The world of marketing and digital content can be complex. It’s tempting to throw some jargon around in order to get budget or impress strategic planners. Terms like voice SEO, VR, AR, and predictive analytics are all the rage but mean little if you don’t understand the concepts behind them.

In reality, though, all of these jargon terms have complex and often hugely beneficial concepts behind them. They can be difficult to understand, which in turn makes it difficult to optimize your marketing for them. At the same time, a deeper understanding of each term can help you build better, smarter, more successful marketing and content initiatives.

Take the overarching context of virtual reality as an example. In isolation, that term can mean a lot of things. Depending on who you ask, you maybe be talking about 3D mapping, 360° video, or something else altogether. This industry presents a huge opportunity: in total, virtual reality is expected to grow from $7.3 billion in revenue in 2018 to $120.5 billion by 2026. 

How that revenue breaks out, though, is just as important. Understanding the nuances that make up the VR umbrella term can help you better understand where to focus your marketing efforts and spend your budget. In this post, we’ll dig deep into the differences and relationships between 3D, 360°, and VR.

The Nuances of 3D Environments

3D has been around as long as the world. Why? Because in the real world, everything is technically ‘3D’. What we’re talking about in the context of this article, and marketing/business in general, is the creation of digital content created specifically in 3D.

3D environments are immersive, approximating the real world through depth perception.  They can be difficult to create because ‘traditional’ means of capturing real-world content automatically compress everything down to a single plane. Let’s dig into what 3D means, and how it can benefit your larger marketing efforts.

3D, Defined

As you probably know, 3D is short for three-dimensional. Instead of simply showing something in the traditional two dimensions you see as you read content like this, height and width, you also add depth.

Representing 3D views on a typical screen can be difficult; after all, the screen doesn’t have any physical depth. The process of adding the third dimension into a two-dimensional format (like a screen or a piece of paper) is called orthographic projection. For simplicity’s sake, and because the actual process mirrors the real-world 3D representation, most experts simply refer to that type of projection as digital 3D.

To better understand the concept, think about the difference between a video game and a simple picture. Both can play on the same screen, but the video game makes it seem like there is more depth to the world. The same is true for 3D maps, which through orthographic projection are able to add depth and realism to an otherwise two-dimensional drawing or design.


Marketing Implications of 3D Content

There’s a reason 3D has become a buzzword: it has significant potential when it comes to optimizing your marketing strategy. The benefits of 3D content are well-documented:

  • Realism. Above all, 3D renderings and content can add a degree of realism that 2D images simply cannot get. Think about 3D maps, and the ability to add building outlines to the map. Anyone who is familiar with the building will more easily recognize it, and those who don’t can find it more easily once on site.
  • Visual Intrigue. In any online format, you only have about 7 seconds to make a first impression. That can be difficult, especially on complex subjects like buildings and physical environments. A simple 2D map or explainer text probably won’t do. Adding that third dimension adds intrigue and prompts your audience to dig deeper.
  • Complexity. When your audience does dig deeper, 3D content allows you to provide the details and nuances they’re looking for. The detail you can add, be it to a map or a full product rendering, can be much more effective when shown with depth perception in the equation.
  • Bringing Concepts to Life. Finally, don’t underestimate the potential of using 3D to show concepts that haven’t been realized yet. Think about that new building or floor, existing only on a computer for the time being. With 3D technology, you can bring it to life and, not just tell your audience what it’s all about.

It’s for these reasons that 3D renderings and content have gained massive popularity in recent years. In fact, the 3D rendering market in the United States alone is poised to quadruple from $1.5 billion to $6 billion by 2025. Now is the perfect time to jump on the trend and improve your marketing efforts as a result.


The Nuances of 360° Photos and Videos

You’ve seen them all over Facebook and YouTube, and maybe even in your VR goggles. 360° photos and videos are static, but allow you to move around in order to change your perspective. Let’s dig into exactly what that means. 

360° Content, Defined

360° photos and videos aren’t exactly different from 3D. They just add a little more nuance. At their core, this type of VR content is just orthographic projection within a piece of software that allows you to change your perspective.

The perspective here is usually fixed within the 360° environment. A camera takes an image or films the entire perimeter around it, which creates the center of the image. From there, you can look around in every direction but will always be limited to the camera’s viewpoint.

Until about 15 years ago, this type of content was only available through software creating artificial versions of reality. Through software like SketchUp, skilled professionals could build 3D models to explore from specific vantage points in all directions, which required powerful processing computers.

