In Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog series, PETROL’s Social Media and Research teams surfaced data about the state of Virtual Reality, utilizing the Netbase Social Analytics platform.  PETROL utilized Netbase to analyze social media channels, websites, forums, Tumblr, user comments and YouTube*. In this article, we share research data about recurring conversation topics, price, advertising and marketing opportunities in VR and our conclusions.

Conversation Themes

Themes by Share of Voice:


Popular Conversation Terms by Theme:


In addition to a set of industry-specific themes, we also identified recurring conversation attributes that are relevant to the broader conversation and information.

A plurality of conversation is concerned with the design of the hardware. It’s a key part of the development cycle of any product, and thus so heavily reliant on the means that one uses to experience it. Beyond that, Design and General Interest remain high. Essentially, we’re still in a phase where there are many different players with great products, in theory, but many are waiting to see how good it is in practice.

‘Designing and Developing for VR’ is a theme that narrowed the focus towards less consumer facing aspects of virtual reality. The nuts and bolts of the technology don’t necessarily matter to the public at large but, of course, they matter to the people trying to make successful experiences. Given this view of the data, it’s natural to find discussions about development kits, user interface and experience and larger questions about what direction the development of virtual reality is going to take.

The ‘Cost and Price Concerns’ theme is focused around costs for anything virtual reality related, this theme is a high level look at what terms are used most frequently when discussing pricing. The largest term is ‘sale’. Normally, this would denote a large conversation volume about discount sales but in this case, authors are very concerned about when exactly they will be able to buy any of the VR products on the market. Companies risk losing faith in their products the longer they remain in development. Conversely, they also cannot risk a flop given some of the large investments that these hardware manufacturers have received in recent years. Other terms from the word cloud like ‘retail’, ‘available’, and ‘release date’ reinforce this idea.

The Software and Hardware Design themes are more specific to discussion about design than ‘Designing and Developing for VR’. For the Hardware side, Valve, Google, Samsung, Leap Motion, Project Morpheus (now Playstation VR) and Oculus Rift are all the biggest drivers for conversation. Naturally, the market leaders should be the largest terms in our word cloud.

Another word of interest is ‘controller’. Developers are struggling to come up with a single unified vision of what Virtual Reality’s controller should look like. Is it the standard controller to which gamers have become accustomed over the years? Is it motion control using our hands and the input system of something like Microsoft’s Kinect? Is it a specialized, unique Virtual Reality specific controller? Or perhaps a full body haptic suit?* These are potential deal-breakers facing all of the top manufacturers, which significantly affect software designers.

Shifting to Software Design, of course, the developer and development is going to be front and center. Providing experiences that can only be done in virtual reality is a vital step towards widespread acceptance of the technology. It’s important to make VR an essential entertainment proposition with unique hooks rather than a fad. The creation of those hooks will be incumbent on talented developers to move the technology beyond the realm of kitsch and into the realm of mainstay, usable entertainment devices. Developer conferences also make their way into the fore of our word cloud as they invariably serve as key links between thought leadership in the development world.

Lastly, the ‘Reviews and Reactions’ cloud brings up a key issue that every device faces: the hands-on effect. Virtual Reality is not the sort of technology that lends itself to simply watching a video on YouTube. The effect is severely diminished when there is no virtual reality specific device to use. That’s why having hands-on demos are so important. While perhaps too much is made of the phrase ‘virtual reality experience’, our reviews of authors talking about the subject shows that there is an actual experience to be had. Whether the lack of a centralized or scalable demonstration platform will be a major impediment for the VR industry remains to be seen; however, it’s difficult to pay the several hundred dollars for devices like the Oculus Rift or Playstation VR without having a chance to at least try them.

Price Discussions


We attempted to see if there was any way to get a sense of consumer opinions on the price point of the devices as a whole. In order to achieve this, we constructed three themes around the ideas of a price point being ‘Too Expensive’, ‘Cheap/Affordable’ and in the ‘Sweet spot’. We found that the majority of conversation about the price of these devices revolved around pricing being either cheap or affordable.

As a caveat, it is possible that conversations about build quality have affected some of the analysis. Nonetheless, it would be most accurate to say that the majority of the people discussing pricing considerations are not discussing the fact that it is too expensive.

Advertising, Marketing and VR

We also looked at those who were talking about Virtual Reality from the perspective of an agency not unlike PETROL. What did we find? In the general VR theme analysis, Gaming and Entertainment comprised about 73% of the total conversation while it jumps to 83% when focused on Ad/Marketing discussions. Gaming is the largest contributor to the jump with a 12% increase while Education drops by 7%. We can speculate that the reason for these changes stem from the profitability of Gaming and Entertainment. For those focused on Advertising and Marketing, these are the industries that are most likely to serve as a client opportunity for VR products given the long established relationships between brands and agencies. Conversely, for an agency, it’s difficult to justify spending many resources in largely altruistic endeavors like figuring out how to use VR as a teaching tool.


Clearly, Virtual Reality is a subject that is gaining traction with broader audiences. The possibilities for the technology seem endless at this point. More and more developers are showcasing not only demos of the technology but applications that are relevant to marketers like movie tie-in experiences, real estate showcases, video games and promotional pieces. It was only 25 years ago that Star Trek’s holodeck seemed like an impossible fantasy. The current and future state of the technology suggests that we may not be very far off from living out the incredible experiences only the minds of sci-fi’s greatest authors could imagine.

We here at PETROL are already working with clients that want virtual reality experiences as part of their marketing campaigns. Because we are a truly 360 agency, we’re able to take those ideas and make them come to life in ways that are leaps and bounds beyond what our clients expect. Pushing ourselves to adapt to changes in technology and incorporate that technology into our award winning work is what we do everyday. However, that doesn’t make VR the correct technology for every campaign. Only after extensive research, budget analysis and a clear understanding of the goals of our clients would we recommend virtual reality. The reason is that VR is a tool and seeing it as the product in and of itself is folly. As a partner, it is incumbent upon us to craft programs that are tailored to our client’s needs. It’s what we’ve done for twelve years and what we do everyday.

In order to best achieve an understanding of how to incorporate VR in our campaigns, we will continue to make the best use of our partnership with Netbase and continue the research. Based on what we’ve learned so far, it looks like events like the Electronic Gaming Expo in 2016 will be momentous for VR. It was gaming that served as the impetuous for this current wave of development and interest. It will be gaming that demonstrates best just how impressive the technology can be. In particular, PlayStation VR may be the device that sells mass audiences on the technology. Regardless, the first true Virtual Reality device that hits the market will be a tone-setter.

It remains to be seen whether or not Virtual Reality truly has the staying power to become more than just a gimmick. However, its sheer potential has excited marketer and consumer alike. We’re certainly looking forward to the growth of the industry in 2016.

Previously appeared on Petrolad.com

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