NEW ORLEANS: Marriott, the hotels group, is making active use of virtual reality (VR) as a marketing tool, but believes a clear sense of purpose must guide brands when undertaking such innovative efforts.

Marc Battaglia, Creative Director: Global Creative + Content Marketing at Marriott International, discussed this subject at the 2016 Collision Conference in New Orleans.

"If there was ever a technology made for travel, it's virtual reality (VR)," he said. (For more, including further insights into the brand's strategy, read Warc's exclusive report: Marriott Hotels brings consumers on virtual-reality expeditions.)

Battaglia highlighted several efforts from Marriott Hotels. These include the "Teleporter" initiative, which took wedding guests on virtual trips to London and Hawaii, and a program where hotel guests could try VR tech by ordering it via room service.

"Not everything should be VR," he continued. "There has to be a purpose behind it. We're aiming to take people to places they normally can't go to [and] give them access to experiences they normally couldn't access."

More specifically, as this technology effectively delivers "complete immersion" for the user, it can provide consumers with a unique taster of distant destinations.

"I've always said: All you have to do is just put a headset on someone, sit back, and you watch their reaction. You immediately see a smile within three seconds. You don't get that with most concepts," said Battaglia.

"Distribution hasn't reached the mass audience just yet. But that's going to change very quickly … The technology is there."

Looking forward, he suggested that more thoroughgoing VR activations would soon be possible. "We're just now scratching the surface of what we can be doing from the travel perspective," said Battaglia.

Despite this undoubted potential, he returned to the theme of underlying purpose in describing how quickly Marriott International's various brands – which include Courtyard, JW Marriott and Delta Hotels – might adopt this technology.

"I could easily say that, in two years from now, VR will be part of [our marketing] plan. But it's just a prediction – my opinion. We have 19 brands, some of which jump into things faster than others," Battaglia said.

Data sourced from Warc