Meet Touchstone VR
Touchstone Research Launches New Virtual Reality Consumer Insights Division
Last month, Touchstone Research announced their newest division, Touchstone VR, whose mission is to provide consumer insights into Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. Touchstone VR is a highly respected source of marketing research and data and their reports have been published over 100 times including features in the world’s largest media and technology publications.
Touchstone VR is already making waves in the VR community by conducting the first ever VR Consumer Sentiment Report which surveyed over 2,000 consumers ages 10 through 65 on their awareness, attitudes, perceptions, and purchase intent of VR platforms and headsets. Aaron Burch, Touchstone VR’s President, was kind enough to make time for an exclusive interview with Trainrobber.
VR’s Disruptive Effect on Advertising and Marketing
We were keen to hear Aaron’s thoughts on how VR will disrupt advertising. One of VR’s most disruptive qualities, he said, is that it allows us to “connect with consumers in ways that were unimaginable in the past” and that “VR allows for truly immersive experiences and storytelling”. He described one limitation of traditional broadcast and digital media which is that people are able to shut out advertisements by simply leaving the room or pre-recording a show and fast forwarding through commercials etc. Aaron explained that this is not so easy with VR: “when you have a VR headset on, you’re not going to necessarily take that headset off if you come across an advertisement because it’s going to disrupt your whole experience”. The upshot of this is that consumers are more likely to actively watch and pay attention to advertising in VR unless it is very poorly executed.
Aaron gave some advice for anyone looking to leverage VR in their ad campaigns: “one of the keys to success with VR advertising is that the focus should be on creating high quality content and experiences that help the consumer to create a deeper connection with the brand”. He went on to say that VR ads should not be abrupt and that advertisers should not be clumsy or forceful with where they place their content.
In regards to marketing, Aaron explained that VR can “transform experiential marketing” by creating immersive experiences in stores or on location. He went on to describe several marketing campaigns that have successfully done so. For example, Audi created a ‘dealership in a briefcase’ in which customers were given VR headsets and were able to see different cars in a variety of colors and with different features. They were even able to virtually sit behind the wheel of their individually configured car and look in the trunk. A camera tracked the movements of the user’s head and the system adapted the image displayed accordingly.
What Touchstone’s VR Sentiment Report Discovered
We were eager to hear about Touchstone’s VR Consumer Sentiment Report. Burch explained that one of the things that they discovered was that, while VR headset brand awareness is low, awareness of VR itself was very high and that interest in trying VR was very high. This should be encouraging to advertisers everywhere as it seems that people are already open to VR and it is simply a matter of introducing them to the most best headsets.
Aaron talked about how surprised he was by the broadness of VR’s appeal: “the study that we conducted covered demographics including 65+ and VR’s appeal went all the way up”. However, not all people view and enjoy VR in the same way: “what and how people want to experience VR does very a lot across those generations” he explained, “but a substantial proportion of every generation was interested in the technology in some application be it travel or health care or education or shopping”. Therefore we should be aware that, while nearly everyone is willing to experience VR, different people will have different preferences of when and where they want to do it.
One interesting finding of the report was that people from minority backgrounds were recorded as being noticeably more passionate about VR. Burch explained that previous research shows that African Americans and Hispanics are more active gamers than Caucasians and on average spend more time per day playing video games. This is true not only of consoles but also portable gaming and he cited research demonstrating higher smartphone use among minorities as well as increased content consumption. All of these factors, he explained, could contribute to an increased interest in VR. The takeaway from this is that we should be culturally flexible when creating VR content and be careful not to alienate consumers from minority backgrounds.
A Backlash Against VR?
As with any new technology, there is controversy surrounding VR and it has already been compared to heroin. Some people are concerned about its potential intrusive and addictive qualities. Organizations such as reSTART are particularly worried about VR’s potential influence on children. “The key to allaying these concerns” Burch said, “is to develop great content and great experiences and to do that with storytelling…. VR shouldn’t just take you out of the real world, it should be something that helps to educate or transform you in a positive way”. He expanded on this by describing how we can take an underprivileged child who’s never been on a vacation and, with VR, he or she is able to travel the world.
Aaron went on to stress that the entire VR industry should be held accountable by consumers: “it’s up to developers and the industry to be responsible and come up with sets of standards for developing content. With kids, it’s important to create a safe space and a responsible approach towards creating VR content for children”.
Digital Hollywood VR Media Summit
Aaron recently attended the Digital Hollywood VR Media Summit in New York which was attended by several major entertainment companies who have entered the VR space. Burch described how one of the key issues at the summit was “really making sure that, as an entire community, we in the VR media do our best to get the content right and to do a good job with delivering high quality that doesn’t make people sick”. He described that VR is on the brink of entering the mainstream and that this is a crucial time for advertisers since most people will be experiencing VR for the first time and we must not put them off forever by rushing and creating substandard VR content.
Photo credit: Touchstone VR