Brief Encounter: London Zoo

Last month, we hosted another Brief Encounter, giving the assembled volunteers from the agency a chance to monkey around on a fictional brief for London Zoo (sorry).

London Zoo is the world’s oldest scientific zoo, and it’s been open to the public since 1847. However, though 2015 saw a small uplift in visitor numbers, the zoo saw itself slip in the rankings in Visit England’s Annual Visitor Attractions survey last year.

So we got our heads together to try and come up with some ideas that could enhance the experience of visiting the zoo, to boost repeat visits as well as driving more customer recommendations.

Team one: introducing new technology to the zoo

The first team concentrated on ways new technologies could be used to develop the existing experience, persuading visitors to visit more often. Their ideas also focused on helping visitors to create media during their visit that they could enjoy again and again – as well as encouraging them to share their experiences with friends and family online.

What better way to extend your trip to the zoo than engage visitors with an app? London Zookeeper enables visitors to ‘follow’ animals from the zoo, to get updates about news and events that might be of interest. Feeding time for Ricky the Penguin? Set a reminder on the day and be there when it happens. Gladys the Gorilla has fallen pregnant? Make sure you head back to the zoo for the birth. Even at home there’s plenty to interact with and learn about, with videos and facts about your favourite animals. The best part is that you can digitally feed them, look after them and upgrade their enclosure in the zoo game on the app, with the best zookeepers earning points that can be redeemed for real life experiences at the zoo.

To further enthuse young and old visitors about the art of zoology, visitors can download the Traces app (you can read our previous blog about testing this here) on their smartphone to unlock content and questions around the zoo that will help them to earn their David Attenborough Zoologist Diploma. They can pose for a photo with their diploma scroll in a gown and mortarboard at the end of their visit.

Team one also suggested installing a Make your own wildlife documentary booth at certain enclosures. Capitalising on the popularity of the voice of BBC nature documentaries and national treasure, David Attenborough, the booth gives visitors the chance to record a 30 second clip of the animals with their own voiceover. Inside the booth is a touch screen with a choice of camera angles, a joystick to move the cameras, a record button and a microphone. After recordings are finished, there’s the option to email the video to friends or upload it to their social networks.

Why not offer a Virtual Reality Experience at certain enclosures, so visitors can see from the point of view of the animal they’re visiting? Imagine experiencing the thrill of swinging through the forest canopy as an orangutan, or swimming underneath Arctic ice as a seal.

Team two: improving the experience

Team two focused their efforts more on improving the existing experience at London Zoo, trying to make it a more engaging one that visitors couldn’t help but want to share.

No one likes getting to an enclosure and not being able to find the animals, so the first suggestion was to create Viewing Pods that were sunk into the ground, making sure that visitors can always find a good vantage point to enjoy the action.

By creating a Family Treasure Hunt with clues hidden around the zoo, incorporating both online and offline elements, the trip would be more absorbing and educational.

Given that London Zoo have already experimented with evening and night-time events, another suggestion was that they could start distributing Night Vision Goggles to visitors – enabling them to experience a totally different side of life for animals at the zoo.

Similarly to team one, team two thought that David Attenborough could add something special to a day out at the zoo. As well as live talks and events with the UK’s much-loved wildlife expert, they’d offer pre-recorded Attenborough Audio Tours to intellectually enrich visitors as they explored the zoo.

The team also spotted a cross-marketing opportunity, as well as a way to bring a bit of drama to a daytrip – by putting on a Bite-sized Production of The Lion King. Running at 20-minutes, visitors could watch the production and then go and see the real kings of the animal kingdom in their enclosure – as well as being offered discount tickets for the full production in the West End that evening.

And that’s all folks. Not bad for an hour eh?

If you want to see all the ideas in one place, as well as our teams’ hasty efforts at scribbling visuals for them, check out the SlideShare below. And if you happen to work for London Zoo, we’d gladly talk you through our concepts in more detail – just drop us a tweet at @earnestlabs.