San Jose, and San Francisco.
Marriott encourages fans to follow along on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #GetTeleported.
In a press release, Marriott says it wanted to create a virtual travel experience that “truly feels like ‘being there.’”
“Marriott seized on virtual reality and teleportation to give the next generation of travelers the clear cut notion that more amazing travel experiences are coming and to encourage them to co-create the future of travel with us on TravelBrilliantly.com…” Michael Dail, vice president, Marriott Hotels Brand Marketing, said in a prepared statement.
Marriott’s Travel Brilliantly site asks guests to submit ideas about how to improve the Marriott experience and allows users to “show love for [their] favorites” by clicking on a button that says, “That’s Brilliant.”
Travel Brilliantly launched in June 2013 and has yielded features like new modern great room lobbies, mobile check-in and checkout, a mobile app for chatting between guests and property hosts, and a healthy vending machine with fresh food on demand, according to Marriott.
“I love that it is taking something that is very popular from a technology standpoint and using it in a way that is on brand,” said Jason Burby, president of the Americas at creative agency Possible, of Marriott’s Oculus Rift experience. “It’s not just something cool. Marriott is about travel and exploration – this ties perfectly to it.”
However, Burby said the relative success of the campaign comes down to the actual experience and whether Marriott is able to make consumers feel like they are exploring the included destinations.
In addition, Burby observes most of Marriott’s revenue comes from business travelers who like to leverage technology and “innovative approaches to make their trips easier and better” and these same people also take trips to Hawaii and London, “so I think the value to Marriott is in the exposure and brand perception lift as a leader.”
But Marriott certainly isn’t the first brand to employ the technology.
Earlier this year, UK-based grocery store chain Tesco used Oculus Rift to allow consumers to travel through a somewhat less exciting (although likely more familiar) destination: a grocery store.
In addition, UK-based digital communications company – and proud England Rugby sponsor — O2 launched Wear the Rose, a virtual reality sports experience that uses Oculus Rift to make fans feel like they are part of the Senior England Rugby Team.
Sunglass brand Oakley and Warner Brothers have also reportedly employed Oculus Rift in their own efforts.