November 10, 2016, 5:03 PM

Hormel hopes bacon virtual reality videos sizzle

A consumer can add bacon to her cart at the end of the virtual reality video, which marks the first time Hormel is selling bacon direct to consumers online.

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Hormel Foods LLC is shakin’ its bacon in a virtual world.

The consumer packaged goods company launched virtual reality marketing videos for its bacon products at the end of October. A consumer can use her smartphone and a Google Cardboard virtual reality viewer to watch the less-than-five-minute bacon adventures, and then add the product to her cart.

Hormel brands all of its bacon products as “black-label bacon” to market itself as a premium and trendy bacon provider, says Steven Venenga, Hormel’s vice president, marketing of grocery products. The bacon virtual reality experience is branded as “The Black Market.”

Here’s how it works: A consumer goes to the website blacklabelbacon.com/VR on her smartphone. She inserts her smartphone—iOS or Android—into a Google Cardboard headset. She holds the viewer to her eyes and sees a target, which follows the movement of her eyes. If she hovers the target over a button for three seconds, the button is pressed.

The consumer can choose among four “bacon adventures” to go on, and she chooses the one she wants by hovering the target over the name of the adventure for three seconds. Each adventure corresponds to a different bacon flavor: A consumer goes through the cherrywood forest, for instance, and at the end she finds cherrywood-flavored bacon. When she finds the bacon strip in the forest, she can add it to her cart by hovering the target over it. She completes the transaction by taking the smartphone out of the virtual reality viewer and then fills out the checkout page fields, as she would normally make a purchase on a smartphone.

This is the first time Hormel has sold bacon online. The manufacturer’s bacon department is eyeing e-commerce as a way to sell direct to consumers, and this is its first endeavor, Venenga says.

The bacon virtual reality experience does not need an app to work; a consumer can watch the 360-degree video on a desktop by using her mouse to navigate the VR world. Using a headset, however, is more immersive, says Nick Schweitzer, Hormel’s brand manager, breakfast meats.

The marketing campaign aims to promote its brand, connect with consumers and ultimately increase sales, Venenga says. Hormel is measuring the virtual reality campaign’s success by tracking how many consumers watch the video, how many finish the bacon adventure and how many viewers buy bacon. 

So far, Hormel is happy with the results. In the first week of launch, thousands of consumers watched the video, exceeding the company’s expectations, Venenga says. Because the virtual reality program runs on a browser, there is no way to tell if a consumer is viewing the videos in a virtual reality headset or just on a mobile device, he says. He declined to disclose information on bacon orders. 

Hormel is marketing the videos to consumers via posts on its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, and it’s also promoting the bacon experience with brand partners, Schweitzer says. For example, YouTube cooking shop Epic Meal Time promotes the videos on its shows and website.

Hormel hired marketing agencies BBDO Minneapolis and Made in Haus to build the virtual reality program, a process that took six months. Venenga would not disclose costs.

Outdoor apparel and equipment retailer Moosejaw, No. 273 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide, debuted a virtual reality app in May. Moosejaw spent into six figures developing the app and the virtual reality video content.

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