Can Oculus Rift Make Mountain Dew a Content Machine Like GoPro or Red Bull?

Soft drink banks on virtual reality

For Mountain Dew, quenching customers' desire for premium online content is just as important as satisfying their thirst. In late September, the beverage company brought a live-action, 3D, 360-degree Oculus VR video to its Dew Tour Brooklyn stop. Attendees were able to try on the virtual reality headset and spend two minutes skating right next to pro skateboader Paul Rodriguez and the all-star "Mtn Dew" skate team.

"This is not an advertisement. This is an experience," Mountain Dew director of brand marketing Jamal Henderson said.

The project, which was developed by agency Firstborn, marked Mountain Dew's first foray into creating content for the Oculus Rift device—but it's not going to be its last. The soft drink company has been carefully currating its image to align with the action-sports scene, through its Dew Tours, branded lifestyle website Green Label, and sponsorship of its Call of Duty and Halo franchises.

Now, it wants to take its laid-back image and create a library of content for Oculus Rift users to download and consume, ideally in the comfort of their own homes. Henderson said relying on banners and other display advertisements just doesn't cut it these days: You need to engage your consumer if you want to leave a lasting impression.

"When you think about the consumer—and it all starts with the consumer—they're consuming more media. In our feeds, we want to see more content. The more we can be a part of that editorial and a part of the feed and not disruptive pre-roll, I think that's the way for our brand to tell our story," he said.

It's a strategy that many other marketers are employing. Red Bull and GoPro have cemented themselves as purveyors of premium lifestyle video content, while Marriott recently announced it's launching an in-house division dedicated to making original editorial and social media content.

Betting on the virtual reality technology is a risky move. The latest Oculus Rift headset (Development Kit 2) costs $350—and it comes with the disclaimer that it's meant for developers. No official release date has been set for the consumer version, although it's rumored to be in 2015. So the number of people who actually own the headset is limited. In addition, Mountain Dew's skateboarding experience takes so much hard-drive space that to get consumers to try it, the company had to invite them to a place with a powerful computer. We're a long way from these immersive videos being one click away.

Despite the risks, Mountain Dew hopes that by getting ahead of the curve as one of the only brands creating for this platform, it can score big.

"Brands that target millennials are going to be in that 'lean-in experience' space," Henderson said. Oculus VR "is the next iteration of that. I 100 percent think that this is where brands are going. I just hope they don't do it as fast as we do."