The clothes make the avatar
It often makes sense for an establishment to introduce a standard of dress for the people housed within its walls. Bars and clothing retailers can gently nudge patrons in the direction of their preferred aesthetic by dressing their employees in the clothes that customers should aspire to. Meanwhile, other institutions strictly enforce a dress code and block people at the door who might break it. Some policies are enacted for thought-related and behavioural restrictions, such as religious buildings that insist on head coverings, sleeves, and an adequate skirt length, while other policies are given to promote group cohesion as with sports teams, and salarymen. On a darker note, forcing people into one type of clothing can lead to the deindividuation of self, as with soldiers and prisoners, whereby one’s identity is lessened, if not struck out completely, and people in these clothes more often fulfil the characteristics with which their clothes are associated.
Enclothed Cognition is a psychological term for the effect clothes have on our mindset and, thereby, our behaviour. It is commonly known that a non-doctor dressing in a lab coat will perform better than someone wearing everyday clothes in memory tasks and exams. There are schools which have even encouraged students to wear “thinking jackets” to help improve performance during examinations. While the effect clothes have on the individual may be internal, it tends to be reinforced by the people and company around us who initially judge us based on our manner of dress. This is why we dress up for job interviews and companies like Omega will pay to have a watch featured in a 007 film. Our clothes, in a sense, define us individually and collectively.
As marketing branches into Virtual Reality where brands are experienced from a first-person perspective, developers cannot neglect the viewer’s avatar and how it’s presented.
Creating an experience in the promotion of one’s brand may fail to impact an audience if from that perspective the user is a bodiless phantasm. Looking down and not seeing one’s feet is reported as disconcerting by some viewers while also giving a feeling of absence which may close them off from relating to a brand. Unfortunately, bodies are challenging for VR representation since there are many body types to consider. Being corporeal is only step one.
The next step may be giving consumers group representation through their avatar’s clothing. Successful brands know who their customers are and seek to know more about them. If they’re likely to be fashion forward or conservatively dressed, casual or formal, it’s important to project that image in the avatar’s attire. Likewise, the location of a VR experience must be appropriate for the clothing. You may be promoting a car model or travel destination and wearing the wrong clothes for that environment will distance viewers from the experience and the brand.
In the world of SocialVR, people are now able to design their own outfits, which may be worn or sold on the in-game marketplace, a practice that drew many people to virtual worlds in years past. Project Sansar has integrated with Marvelous Designer to bring fully customizable clothing from which they may profit socially and financially. Where the goal of a platform is lifelike self-expression, how your avatar is allowed to dress is of key importance. People may distinguish themselves from the stock clothing initially available to them and show an increased level of commitment to the platform by putting effort into the clothes they wear. Real-world brands and designers will also have the chance to self-promote by uploading virtual goods to the SocialVR platforms. There were some clumsy, unsuccessful attempts were made in non-VR virtual worlds, so brands must learn from this object lesson and give virtual goods the same attention to detail that’s expected from real-world products.