Activewear brand Asics has had three premium running shoes in the works for over a year.
The label originally planned a large-scale, in-person launch of its Olympic shoe line in Kobe, Japan. However, after the country went into lockdown, this was no longer an option. While many international brands have pressed paused on product marketing until after the pandemic, Asics decided to proceed with the launch of the shoes—digitally. The brand created a virtual reality experience, complete with a holographic showroom and 360-degree close-ups of the shoes. For the launch, Asics sent VR headsets to a group of journalists around the world installed with the Asics Virtual Innovation Lab system. Viewers logging into the showroom could see a short video detailing the brand’s history before learning about the three pairs of shoes: the Metaracer, Metasprint, and Metarise. As each shoe debuted, users were asked to participate in a short series of games to further highlight each shoe’s unique components.
Though a VR demonstration has obvious setbacks—journalists cannot physically try on the shoes—the event could usher in a new type of launch for the age of social distancing. Asics is currently working on developing a way for customers to view the VR launch en masse, but in the meantime has released promotional videos previewing the event. Asics’ launch shows the brand’s social adeptness, according to a Gartner report, by quickly revising plans to meet fans and journalists wherever they are. As the pandemic continues, other product releases may see brands leaning into virtual reality to get their message out too.
Asics had a tough choice to make about its product launch in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic. While many brands resorted to putting their releases on hold, Asics took an unconventional approach that could become the new standard for product promotion in the future.