Smashbox Goes Behind the Scenes of a Photo Shoot in Its Foray Into VR

Digital push also includes augmented reality and new site

Plenty of iconic magazine and fashion shoots over the years have taken place at the 25,000-square-foot Smashbox Studios in Los Angeles—a Stuart Weitzman campaign shot by Mario Testino, for instance, and Annie Liebovitz's shoot with Reese Witherspoon, Amy Adams and Channing Tatum for Vanity Fair's Hollywood Issue last year.

Now, Smashbox—the makeup brand named after the space—is making its first push into virtual reality with a video that takes folks behind the scenes at its headquarters. Created with L.A.-based agency Omelet, the three-minute clip shows a handful of the studios in the space and what goes into putting together a shoot.

One scene, for example, shows a room called Flashbox that can be used to recreate a dozen different types of light.

Ginny Chien, executive director of global digital and consumer marketing at Smashbox, said VR represents somewhat of a shift in the brand's video marketing over the past year after it invested in YouTubers and other influencer programs.

"It's the perfect storytelling platform for us because we are the only brand born out of a photo studio—a real, functioning photo studio," Chien said. "We've seen over the years that people don't grasp that concept because competitor brands are latching on to being behind the scenes and knowing how to take good photos. We realized that people don't know that our history is authentic as this studio brand until they're here."

In addition to posting the film on Facebook and YouTube using the sites' 360-degree features, Smashbox mailed 400 cardboard headsets to beauty influencers, including Cassey Holmes and Karen Sarahi Gonzales. Sales associates at retailers are also receiving VR viewers, which will be used as training pieces to give employees a crash course on the brand's history.

"We wanted something that can teach people about the product, and they have store partners," said Ricardo Diaz, executive digital director at Omelet. "The sales forces at Sephoras and Ultas of the world can understand more about the brand and learn a little bit of the product information and their heritage."

The video is part of a bigger brand revamp for Smashbox this fall.

In September, it will relaunch its ecommerce site with more content and video, and it's also building an augmented-reality tool that will let people virtually swipe on lipstick, eye shadow and other kinds of makeup.

"A lot of brands jump on the bandwagon of being behind the scenes for many reasons—we're a selfie culture, and everyone thinks that they're a photographer now because of Instagram or wants to be a photographer," said Chien. "It becomes harder and harder to differentiate and legitimately, a lot of brands do have sets in their offices. So, what we wanted to do was elevate that to our studio story using technology."