Unknown 1

So near yet so far: Virtual brand spaces Pt. 2

Exhibitions are cancelled, showrooms closed. It seems that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies to shut down all spatial experiences of their brands. But is there really no alternative? Creative Director of "MetaSpaces", our unit in Berlin that specializes in spatial design and brand physicalization, Stephan Maus, answered some questions on developments, trends and solutions that are emerging in the field of spatial staging of brands. Here comes part two...

5. How can companies profit from virtual brand spaces? What functions can virtual brand spaces have for companies now and in the future?

Ultimately you create a new meeting format which contributes to increasing a brand's relevance as well as the overall contact time shared and to enriching it with positive experiences.

At the same time, you obtain the free space to stage products in an exciting way tailored to different target groups.

And incidentally, there is the opportunity to integrate the most varied individual applications in an environment which conforms to the brand. With all of this, the format is able to depict important objectives or overall brand communication.

6. What applications and what opportunities are conceivable for virtual brand staging?

For example, adventures like Tomb Raider, Witcher and so on: Visitors be-come explorers or even part of the virtual brand staging. They can browse through the space and, by acting skillfully and by solving tasks or finding additional information, can reach different levels of recognition. It will be possible to experience the entire spectrum of a product through its consistent gamification involving products and exhibits.

Besides the architecture, this presents us with additional challenges: consistent storytelling which must also be created for different target groups (end customers, business partners, sponsors etc.). If a dialog component is then also added to this - such as a chat or other dialog option with a brand ambassador - a genuine brand experience will come from a technical digital application.

7. What technical requirements does a user need to interact with a virtual brand space? What technical requirements should providers have?

In a web application, there should be no juddering or constant reloading: It is up to us to keep the technical requirements for the user as small as possible and to create a surface that is easy to use. Ideally, a stable Internet connection should be enough. Control, interaction and dialog tools should be located simply and intuitively in the browser. Looking ahead, we are working on the smallest technical denominator like a web or player application, which is scaled up - e.g. when transferred to VR glasses.

8. What should generally be considered when implementing virtual brand rooms?

Virtual brand spaces cannot yet replace trade fairs or a trading venue with personal meetings, discussions and social contacts. But they harbor the potential to bind target groups emotionally and to make the distinctive core of a company recognizable. It remains important, however, not to over-shoot and to find the right balance between stimulation and functionality. If such a format involves superficial effects rather than content, this undermines the credibility of the brand. As a result, there is also increased demand on editing, or the selection and currentness of the information conveyed.

9. How do you interlink virtual brand spaces with other digital touch-points of the brand?

It is not practical to cannibalize other existing channels. The virtual brand space is therefore generally integrated into the company’s own web presence. This can be realized through a microsite solution, for example. Linking blogs and social media channels is also to be seen as part of the integrated user experience from the start ...

10. From concept to usable application: what does the process of development look like and how long does it take to bring a virtual brand space to life?

That depends very much on the content which brands want to transport through this channel. There is also the development time to consider: How much prepared content is available, how much still has to be prepared for this medium? As a framework: We have developed different scenarios in which we present the prepared content - these could be reproducing an exhibition stand or trading venue 1:1. Or stylized brand spaces, to virtual experience worlds where we place products. Generally, we develop all scenarios together with our clients and decide about the depth of content, details, experience and dialog. We can develop the simplest application in about 4-5 weeks.

_Stephan Maus is Creative Director at MetaDesign Berlin
_Image © MetaDesign: Conference room inside of the virtual MetaDesign island