Virtual Venues


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Show Notes:

VR ​venues” are expected to transform the group VR experience by allowing users to interact with each other within a virtual setting.

Join our co-hosts Kate Romano and Joe Lovett as they discuss the latest experiential marketing trend: virtual venues.

If you have feedback on our podcast, ideas for future trends, or want to keep the conversation going, let us know! We love to hear from our listeners.
Find us on cramer​.com and on Twitter with the handle @WeAreCramer.

From the studios of Cramer, thank you for joining us.


Kate Romano (00:03):

Hello brand marketers, agencies, vendors, mum and dad. Welcome to the latest episode of Catalyst, the podcast that brings you the latest trends in experiential marketing. I’m Kate Romano, director of marketing here at Kramer.

Joe Lovett (00:15):

And I’m Joe Lovett, director of strategic planning.

Kate Romano (00:18):

In each episode, we’ll discuss one emerging trend that will make your brand experience memorable. Are you ready, Trendy Joseph?

Joe Lovett (00:25):

I am indeed. Let’s go.

Kate Romano (00:27):

All right, Joe, what is this week’s trend?

Joe Lovett (00:30):

Okay. Kate, there is something that I’ve been wanting to ask you for a while. What was your Second Life avatar name?

Kate Romano (00:37):

I didn’t have one.

Joe Lovett (00:38):

You did not have a Second Life avatar?

Kate Romano (00:39):


Joe Lovett (00:40):

Okay. Well probably many of us didn’t. For those of you that don’t remember Second Life, it was sort of this virtual reality world, your second life, if you will. And they were out there selling all sorts of, I think they were selling countries and plots of land and actually digital goods, like clothes and digital cars and things like that to your virtual avatar. It was essentially your second life. So the challenge probably that happened was Second Life-

Kate Romano (01:13):

Is this that farm game that everyone used to invite me to?

Joe Lovett (01:16):

Farmville? No, this was not Farmville. That was a social media type game, like Candy Crush. It was one of the original ones that they use social to try to… But no, and I think one of the challenges with Second Life was it came before its time, right? Like the technology just wasn’t there. The avatars weren’t very realistic, you were kind of staring at a screen, but I think that we’ve always been after this how can we get that human interaction and experience in a virtual way. We’re always trying to like sort of get closer to that human interaction in a virtual way. And virtual reality may finally be the technology that enables us to do this. Historically virtual reality for anyone that’s ever tried it, it is an amazing experience. It really feels like you are in the world that you are dropped into, but historically it’s been a pretty solitary experience. And, and there’s [crosstalk 00:02:17]

Kate Romano (02:16):

Or you look like a complete weirdo to anybody watching you with your headset on.

Joe Lovett (02:21):

That’s true. That is true. Don’t try to walk around with the things, and there’s been a few sort of group VR experiences kind of here and there, but recently Facebook, who owns Oculus, announced something called Oculus Venues. And it’s really poised to just radically transform this group sort of VR experience. The whole point of this is that people will actually together in virtual reality, watch concerts and sports and movie premieres with potentially thousands of other people around the world.

Kate Romano (02:58):

In a virtual venue.

Joe Lovett (02:59):

In a virtual venue. Yes. And they actually say that this is kind of the pivotal technology or the pivotal strategy that’s going to move Facebook from a mere social media platform, arguably the biggest social media platform to a mass media member. And so let me give you a couple examples of how this is working today and how this could transform our world of events. So Fox Sports for instance worked with Buffalo Wild Wings, and they actually created this virtual suite. So you could go in, you put your Oculus goggles on go into the privacy of your own office or home or wherever you are. And you basically enter a suite, a box suite and watch a soccer match. So you’re literally watching it. You have other avatars that you’re looking at, you have multiple-

Kate Romano (03:54):

I’m an avatar, right? [crosstalk 00:03:59]

Joe Lovett (03:54):

You’re an avatar.

Kate Romano (03:54):

And I’m asking other avatars to join me, or they’re already there?

Joe Lovett (03:58):

You can ask others to join you. And there will probably be others in the box with you?

Kate Romano (04:03):

And I’m paying for this experience?

Joe Lovett (04:05):

Well, this was done with Buffalo Wild Wings. So it was more of a marketing initiative, but yeah, there is a potential that maybe people will actually pay or these types of experiences, but on top of the things that you normally would get, because it is digital, you can look at different camera angles, you can relive moments, you can socialize. So it’s really sort of being in the box, seeing this really awesome game, essentially as you would see it, if you’re in the box at the actual stadium, but you have all these digital touchpoints and experiences to.

Kate Romano (04:38):

Minus the popcorn.

Joe Lovett (04:39):

With no popcorn, unless you’re popping it at home, and do it before you put on the goggles, by the way.

Kate Romano (04:44):

Yes. Good. Good safety tip there, Joe.

Joe Lovett (04:47):

Safety first. Another example is the MBA’s going into its second season of having their regular season games in VR. And I like to think about this as there’s always been kind of two ways that you can watch a sporting event, right? You can be there. And if you’re there, you’re feeling the energy of the place, you’re marveling at the size of the athletes and just what they’re capable and the speed and their agility and all this kind of thing, as well as just the buzz and energy of the actual arena. Or you can watch it at home in the privacy of your own home. You don’t have to buy a ticket.

