‘Dreams of Dali’ virtual reality proves a real success

Kathy Greif, chief operating officer, Dali Museum

Kathy Greif is the chief operating officer of the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg.

By Mike Stephenson

Few think of museums as cutting edge, but when your institution is devoted to surrealist artist Salvador Dali you learn to open your mind to possibilities.

“He really gives us permission to experiment,” said Kathy Greif, chief operating officer of the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg in a presentation Nov. 16 to the American Marketing Association of Tampa Bay.

The Dali’s experiment led to an embrace of virtual reality technology as the museum partnered with Goodby Silverstein & Partners to create “Dreams of Dali,” a virtual reality experience that takes the user on an immersive 3D adventure inside Dali’s 1935 painting Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s “Angelus.”

Greif and her team consider the virtual reality project a work of art of its own, imagining what’s going on inside Dali’s painting. As a marketing effort, it has been a major success. The project has garnered international attention, winning Cannes Cyber Lion GOLD; a  Webby People’s Voice award and a Facebook Silver award for Innovation, among others.

“We didn’t set out to make a marketing campaign,” Greif said. “We set out to something as beautiful as Dali’s art.”

Greif cautions that virtual reality is a tool for brand building but isn’t ready to be a money maker. When the Dali tried out a $2.99 charge through an app to download the full 360-degree experience, it totally flopped and they dropped the fee.

“That was a great learning experience,” she said. “We’re at the testing and trying stage. I think there will be room to monetize VR in the future, but right now it’s about engagement.”

Advice for others

In encouraging other marketers to try out VR, Greif’s bottom line advice is based on her takeaway from Dali: Don’t be afraid to experiment. Go beyond a virtual tour and seek something unique.

“It’s to not overthink it,” she said. “Try something in the VR space. Don’t worry about getting it perfect. There’s no sure thing. Just make sure it’s on brand.

“Creating something unique and high quality is important. It’s got to have a hook. It’s about taking someone into a world. You don’t want to give them something they can do in reality. You want to give them something they can only do in virtual reality.”

Mike Stephenson is editorial manager at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. He does freelance editing and writes personal histories through his website, stephensonstories.com. He joined AMA Tampa Bay in 2016 and has written for the blog on such topics as email marketing and visual marketing and communication.