Samsung takes a 360-degree view on fears

The "#BeFearless" program comes to Canada, employing VR tech to help people overcome what scares them most.

In an effort to promote brand affinity, Samsung Canada is taking an unconventional approach — scaring its customers.

The electronics giant has recently launched the first phase of its #BeFearless campaign, which pits users against the common fears of public speaking and heights. The campaign has already been rolled out in Russia, Germany, the United Arab Emirates and Austria, with Canada being the first testing ground for the brand’s North American efforts.

The campaign’s first phase, which began Dec. 2, will see the brand reach out to Canadians using social media, informing them of the intention of the campaign, and seeking out volunteers who have a distinct fear of the two experiences (which Mark Childs, CMO at Samsung Canada, told strategy were determined by asking Canadians what their biggest fears were and helped localize the program for Canada).

In the New Year, once participants are recruited, the second “engagement” phase will begin. Volunteers will undergo progressive VR experiences (using Samsung’s Galaxy S7 phone and the GearVR headset and VR app) over the case of four weeks to encounter their fears face-on in a 360-degree, three-dimensional environment. Each session will present the fears in a gamified, interactive form and will become more high-stakes as the sessions go on.

For example, in the heights module, participants will first virtually experience levels that gradually increase in difficulty, from a glass elevator to a drive alongside a cliff. For public speaking, it will start with a casual conversation and work its way up to singing in front of a crowd.

“The insight into this was based on the understanding that when we feel excited and when we feel fearful, our bodies biologically react in similar ways,” said Childs.

It’s during the engagement phase that Samsung will create video content based on the users’ experiences. During the third phase, content will be distributed to demonstrate the users’ journey, including live events.

While Childs wouldn’t share specific numbers on the previous roll-outs of the campaign, he said the results from Germany and Russia did show an increase in brand affinity, which was the goal for Samsung.

The campaign is “part of our overarching strategy is bring the brand to life for Canadians and have them feel a stronger affinity for our brand,” said Childs, who added that the fear component will help add a more personal connection for users.

The immersive videos were developed in partnership with Facebook and its VR property Oculus. A full campaign around the idea of mastering your fears is also being supported by Samsung’s full agency roster including Cheil Canada, Mosaic, Starcom and North Strategic.

Samsung Canada has a track record of taking campaigns and programs from other regions and finding ways to tailor them to the local market. Last year, it brought “Look at Me” – an app developed in Korea that used Samsung tablets to help children with autism become more comfortable with social interactions – to Canada by partnering with Autism Speaks Canada to find local families deserving of a free tablet loaded with the app, developing content that told their stories.