Kate Romano (05:23):

In your pajamas.

Joe Lovett (05:24):

You can watch it in your pajamas. There’s no line at the bathroom, the beer’s relatively cheap. You’re gaining convenience, but you’re not getting the full experience.

And sort of in the middle there exists this virtual reality space. So unlike being there, which depending on how much you pay dictates what your seat’s going to be like, you can actually choose what seat you actually want to sit in. It feels like you’re really there because it is digital. You can see again, different camera angles and replays and kind of engage that way. So it’s really kind of in the middle of these two sort of historically different viewing experiences and it’s right in the middle and potentially the best of both worlds.

Kate Romano (06:09):

Right. And I think that added advantage, if say you’re watching NBA, you can get sort of live statistics on the screen as well. So you’re learning a lot and you’re knowing a lot more about what’s going on than say if you were just in a seat in the stadium.

Joe Lovett (06:24):

That’s right. That’s right. So yeah, if you really want to re watch a replay over and over again, you’ve got to go down to your phone and sort of get out of that live experience where now you can just pull it up and kind of continue to watch it in your virtual world. [crosstalk 00:06:38]

Kate Romano (06:37):

In your virtual world. Right. And I imagine it’s VIP style, this virtual venue.

Joe Lovett (06:42):

That’s right. Exactly. And the NBA, it looks like they’re already charging more for this digital package. [crosstalk 00:06:49]

Kate Romano (06:49):

Right. I was going to ask, so tickets are very expensive to an NBA game. Now, if people start attending in a virtual stadium, is the NBA losing money? [crosstalk 00:06:59]

Joe Lovett (07:01):

Sports have always made money from those TV packages, or contemporary sports it made that from the TV deals and sponsorships and things like that. The in-person stadium experience is still an important part of the game, but it does definitely pale in comparison to the revenue that they make from your remote viewing audience because it’s inherently a much, much bigger audience that’s tuning into a game than say the 15,000, 17,000 [crosstalk 00:07:33]

Kate Romano (07:32):

That fit in the stadium.

Joe Lovett (07:34):

Right, that fit in the stadium. Exactly.

Kate Romano (07:36):

Gotcha. So we talked a little bit about sports and the entertainment industry, but what does this mean for our world, for the B2B event planners of the world, what do virtual venues mean for them? And we keep talking about the live experience and in this world where people are constantly communicating on social media and they’re texting one another, instead of getting together in person, we keep talking about how we as humans crave this human to human interaction. And that’s why the brand event is so powerful for brand. But now we’re talking about virtual venues. What are the benefits there? Y you’re not gaining that human-human interaction, is it because companies have gone so global and it’s expensive to fly people around the world? What are the advantages?

Joe Lovett (08:28):

I think it’s all those things. So I do truly believe that live experiences, live events are truly a brands, and especially B2B brands, most important and most valuable touchpoint. But that being said, events are expensive. They’re expensive for the company that puts them on. You got to rent the space, the food, you hold-

Kate Romano (08:50):

There’s a crew to build, you have to have all the equipment. [crosstalk 00:08:53]

Joe Lovett (08:52):

You inherently can only attract a certain percentage of… All your consumers are engaging with it. On the participant side, you got to plan ahead, you got to make sure that your stuff at work is being taken care of. You got to buy a plane ticket, you got to get a hotel room, all these things that have to happen. So I think, and the most obvious thing is just a better, more cost-effective way for a brand and for audience to connect with each other and engage with each other. So that’s number one. It’s just more cost effective to do it than fly a bunch of people out, sales people, time off, opportunity costs, all that kind of stuff. But that being said was because it is a virtual world, there’s some advantages there.

So if you could have a virtual world that’s almost as good as that in the human interaction, what the virtual world offers you is number one, as we move towards a more personalized one-to-one engagement standpoint, as your avatar approached me, I could potentially see a dashboard of all the things that you’ve interacted with.

Kate Romano (08:52):

What I like.

Joe Lovett (10:05):

What you like. [crosstalk 00:10:07]

Kate Romano (10:07):

Who I follow.

Joe Lovett (10:08):

Maybe are you a current customer or a prospect, where you’re in the journey, what have we talked about before. And I can tailor my message and my content to your specific needs really, really tightly. Number two is from an analytics standpoint in the physical world, yes, maybe we exchange business cards and things like that, but it’s still a little bit of anecdotal, if that, experience led to that sort of business outcome. If everything is done within one virtual platform, then now you can really closely and almost quantitatively tie that experience to that particular business outcome. And just give you a better picture of how well that marketing touchpoint did as it generated, say leads or generated a difference in consumer attitudes or whatever your business outcomes are.

Kate Romano (11:10):

So are you picturing a future with virtual trade shows and virtual national sales meetings?

