NEW YORK: Absolut Vodka is experimenting with virtual reality (VR) both as a channel to engage consumers and to test new marketing monetisation models.

Afdhel Aziz, Brand Director/Absolut Labs – a dedicated "think-tank and idea incubator" run by the Pernod Ricard-owned drinks line – has spearheaded its efforts with this technology.

Its biggest move in this space to date is a free gaming app developed with deadmau5 (pronounced "dead mouse"), where players help the electronic-music star solve multiple problems on the way from his garage to a concert.

And while this offering is fully compatible with virtual-reality hardware like Oculus Rift and Samsung's Gear VR, the brand gave consumers the chance to purchase a limited-edition Google Cardboard headset for $17.95.

"One of the biggest things facing all brands is: How do you make your investments that much more efficient?" Aziz said at a recent conference. (For more, including further details of this program, read Warc's exclusive report: Absolut Vodka gets a taste for VR marketing.)

"The next iteration … is really where we take it to the monetising-scale level," he continued. "That's another part of the Labs' approach: it's not just innovation in terms of the technology, but innovation in terms of the business model."

Absolut Labs had originally considered charging for the deadmau5 content, but with the VR headset and revenue-generation markets at a nascent stage of development, it opted against this plan.

Such a decision reflects the brand's emphasis on delivering nightlife-based experiences which are distinct, inclusive and drive social interaction.

This mission was also brought to life with its first test of VR, where Absolut broadcast a performance by Bob Moses, an electronic-music duo, live in 360-degrees – and gave away 5,000 virtual-reality headsets so fans across the US could watch it.

While the technology was innovative, the program was based on a common pain point for consumers. "Less than 1% of people who want to go to an event actually get in," Aziz reported.

In the case of Bob Moses, they were playing at a 400-person club in Brooklyn. And by addressing this problem, Absolut secured a unique form of engagement, as epitomised by the recipients of its free VR headsets.

"Those fans, all around the United States: they self-organised themselves into about 600 viewing parties," Aziz said. "They put on a VR headset, and it was like being in the front row of the concert."

Data sourced from Warc