We don’t have to tell you that consumer needs and technological advancements have come a long way since then. Today, most mobile phones have the processing power to handle this complex processing. As a result, 360° photos and videos have entered the mainstream, becoming powerful marketing tools in their own right.

Marketing Implications of 360° Content

Let’s start with the power of 360° content. One study found that 360° video ads boosted purchase intent by 7%. A separate study by Google found more view-throughs on 360° video ads, including a 41% rise in actions (clicks and engagements) compared to its more static alternative.

The conclusion is clear: compared to standard video, content that allows you to view the entire environment is almost necessarily more successful. There are a few reasons for that:

  • Immersion. To say that 360° is more immersive almost seems redundant. Being able to look around and actually take in your surroundings naturally offers more intrigue than being stuck on a perspective prescribed by the content producer. Especially as consumers increasingly look to digital experiences, this type of immersion is vital to stand out in crowded industries.
  • Interaction. In addition to simply being more immersed in the content that now is all around them, consumers also tend to love 360° content because it allows them to, at least on some level, interact with their surroundings. They can take action simply by glancing around. Especially on digital platforms like Facebook, where interaction increases engagement and reach, that added component can become vital for your marketing success.
  • Repeat Viewing. Being able to see the entire surroundings of a given scene is not just more intriguing the first time your audience sees it. Instead, it also is more likely to persuade your audience to come back to it time after time, seeking out new perspectives and new ways to view the content. The result tends to be increased loyalty between your audience and your brand content.

Much like 3D renderings, 360° content has a foothold in marketing for these reasons. Leveraging it can and should become a core part of your promotional strategy.


The Nuances of VR Content

Perhaps the buzziest of terms in this article, VR is everywhere you look. It’s being hailed as the future of marketingtraining, and a number of other industries. Being able to fully immerse your audience into your content is certainly a goal worthy of digging into further.   

Virtual Reality, Defined

VR, of course, is short for virtual reality, which tends to be self-explanatory. There is some controversy on what exactly that means; some digital purists ascribe VR only to truly immersive, interactive environments that approximate virtual reality to its fullest, created not from real-life images but in an entirely artificial and computer-generated world.

At its most basic, though, VR is simply a way to view either the 3D models or the 360° content discussed throughout this article. It is, in other words, the means through which you can access the visual intrigue and immersion that both of these content types can provide. 

The first word of the term, virtual, keys us to the fact that this is an environment existing entirely in the digital world. Contrast that with AR or augmented reality, which adds virtual objects into the real world to create a sort of digital/real hybrid. VR occurs on your screen, representing reality in a virtual model but not showing that actual reality.

Marketing Implications of VR Content

If we consider VR to be the vehicle through which your audience can see 3D models and 360° content, all the marketing benefits of each of these tactics (described above) apply here as well. The concept adds realism and visual intrigue while creating immersive, interactive environments.

The vehicle itself, though, has unique benefits that deserve a discussion in their own right. You will be most familiar with VR through VR goggles, which take the cues given by a 2D screen and turn them into 3D scenarios that more closely approximate real life. 360° Content is still flat when you view it on a computer or phone screen. But once you view it through the lens of VR goggles, that scenery and environment come to life.

The same is true for 3D models, which only appear to include depth on a regular screen. View them through VR goggles, and you see the true depth, and, depending on the software, can even move them around and interact with them. In other words, the VR component adds a layer of complexity and interaction that 3D models and 360° content on their own cannot achieve. 

3D, 360°, and VR Content — Which is Right For Your Business?

Having discussed the nuances and differences between these three buzz terms, it’s time to get to the heart of the matter: which one should you leverage for your business?

It’s a bit of a trick question. Each of these concepts has its time and place in your digital efforts. Imagine a higher education institution, which can leverage 3D, 360° content, and VR all at once in a variety of settings:

  • 3D enhances the depth of a campus map and can also showcase the model of a newly planned building.
  • 360° content allows the institution to showcase the most beautiful spots on its campus.
  • VR takes both of these elements and builds them into a campus tour for prospective students and alumni.


Finally, it’s important to keep two things in mind as you integrate this type of VR content into your marketing efforts. First, the more content and ‘sides’ you make available for viewing, the more processing power and load time you’ll need. That can limit the device types and software options your audience has to view the content, which is what we see in most 3D and 360° content.

Second, most 3D renderings act like a movie set: to save processing power, they show only the fronts you’re able to see and not the full structure. That limits your perspective, but also decreases the need for fast processing and makes renderings more widely available to your audience.

Are you ready to integrate VR content into your marketing? You’ll need a partner to help you understand the differences further, and select the options that are right for your business.