Not too long ago, I watched a hilarious rap music video on YouTube, where LEGO and MINECRAFT are battling each other, immersed in upbeat music and witty rhymes, as virtual bricks and virtual characters battle their plastic counterparts.
I immediately thought to myself: “the struggle is real”. Not pun intended.
Let me explain what I mean.
Many established brands (including LEGO) are reporting steep declines in sales, due to the rise of digital media. Quoting Niels Chtistensen, LEGO’s CEO from a recent article in FINANCIAL TIMES: “For the first time in 13 years, Lego reported a fall in both sales and profits. More than a decade of what Mr. Christiansen called ’supernatural growth’ had come to a sudden halt.”
And LEGO is not the only brand that experiences the direct hit from the impact of the growth of VR, AR and digital media on physically oriented brands. In September 2017, TOYS R’ US filed for bankruptcy and will be soon shutting down.
Are we losing our grip on physical reality?...
A client of mine, a global toy manufacturer, recently called me to help them brainstorm ideas to develop a fresh new I.P. (intellectual property). As we are developing new and exciting concepts, storylines, designing characters and creating worlds, the company’s execs came to a crossroad and somewhat of a dilemma: should their new I.P be mainly launched as a physical product with digital off shoots, or should they go straight for VR, AR and online experience?
This is a real and valid question that many entertainment brands face today.
If we take a look at the rosy predictions of VR & AR, they are both expected to grow into major multi billion-dollar industries, fueled by the growing use of smart phones and tablets.
But will that replace the human experience in physical reality? To answer that, let me go back to my client’s dilemma.
As I was exploring the pros and cons of going digital vs. physical with one of the company’s execs, I asked him a question:
“Where was the last place you visited on your most recent vacation?”
“Spain” he answered.
My next question was: ”Would you rather be visiting Spain via a VR device from the comfort of your home?”
“Of course not” he answered.
“But I wouldn’t mind doing an online virtual tour prior to booking my tickets”.
That answered the big dilemma: humans will NEVER replace their physical experiences with virtual experiences, but can definitely ENHANCE their physical experiences using VR, AR and digital media – and vice versa.
Although TOYS R’ US are shutting down, TARGET, AMAZON and WALMART will directly benefit from it’s demise, because kids are NOT going to stop playing physical toys, no matter how sophisticated and enticing the digital devices are becoming.
It all comes down to a matter of the right BALANCE between the two. And one great example of this balance is 3D printing. As technology is moving forward, kids may be spending less time in physical stores looking for their favorite toys, but now have the option to 3D print their favorite toys at their own homes, and also develop their own designs.
In conclusion, if you ask me: STORYTELLING is the most significant component there is to any brand, physical or digital.
My best advice to my clients, and to you: focus on the storytelling, create engaging characters and stimulating worlds, and the right means to express them are at your disposal, digital and physical- use them BOTH.
Baruch “I am real and I am digital” Inbar.