Joe Lovett (11:17):

Potentially. It costs a lot of money for companies to fly people and given part of the benefit of flying your salesforce to say Vegas or something, is they get a chance on wine, get away from the nine to five, be in a beautiful setting, a beautiful hotel, interact with each other, but it is expensive. [crosstalk 00:11:39]

Kate Romano (11:37):

Right. And maybe these are a compliment.

Joe Lovett (11:40):

Right. Exactly. So maybe you’re not replacing it, but you’re complimenting it. And maybe you’re doing it throughout the year. Cause we all know, for instance, national sales meetings, it’s really a training opportunity too. So you say, okay, here’s the products are going to roll out this year. Here’s how to sell against your competitors. Here’s maybe some new regulations that you have to abide by things like that. Well, we all know about training that people are all gung ho and then that leaves them two or three days later. So maybe if you train them there, but you have followups that are done in a more virtual way, it’s cost effective, can improve retention and-

Kate Romano (12:17):

You can increase the frequency of them because the expense is a little bit less.

Joe Lovett (12:20):

That’s exactly right. So-

Kate Romano (12:23):

Probably helps with networking too. We talk about brand dates and all these technologies that are coming out to make networking, less awkward, making it easier to find like-minded people to connect with. So I’d imagine approaching someone in a virtual venue might be a little bit less intimidating than approaching them in person.

Joe Lovett (12:42):

That’s a great point. There are some tools out there, like Brain Dates that you talked about from E180, that do specifically try to pair you with somebody that maybe has a common interest.

Kate Romano (12:54):

Or something that you can learn from.

Joe Lovett (12:57):

Yeah, that you can learn from or something like that. But most sort of interactions within an event are sort of by chance. So now within a virtual environment, you could have very purposeful interactions with people that you actually really want to engage with and you can do it without that awkwardness of approaching a stranger and striking up a conversation. So that’s a great point too.

Kate Romano (13:25):

Yeah. I struggled this one with this one because I think we’ve seen like ticket sales to festivals going up and all this kind of thing. People craving this human interaction, like we talked about earlier, and you and I grew up at a time when we lived half our lives analog and then digital came into play. And so we’ve kind of straddled two different worlds here, but I know my own kids, my son plays X-Box Live with his friends. He considers that a play date when he’s talking on X-Box Live. My daughter uses House Party, which is like FaceTime, except for you can invite a couple of friends and all communicate like FaceTime, but four or five of them together. And again, they schedule that and they want to hang out virtually. So who knows? It seems like this is a necessary thing because it’s the way the world’s moving, but I still think human interaction trumps all.

Joe Lovett (14:22):

And I can sit there and agree with you, but you bring up a great point that the next generation may have no discernment between a live human interaction and those done digitally. And we see it with our kids in playing these live video games socially that they really think they’re with their friends and they’re improving the relationships and bonding over these types experiences. So again, I could sit here and say that it’ll never replace the human interaction, but there’s a lot of business reasons why it could, and potentially with that next generation who has wholeheartedly both feed into that digital world, it may very well replace human interaction sometime.

But until then, I do believe that this is just going to be a compliment because that event is such a powerful marketing touchpoint that hopefully you’ll be able to have more of them in a better experience than it is, if you’re just say broadcasting or webcasting something to a fairly passive audience, if you can further bring in your audience and have them engage and have them able to sort of self-direct and look around and be in the moment and be there. And it’s sort of the next best thing to being there, then it may be something that compliments that live experience for the near term.

Kate Romano (15:49):

And one last question, Joe, does this mean that everybody needs to have an Oculus headset at home? Cause I could see that being a limitation.

Joe Lovett (15:56):

Yeah. It’s a good question. I think that my personal opinion on VR is it is such a drastically disruptive and transformative technology, similar to TVs in the fifties, similar to say iPhones in the two thousands that [crosstalk 00:16:11]

Kate Romano (16:10):

Everyone’s going to have one.

Joe Lovett (16:15):

Everyone’s going to have one. Additionally, Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard has made virtual reality accessible to anyone. [crosstalk 00:16:26].

Kate Romano (16:24):

Right. For fairly cheap.

Joe Lovett (16:27):

Yeah, it may not be the best experience right now. But I think in the next few years, everyone is going to have headsets or they’ll figure out a way to even do it without the [crosstalk 00:16:39]

Kate Romano (16:38):


Joe Lovett (16:39):

Eliminate and not have the need for the headset. So I don’t think that is necessarily the limiting factor of it. And I think that the experience itself is just so unbelievable that this is absolutely a technology that’s here to stay and how it changes and transforms in person events will be really interesting to watch and see.

Kate Romano (16:57):

Huh. Well, thanks for sharing another inspirational trend, Joe.

Joe Lovett (17:01):

No problem at all.

Kate Romano (17:04):

Very thought provoking about the future of our world and human interaction. [crosstalk 00:17:08]

Joe Lovett (17:07):

Good questions, thank you. Life as we know it.

Kate Romano (17:10):

Exactly. Well listeners, if you have a question, feedback, or a trend you want to share, we’d love to hear from you. Email the, Cramer C-R-A-M-E-R. Or you can find us on Twitter with the handle @wearecramer. That’s a wrap.

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