On Tuesday morning, over breakfast at SB’16 Copenhagen, Filip Engel, head of DONG Energy Group Sustainability, and Ryan Bell from VRScout showed us virtual reality’s (VR) transformational power in sustainability communication.
Modern energy companies have their share of challenges, as Engel told us.
“There is great pressure to produce more energy… and in a sustainable way - to save not only the environment but also people from feeling guilty when using energy.”
Luckily, renewable energy is catching momentum. Here in Denmark, more than half of the country’s power and heat now come from clean sources, thanks largely in part to DONG, which is still, however, finding it challenging to shake its “black” energy image. Engel brought up a few barriers in the company’s attempts at communication:
Therefore, to take its brand outreach to the next level, DONG recently turned to VR for a magical touch and launched some unique campaigns focused on giving unique experiences - for example, an offshore wind turbine park safari during which a VR experience is also provided on board.
The feedback has been very positive. Who wouldn’t want the total immersion experience from the top of a wind turbine (get a taste for yourself on Youtube)?
VR is being touted as the next big thing in communication, particularly around sustainability-related messaging. Bell, an established, US-based VR filmmaker and expert, gave a further peek into this up-and-coming phenomenon with a few other concrete examples of its application.
“It’s all especially exciting at this early stage because people are exploring and some very cool things are happening,” Bell told us. For example, VR can show the journey of a child refugee from his/her perspective; feeling a child’s experience through VR gives viewers a stronger connection than just reading about it in a newspaper. TOMS has also utilized VR to bring its customers to other parts of the world through a “virtual giving tour” to connect them to the kids to whom they are giving a pair of shoes.
VR gives new ways to tell a story that people can truly understand. “It activate feelings,” Ryan stressed this point as the key advantage of VR. It truly touches you and put you in the position where you are empowered to be part of the change.
Another bonus: It’s not ridiculously expensive. A camera and a monopod are all the hardware you need and the price can stay well under the $1,000 mark.
While we are celebrating VR’s potential to create new ways for brands to make their sustainability process come alive and drive engagement, it is wise to keep a clear mind towards it and ponder over some critical aspects.
One question addressed by the audience was, when to use VR and when not to?
Bell’s response: It takes strategic thinking to find the right story and scale for VR to realize its true power as an “empathy machine,” to make emotional connections. The industry is figuring this out as it develops.
The future is quite bright as people are always searching for good content that truly engages the viewer. Moreover, as VR devices get cheaper, no doubt more people will soon be on board. As Bell concluded, VR connects people in a powerful way and we are now “gathering around the digital campfire.” Once companies get the “why” of using VR, the technical part of “how” and “what” will follow with ease.