As one of the newest channels available to marketers, virtual reality (VR) can provide great content marketing opportunities. Treat VR experiences as an event and market them accordingly! Design the experience from the brand down rather than simply creating an activation for the sake of it. Ask first, why are we in VR, what are we aiming to achieve, is our audience here and does it align to our brand story.
Designed strategically, a VR experience can provide content for days – pre-activation stories marketing into the event, the content contained in the VR experience itself, real-time social media activations covering the experience, and content that can be created and released for some time after the event. And right now, with VR still being so new to most people, they are itching to share their experience on their own channels. VR can be a great driver of User Generated Content (UGC).
The most important thing to consider when developing your brand’s first VR or AR experiences is to plan to leverage stories across your other channels, and then measure your results. VR needs to work for your brand and business goals. Like all good content marketing, be strategic and don’t do it for it’s own sake.
Rail Safety Week runs each year around Australia and New Zealand and aims to educate commuters about the risks associated with train travel. With more than 3000 reported incidents each year, Transport NSW working with Sydney Trains wanted to deliver safety messages to customers to increase their awareness around trains and stations. With research demonstrating that experiential learning is more effective in sustaining long term behavioural change, a first-of-its kind VR safety experience was chosen by Rh7thm to be developed for Central and Chatswood stations.
The VR experience was designed to deliver 4 key safety messages to participants. The activity around the VR experience provided marketing opportunities including UGC. Because the activation’s goal was to create behavioural change and ultimately to make commuters safer, a measurement framework was built to test success.
Results were tracked and measured to test efficacy of the safety experience. The challenge was to change passenger behaviour at the station with a rich and immersive experience. Working with renowned behavioural psychologist Dr Kate Baecher, we developed a survey to capture data before and after the activation.
Participants were first surveyed to provide a benchmark of their knowledge and attitude towards safety. Then a post activation survey recorded which safety messages they could recall and importantly if they would modify their behaviour in the future becoming more aware of their surroundings and the risks associated around train travel. The immersive and deep learning nature of VR meant that 88% of participants reported increased awareness and that they would change their behaviour around trains. 94% said they loved the experience and 100% of participants said they would recommend it to other people.
The activation created multiple opportunities for real world content:
- In the week preceding Rail Safety Week, Transport NSW released VR images to their social channels as pre-promotion.
- During the event, participants experienced the deep learning involved with VR and came away with the 4 key safety messages.
- Simultaneously a Mixed Reality (MR) version was streamed live on-screen so surrounding audience members could watch the participant within the VR space. In this way passers by were also reached.
- This was amplified further when many of these passers-by shared with their social channels.
- The MR experience was captured in video and sent to participants via SMS immediately after. These short videos were delivered just minutes after they came out of the VR experience which meant it was fresh and so simple to share out to their social channels. In this way, not only was the Rail Safety brand amplified virally, but the underlying safety messages also found a new audience outside the participants and those that watched on the screen. Cross-channel and multi-channel distribution.
This immediate and simple social activation was key to amplifying reach, especially with the #rsw2017 hashtag. Transport NSW was able to build a brand experience using a new and novel approach with VR to deliver what is normally rather dry messaging – safety around trains. The immersive deep learning nature of VR meant that the safety messages were drilled home to participants and then content was spread across as many channels as possible to engage with audiences and customers. VR provided both education and marketing opportunities for Transport NSW and ultimately Rail Safety Week was successful at making transport customers safer and more aware.