Looking to outshine your competitors with a savvy marketing strategy? You may not realize it yet, but the next big trend is already here and if you don’t jump on it soon, you’ll be left struggling to catch up. Virtual reality marketing in San Francisco recently launched, with early adopters of this new style of marketing already seeing great results.

We’re at the very beginning of a new technology and marketing era. Experts in this field are predicting that virtual reality is going to be for the 21st century what cinema was for the 20th century, and what social media was for the early 2000s. In fact, fifty years from now social media may just be a little blip on the map compared to the territory that is going to be covered by virtual reality.

What Is Virtual Reality?

In a nutshell, virtual reality is a “computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way.” People typically use virtual reality headsets in order to experience this environment, but gloves fitted with sensors and binaural audio headphones can also be used to truly immerse the user in a life-like setting.

There is also a way to semi-experience virtual reality without any virtual reality equipment. YouTube now has an option for viewers to watch videos in a 360 degree format. Using your mouse or touchpad, the viewer can “grab” the video screen to see a 360 degree view of the content.

Below is an example of a 360 degree video from a virtual reality live music performance launch at Three Ravens in San Francisco.

Joe Kennedy, director of the music venue at Three Ravens in San Francisco, has always had the dream of forming a musicians collective combined with a YouTube channel to bring their small corner of San Francisco to the world. Three Ravens has now joined forces with VR technician and designer Julian Ong, who was intrigued by the Elisha & Elijah show, and together they are working on building an intimate San Francisco local music experience to the world at large. They are the first gallery/venue to be using virtual reality paired with binaural sound in this exact way, and they are so far enthralled by the possibilities virtual reality has opened.

What is Virtual Reality Marketing?

We are currently in the first phase of virtual reality marketing, which still relies heavily on digital marketing to be fully effective. For example, if you make a virtual reality video you will most likely host it on a YouTube channel and promote it via social media, blogging, PR, and so forth. This first phase of virtual reality marketing uses virtual reality as a medium for advertising, much like video, audio, and digital visuals are currently being used.

The next phase will be using virtual reality as the environment for marketing. For example, instead of your target audience scrolling through the news feeds on Facebook or Instagram, they’ll be hanging out in virtual reality “rooms” with their friends. The marketing angle will be to have your advertisement, logo, product, or marketing content strategically place or showcased in this virtual reality environment.

There are elements of this second wave already in progress, such as corporate advertisements in virtual reality music videos and brand sponsorship in virtual reality video games. One thing is for sure, virtual reality marketing is going to be a game changer.

Virtual Reality Marketing in San Francisco

Being a world hub for technology and marketing trends, local San Francisco businesses are already taking advantage of virtual reality marketing. Three Ravens became the first art gallery in San Francisco to use virtual reality for a live music performance just this past weekend. Eventually Three Ravens will also be broadcasting classes through their virtual reality YouTube channel.

Much like early users of Facebook and Twitter, businesses that get in on the virtual reality marketing trend now will see better results than businesses arriving late to the game. In other words, the competition in virtual reality marketing for most industries is currently low or even non-existent.

At only $20-$30 a pop, virtual reality headsets are projected to be a $30 billion industry by 2020, which means everyone’s target audience will be hanging out in a virtual reality world. The benefits of virtual reality marketing are enormous; it’s fully immersive, visually stimulating, emotionally captivating, and highly memorable. If digital advertisements with colorful visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%, just think of what a virtual reality experience can do to endear people to your brand (and convert them into paying customers).

10 Virtual Reality Marketing Ideas

There are virtual reality marketing options for every size of business, with various strategies and virtual reality projects fitting in with different marketing budgets. Below are some ideas and ways businesses are using first phase virtual reality marketing in San Francisco (and beyond).

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Brand launches. Onsite brand launches primarily cater to their local market. Sure, the company can write blog posts and upload videos and photos of the brand launch after the fact, as a way to reach people outside of their local area, but it’s definitely not the same experience as being at the brand launch in person. With virtual reality, a company’s entire audience base can experience the brand launch in real time and in a way that is so immersive, they’ll almost feel like they are in the same room, experiencing the brand launch in real life.

Product demos. Video has so far been the best way to showcase a product demo to a large audience, but it’s a two dimensional experience. With virtual reality, and even 360 degree video, people can view the product at several angles for a much better feel for how the product works.

Classes and tutorials. Instructional videos are helpful learning tools, but pale in comparison to taking a class in person. Virtual reality will greatly improve the learning experience. From yoga to woodworking to make-up tutorials, virtual reality will allow people to enjoy a fully immersive learning experience from the comfort of their own homes.

Live performances. Concert tickets are going to skyrocket with the advent of virtual reality performances. Currently, venues sell tickets to people who attend a live performance event in person. With virtual reality, people will be able to experience the event from their own homes with their virtual reality headsets, which makes ticket sales virtually endless. Think of it as the difference between watching a sports game on television versus seeing the game in person versus experiencing the game through virtual reality.

Commercials. Coca-Cola made headlines this past year when they used the Oculus Rift to treat hundreds of people to a virtual ride of Santa’s sleigh. Even more endearing (and impactful) was UNICEF’s use of virtual reality and 360 degree video to highlight the life of a 12-year-old girl living in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, which brought in double their normal donation amounts.

Music videos. Björk recently made a music video using virtual reality technology to give her listeners a more immersive glimpse into her world. Virtual reality videos are already becoming popular for small bands and lesser known musicians, too, since the cost for virtual reality video creation is comparable to traditional filming.

Company introductions. Company and brand introductions no longer need to be two-dimensional. Brands can now take people on a virtual experience through their facilities while introducing multiple aspects of their company along the way.

Venue showcases. Filmed performances and photos don’t often translate to what it’s like to experience the real deal. One way to convince people to come to your venue is to give them a virtual demo of what they could experience. The Three Ravens art gallery experienced this firsthand in San Francisco recently when they packed the house for their virtual reality live music performance launch.

Open houses. The real estate industry is expected to take full advantage of the upcoming surge in virtual reality marketing. Virtual reality headsets mean that people will be able to attend open houses and neighborhood tours without having to leave their homes, which will greatly broaden the number of people real estate agents will be able to reach.

Travel and tourism. Virtual reality marketing in San Francisco and beyond is particularly beneficial for the travel and tourism industry. What better way to showcase your resort, theme park, or attraction than with a virtual experience?

These are just some of the ways that companies are already tapping into the virtual reality market. Companies have the option of purchasing virtual reality equipment themselves, renting the equipment, or hiring a turn key virtual reality operation that will provide the equipment, do the filming, and edit the video for you.

If you’d like to take your virtual reality marketing experience one step further, you can hire a digital marketing company that will help you create the best strategy for getting your virtual reality content to your target audiences.

At Colibri Digital Marketing, we’ve already been scheming of ways to integrate virtual reality marketing with digital marketing strategies. If you want to explore virtual reality marketing opportunities, reach out and we’ll help your business thrive in the virtual world.

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