One of the most impressive haunted houses we saw this week wasn’t on our Halloween trick-or-treat route. It was on Pinterest and featured inspired ideas — Pinterest’s forte for every holiday — but importantly: A ton of creative, branded digital advertising.

It reflected an important trend in digital content marketing: Connecting virtual reality or augmented reality with brands as a way to connect with fans and consumers. That trend, in addition to real-world experiences created to exist online, shows that our virtual worlds and reality are increasingly combining in inventive ways.

Why are content marketers jumping on the virtual bandwagon? Consumer demand. According to Smart Insights, virtual reality and VR-inspired experiences help consumers “try” out products in a more tangible way. Though the immersive consumer experience trend is relatively new, it’s important for brands to be exploring it today. Customers are already “trying” on eyeglasses, placing a desired new sofa “in” their own living rooms.

In addition, creative backdrops of beautiful scenery and foreign landmarks, color factories and temporary “museums” are popping up and encouraging real-life visitors to share their photos and experiences on social media.

With so much content to consume online, brands need to constantly cut through the noise to get their fans excited (and shopping!) Here are three examples of brands bridging the digital divide to extend their message. 

Pinterest haunted house. L’Oreal Paris and Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Treats teamed up to sponsor a 3D “Haunted House” on Pinterest. Visitors could travel around the outside of the mansion and several rooms, enjoying the spooky view and clicking on little Pinterest logos to see the pins scattered about the house and its surroundings. A board logo on the screen allowed for an easy way for users to save the pins they liked — spreading the often branded pins to an even larger audience.

Why it worked: What looked cool on our computers was modern and more seamless on mobile where you just had to move your phone around for a virtual-reality experience. The mix of pins was savvy. A house packed with crunchy treats and lipstick would have been one-note and overly salesy. The branded pins were mixed in with makeup tutorials, home decor DIY projects and even costume ideas for pets.

The Patrón Experience. The app allows consumers to explore a Mexican hacienda and distillery in a “tour” that features gorgeous, colorful scenery. Along the tour, visitors meet bartenders who tell the tequila maker’s story and describe the product line in delectable detail. The cocktail lab features “bot-tenders” who can answer questions and give recipes in real-time.

Why it worked: The imagery of the virtual hacienda was just beautiful, almost cinematic. The takeaway, that you could learn about different types of high-end tequila and their varied flavors and notes, helped extend the user experience and reinforces Patrón’s reputation as  a premium brand.  

The Museum of Ice Cream. Capitalizing on the trend of getting visitors in real spaces to share their experiences on social media, the Museum of Ice Cream’s Instagram page is a sweet collection of frothy, pretty, happy photos of people enjoying the installations in cities including New York and Los Angeles. It’s a pretty-in-pink perfect version of what have been nicknamed “Selfie Factories” — blending real-life spaces with social media activity. Tickets to the temporary installations sell out, without exception, even with prices closing in on $40 a ticket. Brands ranging from Dove to Tinder sponsor the museums with a presence of their own and a hope to get in on some of those thousands of hashtagged shots.

Why it worked: People want to participate! The spendy exhibits sell out in no time. The museum’s own Instagram account — its permanent “place” for its temporary installations — has 258,000 followers. There are also almost 90,700 Instagram photos with its hashtag. By sponsoring a zeitgeist — one that is relentlessly positive and affirming — brands are trying to capitalize on what’s going on in our culture today. The jury is out on how much sponsor brands benefit; their presence is noted by visitors to the museum but rarely show up on social.



Erika Stutzman

Erika Stutzman has more than 20 years of experience in communications, from newspaper reporting and editing, to public speaking and content marketing. Erika enjoys helping Room 214’s team and its clients tell their own unique stories in compelling ways. If she's not writing, she's probably skiing, camping, or at the farmers market.